Beef it up; Traditional roasts are the meat of Christmas feast

Beef it up; Traditional roasts are the meat of Christmas feast

Jane Dornbusch

There are times when you want to serve the hottest and trendiest, but Christmas isn’t one of them. The holiday’s meals are nearly as steeped in tradition as Thanksgiving, and few dishes are more traditional than roast beef. If you make roast beef only once a year – and who really does it more often than that anymore? – then it ought to be on Christmas.

Because it’s special-occasion food, roast beef challenges the confidence of many cooks. It raises a plethora of questions: Which cut to buy? How long to cook? How much to make?

Not all beef roasts are suitable for the oven, and not all oven roasts are special enough for the holidays. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recommends beef rib, rib eye, tenderloin and top loin for special occasions; round top, tri-tip and eye round are euphemistically called “more economical,” and while they are flavorful they are also lean and easy to overcook.

If you have your heart set on prime rib, you may have to go to a restaurant, where most of the beef graded “prime” ends up. But the quality grade “choice” you’ll find at the market is still juicy and flavorful, and no one will turn up his nose at a choice-grade standing rib roast.

A top-quality roast is an expensive proposition; the good news is that it’s hard to go wrong once you’ve made the investment. It requires very little in the way of seasoning (although you can season and sauce it to good effect, as these recipes demonstrate). Just be sure not to overcook it; take it out of the oven before it reaches the target temperature, because that temperature will continue to rise for 20 minutes or so out of the oven.

Simple, traditional side dishes such as roasted potatoes and green beans round out a holiday meal that’s comfortingly familiar. If that huge hunk of red meat seems excessive, just keep saying to yourself: Christmas comes only once a year.

BEEF RIB ROAST WITH YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS

For the roast:

1 beef rib roast (2-4 ribs), chine (back) bone removed (6-8 lb.)

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 t. dried thyme

1 t. cracked black pepper

For the Yorkshire puddings:

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. milk

2 T. snipped fresh chives

2 eggs

1/4 t. each salt and dried thyme

2 T. butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine garlic, thyme and pepper; press onto beef roast. Place roast, fat side up, in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef, not resting in fat or touching bone. Do not add water or cover. Roast in 350-degree oven 2 1/4-2 1/2 hours for medium rare, 2 3/4-3 hours for medium doneness.

While roast cooks, prepare Yorkshire pudding batter. Combine flour, chives, salt and thyme in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and eggs; gradually add to flour mixture. Beat until smooth. (Refrigerate for up to 1 hour, if desired.)

Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135 degrees for medium rare, 150 degrees for medium. Tent with foil. Let stand 20 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups; tilt to coat bottoms. Fill each cup halfway with batter. Bake in 450-degree oven 15-18 minutes or until puddings are puffed and golden.

Carve roast. Season with salt, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 12 servings.

Recipe courtesy of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

ROASTED BEEF RIB EYE AND ROOT VEGETABLES

1 well-trimmed beef rib eye roast, small end (about 4 lb.)

2 T. fresh rosemary or 2 t. dried rosemary

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 t. salt

1 t. dry mustard

1 t. cracked black pepper

2 T. vegetable oil

3 medium baking potatoes, quartered

2 large sweet potatoes, quartered

4 small onions, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine rosemary, garlic, salt, mustard and pepper. Press half the seasoning mixture onto the beef roast. Combine remaining seasoning with vegetable oil; toss with vegetables.

Place roast, fat side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef. Do not add water or cover. Roast in 350-degree oven 1 3/4 hours for medium rare, 2 hours for medium doneness. After 15 minutes, place vegetables on rack around roast; roast vegetables 1 1/2 hours or until tender.

Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135 degrees for medium-rare, 150 degrees for medium. Tent with foil; let stand 15-20 minutes. (Temperature will continue to rise about 10 degrees to reach 145 for medium rare, 160 for medium.) Carve roast; serve with vegetables. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe courtesy of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

STANDING RIB ROAST OF BEEF AU POIVRE WITH SAUCE DIABOLIQUE

For the roast:

About 1/2 c. whole black peppercorns

1 standing rib roast of beef, about 5 or 6 lb., at room temperature

For the sauce:

2/3 c. dry red wine

1 c. pan juices from beef roast and/or beef stock

1 t. whole black peppercorns, crushed

1 T. dry mustard

2 T. chopped parsley

2 T. finely chopped shallots

2 T. prepared horseradish

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the peppercorns in a small, heavy paper bag and crush by banging with a mallet. With the palm of your hand, press the peppercorns into all surfaces of the meat.

Place the roast, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan, then put into the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Baste the roast with the pan juices and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast, making sure the thermometer does not touch the bone.

Continue roasting for about 30 minutes and check the thermometer reading. Roast until the thermometer reads 135 degrees for rare to 160 for medium well. When desired doneness is reached, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil, about 30 minutes before carving.

Prepare the sauce: Combine the red wine and pan juices in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir in the peppercorns and dry mustard, bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients and serve in a warmed gravy boat or small serving bowl.

To serve the roast, carve it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices and ladle a few tablespoonfuls of the sauce onto each serving. Makes 8-10 servings.

From “The Holidays,” by John Hadamuscin (Harmony Books, 1986).

Copyright 2002

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