Here's my holiday conundrum, and I bet you can relate: I am in charge of this year's holiday meal, which will feature a big standing rib roast. Everyone in my family wants their meat rare, but I want the outside to be nicely seared. How to have both?
Cooking a big roast at high heat can get you that nice crisp outer crust, but it comes at a price. Cooking a roast at high heat for even part of the time generally means you end up with just a small core of rare meat running down the centre of the roast.
Luckily, the fix is easy. Instead of roasting the meat at high heat for any amount of time, I briefly sear the roast on the stovetop before it goes in the oven. Then it is hands off time while the beef slowly comes up to whatever internal temperature you want in a 200 F oven. That's it. Perfect outside, perfect inside.
You'll want to make sure your oven is well calibrated and that you have a proper instant thermometer. And don't forget to let the roast rest after you have cooked it so the juices have time to re-distribute, ensuring juicy meat.
When shopping for your roast, ask for a partial rack of bones, three to four bones from the loin end, also referred to as the small end or the first cut. This half of the rack has less fat and more meat than the shoulder side of the roast. Also, ask the butcher to remove the chine bone, which allows you to cut between the ribs when the roast is done.
I like to serve my roast with a rich bearnaise sauce. It is the holidays, after all. Make the reduction for the sauce while the roast is in the oven, then finish it while the meat rests. I like to use both dry and fresh tarragon for my bearnaise for a more intense tarragon hit. I put the dry stuff in the reduction, then strain it out and finish with fresh.
SLOW-ROASTED STANDING RIB ROAST WITH BEARNAISE SAUCE
Start to finish: 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours (40 minutes active)
For the roast:
8- to 10-pound standing beef rib roast (3 to 4 ribs), the top 2 inches of the bones frenched, if desired
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the bearnaise:
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Champagne or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
4 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, or to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Heat the oven to 200 F. Set a roasting rack into a large roasting pan.
Trim the surface layer of fat on the top side of the roast until just 1/4 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, score the remaining fat layer in a crisscross pattern, cutting down to, but not into, the meat. Season the roast all over with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet over high, heat the oil. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the roast and brown on all sides except the bone side. Transfer the roast, fat side up, to the prepared roasting pan. Roast on the oven's middle shelf until the centre of the meat reaches 115 F to 120 F for rare and 120 to 125 F for medium rare, about 3 hours. Transfer the roast to a platter and cover loosely with foil. Let stand for 20 minutes before carving.
While the roast rests, prepare the bearnaise. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the shallots, wine, vinegar, salt, pepper and tarragon. Bring to a simmer and gently cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium metal bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids.
Add the egg yolks to the liquid and whisk until combined well. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (the water should not be touching the bottom of the bowl) and whisk constantly until the mixture feels quite warm to the touch (do not let it get too hot or the eggs will scramble). Immediately start adding the butter several pieces at a time, whisking until the pieces are almost melted before adding the next piece.
When all the butter is added remove the bowl from the saucepan. Whisk in the fresh tarragon, lemon juice and some of the meat juices that have accumulated on the platter, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the meat and serve each portion topped with bearnaise sauce.
Nutrition information per serving: 980 calories; 790 calories from fat (81 per cent of total calories); 89 g fat (40 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 265 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 41 g protein; 470 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."