I think this was one of the first years we actually stayed home on Christmas. Just us and the dogs. It may sound quiet and lonely, but it was actually very nice. We slept in a little and then made breakfast out of leftover bread from Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse in Santee. We had gone there for a friend’s birthday, stuffed ourselves silly, then packed a doggy bag with leftover steak and fatty bits and the bread that was in the extra bread basket. Well, the dogs got a yummy Christmas breakfast with steak and we ended up with some really good french toast. So, if you go to Pinnacle Peak for dinner, don’t leave the leftover bread – it’s the perfect bread for french toast.
After breakfast, we opened presents, and I have to say that I am well spoiled. I have a new robe for summer and a cushy soft one for the cold weather, a ride in a hot air balloon, a very cool new picture-hanging level, and other such trinkets. We also got an automatic soap dispenser, which is not only fun but actually handy. But my favorite present I’ll tell you about tomorrow.
The weekend before Christmas, I had purchased a small rib roast from Costco (the smallest one they had, actually). My plan was to cook prime rib and Yorkshire pudding for our Christmas dinner. It’s something I’ve always wanted to cook, but it’s an expensive endeavor. It’s not something you test out for the first time for a dinner party and it’s not really in my budget to be able to to a test run and a large roast for a table full of dinner guests. Anyway, I figured I could afford to do this for our dinner, so I picked a 2-rib roast, which was still pretty big. Interestingly enough, Alton Brown had just done a Good Eats episode on prime rib (mislabeled in the cable guide as “Eggnog”), so I tracked down his recipe as I had not really been paying attention to the tv. Both Alton Brown (AB) and Cook’s Illustrated (CI) recommend dry aging the roast in the refrigerator, so I tried it. I placed the roast on a rack and then on a small baking sheet. I placed a paper towel over it, to keep it protected from dust and also to wick away extra moisture. After three days, it didn’t look like it had lost much water, but it did look nice and red and beefy.
Again, AB and CI don’t go big on seasonings, so I just rubbed the roast with some olive oil and then some kosher salt. Now, AB says to cook the roast at 200ºF, pull it out at 118ºF, rest, then reintroduce it to a 500ºF until the roast reaches 130ºF. All while cooking under a terra cotta pot. CI says to pan sear the roast (to get it nice and brown), then just cook it in a 250ºF until it reaches 130ºF. I compromised between the two methods, roasting at 250ºF until the thermometer measured 130ºF, then I pulled it out and turned the oven to 450ºF (this is also the temperature the Yorkshire puddings bake at). The roast went back in with the buttered muffin pan (Yorkshire puddings) for 5 minutes, then everything came out, I poured the batter into the pan and in they went.
The roast came out looking (and smelling) wonderful, but very little of the fat had rendered off and there certainly weren’t any pan dripping with which to make a pan sauce.
I used the CI recipe for the Yorkshire puddings (it was on the page after the rib roast recipe), preparing it in advance to let the batter rest. I got 1 Tb of beef fat for the batter but used butter to grease the muffin pans because the roast hadn’t rendered enough fat. I wish you could have seen these suckers in the pan because they looked impressive. They must have been twice as high as the muffin pan, with smears of browned butter here and there. I pulled them out of the oven after 30 minutes, then poked them with a skewer to try and prevent them from deflating. It worked a little, but they still ended up less puffy than when they were in the oven. Still, they looked tasty.
Now that the roast was nice and rested, we carved the bones away (and nibbled at them), then carved two slices off the roast (which was a little less than half the total roast). Added to some roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts, it was an impressive looking dinner, even without any au jus. I was pretty pleased with myself.
It was a really good slice of prime rib. Slow roasted, it was juicy and medium rare. The edges had a little saltiness to them and the outside fat was beefy and meltingly good. I certainly wouldn’t mind doing this again for dinner for four. Of course, the difficult part would be deciding which 2 friends to invite to dinner! The Yorkshire puddings are quite similar to popovers (and would probably be identical if not the beef fat in them) and were crispy on the tops and custardy in the middle. Since the recipe made 12, we ate quite a few with dinner (and after) and have also eaten them for breakfast. Yum. The next time I make a roast, though, I think I will follow the CI recipe and sear it in a pan before placing it in the oven. That would definitely render out more of the outside fat. Aside from that, it was a perfect dinner. I’d even wager to say my prime rib was better than you would get at most Vegas buffets!