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Plan ahead for the ultimate holiday roast beef dinner

By Wolfgang Puck/Tribune Content Agency

This article was published December 19, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Thanksgiving is barely over when you suddenly realize the time has come to start thinking seriously about what you’ll cook for Christmas dinner. And I always wonder: Why do so many people cook another turkey on Dec. 24 or 25?

Maybe it’s because memories of the previous holiday’s golden-brown turkey are still so deliciously fresh. Or perhaps that’s the way family tradition has always said the Christmas menu should be. Or, just maybe, our minds are so fatigued by entertaining at this time of year that we find it easier to switch to autopilot and cook the same thing all over again.

So I’d like to propose a different main course for your holiday table this Christmas. Try my recipe for Roast Prime Rib of Beef With Garlic-Herb Crust.

I find roast beef to be one of the most impressive main courses you could present for a special meal, especially when you start with a bone-in roast. Boldly shaped and deeply browned, with a tempting crust and juicy, rose-colored interior, the roast seems to me to announce like nothing else that a real feast is about to begin.

If your mouth is watering at that description, I suggest you act now. Stop by your local butcher or supermarket and order the roast as soon as possible, just to make sure there will be one on hand and reserved for you when you shop for the meal. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a good three days before you cook it.

Then, simply follow my recipe. The keys to success are simple.

To begin, while the oven preheats, rub the exterior of the roast thoroughly with the seasoning mixture. During cooking, the seasonings will not only subtly flavor the inside of the meat but will also mingle with the juices to form the much-desired crust, which will add excitement to every serving.

The roasting itself happens in two stages. For the first 25 minutes, I like to cook the meat at a high temperature to help the crust form, sealing in the juices. Then I reduce the temperature and complete the cooking at a more gentle heat that enhances the meat’s tenderness.

Finally, once the roast is done to your liking (which you can test easily with an instant-read thermometer), be sure to let the roast rest, covered, at warm room temperature for 30 minutes before carving. This crucial yet easy step allows the bubbling-hot juices to settle back into the meat so more of them stay in every bite.

Follow these few pointers, and you’ll have a roast everyone will love. In fact, you may love it so much that you might even be tempted to make it again for New Year’s Eve!

ROAST PRIME RIB OF BEEF WITH GARLIC-HERB CRUST

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 bone-in prime rib of beef, 4 to 5 pounds

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Directions:

Remove the roast from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the rack in the center of the oven — or if the roast won’t fit into your oven with the rack in the center, place the rack in the lower position.

While the oven is heating, put the roast rib-side down on a rack inside a large heavy roasting pan. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt. Spread the garlic-herb mixture evenly all over the surface of the meat, pressing down firmly with your hands to help the mixture adhere.

Place the roasting pan on the oven rack. Cook the roast for 25 minutes. Then reduce the temperature setting to 250 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer, inserted into the center of the roast without touching bone, reads 120 degrees for rare, or 125 degrees for

medium rare — 1 1/2 to 2 hours longer.

Remove the roast from the oven, and transfer it to a platter. Cover the roast with aluminum foil, and leave it to rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

Uncover the roast and transfer it to a carving board. Pour the juices that have accumulated on the platter into a sauceboat for serving.

With a sharp carving knife, and steadying the roast with a carving fork, cut the meat across the grain into thick or thin slices, as you and your guests prefer. If guests like, include rib bones as part of their portions, cutting carefully between the bones. Pass the juices at the table for guests to help themselves.

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