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When it comes to holiday meals, I am a traditionalist. This is not the time to wow people with your latest culinary creations. There is an emotional charge to the food we eat during this season, and people –especially family-type people—expect their old favorites. At my house, the anticipated festive meal is a retro-style rib roast. This is a gorgeous piece of meat, a big piece of meat—big on taste and big on price, as you'll see when you get your receipt. When you spend this kind of money, you need everything to go off without a hitch.
Let's keep it simple because a rib roast is so loaded with flavor that it requires little more than salt and pepper. But first, you need the right butcher, the right roasting temperature, and plenty of patience.
A 'Primer' on Rib Roasts:
The rib roast is exactly that, the seven rib section between the shoulder (or chuck section) down to the loin. A good serving rule of thumb is one rib section for each two people. But because the diameter of the meaty "eye" varies from roast to roast, I always over compensate. For me, a 7-rib roast is good for 10 to 12 people, and in this case, we're working with a 4-rib roast for 6 diners. This is about a 9 lb. roast.
How to Order:
There are three ways to order a rib roast, with the meat removed from the bones and then roasted boneless (the misguided think this is "convenient"), with the meat removed from the bones and then replaced, rolled and tied against the ribs (the insecure believe this makes for easier carving), and the meat roasted with the bones intact (my favorite and frankly, the only way to go).
Order your four rib roast cut from the loin or "short" end. The chuck end of the rib has better fat. But in a four rib roast, you still get enough of that extravagant marbling as the roast extends from the loin towards the chuck end. Ask your butcher to clean the ends of the bones (called "frenching").
- Sturdy medium–sized roasting pan with low sides (10 X 14-inces ought to do it)
- Oven thermometer to guarantee the internal heat in the oven is where it should be
- Instant-read meat thermometer to gauge the internal temperature of the meat
The goal here is a roast with beautifully browned crust and tender interior. Take the rib roast out of the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for at least forty-five minutes. Preheat oven to 450F and place the empty roasting pan inside heat up during the process. When the roast is placed in the pan, the bottom will already begin to brown as soon as it hits the hot surface.
There is plenty of external fat on a rib roast so I don't rub the surface with oil. But I do use the tip of a paring knife to lightly score the fat in a crosshatch pattern so I can rub liberal amounts of salt and pepper right down in there (I used Bourbon Smoked Peppercorns here). This creates better flavor and the excess falls off during the cooking process.
(For medium rare) - Place your roast (fat side up) in the preheated pan in the 450 F degree oven for 45 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350F and cook until the instant read thermometer probe inserted horizontally into the middle of the eye of the meat reads 125F. (While the meat rests, carryover cooking will raise the internal temperature as much as 10 degrees.)
This takes about 12 to 15 minutes per pound or about another hour and a half to hour and forty-five minutes (adjust according to the weight of your roast.) Transfer to cutting board and let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes. This is critical; don't poke or prod or insert anything into the roast.
When you're ready to carve, use a slicer knife with a long sharp supple blade. Press the blade lengthwise against the bones and follow the line of the meat down to the cutting board. Remove the "eye" roast and slice into generous portions. Save the bones (they're the best part) for your favorite guests.