Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rib Roast

Last Sunday we organized a potluck dinner for 28.  I managed the hors d'oeuvres (all prepared in advance) but the star of the production, a 12-pound rib roast was a same day project, to be prepared in the unfamiliar confines of a kitchen away from home.

After a little internet research suggested that I have the butcher trim excess fat (leaving a nice layer on top) and then cut the meat away from the rib bones, almost all the way to what I would call the sternum (but which I now know is the chine bone), and then tie up the roast.

I strode confidently (okay a trifle nervously) up to the meat counter at Harris Teeter, where Angus Rib Roast was on sale for $7.99 a pound, a full six bucks cheaper than Whole Foods. "I need a twelve pound rib roast." I told the butcher. He told me that he had one, and that if I continued shopping, he's have it ready for me in a half-hour. "You'll cut it and tie it?" I asked, hoping that I had the terminology right. "You bet." he told me. "That sucker will slide right off the bone."

A half hour later, I had my roast, and, after transporting it to Potomac on ice, I set out to prepare it on Sunday morning for our afternoon dinner. I made a paste out of water and ice cream salt, and used some of it to line the bottom of a large roast pan. I then rubbed the roast with Worcestershire sauce and covered it with more salt. I attached a thermometer to the roast and slid it into the oven, budgeting about 4 1/2 hours to cook. When the temperature hit 130, I pulled the roast out of the oven and went to fetch a hammer to bust the crust.

After the roast had rested for thirty minutes, I pried off the salt crust (it came loose easily), transferred the meat to a cutting board, and began slicing it with my electric knife. All worries about failure vanished, as I tasted the meat: it was perfectly cooked, and mouth-wateringly juicy.

I packed up the leftovers and, when we got home, I made some stock from the rib bones, reserving the meat for later use. Last night, after the Long Island City Crew had left, I made a sort of beef bourguignon by making a roux from bacon fat and whole wheat flour (we had run out of all purpose flour, and nobody noticed the difference), sauteeing some onion and garlic and adding a glass of red wine, which I cooked until I could no longer smell alcohol in the fumes. I added the stock, along with two potatoes and a couple of handfuls of baby carrots, all diced into one inch or so pieces. When the potatoes and carrots were nearly cooked, I added the beef, and then I finished the stew by thickening it with a paste of cornstarch and water. The result was delicious; not as good as the roast, but a good use of what might otherwise have been tossed.

Anyway, here's the recipe. It's just the thing for a big crowd.

Rib Roast with a Salt Crust
In a bowl stir together 6 cups salt and 1 cup water until the mixture forms a slightly stiff paste. Rub a 12 pound roast with 1/2 cup of worcestershire sauce and arrange the roast, fat side up, in a roasting pan. Coat it completely with the salt mixture, patting the mixture on about 1/4 inch thick.Roast the beef in the middle of a preheated oven 325°F. oven for 2 hours (about 22 minutes per pound), or until it registers 130°F. on a meat thermometer for medium-rare meat. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let it stand for 30 minutes. Remove the crust with a hammer and carve the meat.

I served two sauces with the meat. The first was a mixture of sour cream, horseradish, chives and lemon juice. The second was a jus, made by reducing 8 ounces of red wine and a sprig of rosemary and 2 cloves of garlic by half and then adding an equal amount of beef stock, reducing the mixture again by half. When I finished it didn't taste right, so I added a couple of teaspoons of sugar and that seemed to make it palatable. I still wasn't happy, but Worldwide said it was good, so I guess it worked out ok. I used the last of the horseradish cream sauce to make twice-baked potatoes the other night, which garnered an enthusiastic response from the BG.

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