Rib roasts make holiday dinner extra special for very little prep time
Rib roasts are impressive and tantalizing, whether beef, pork or lamb. Seeing them standing proudly on a platter, surrounded by roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes, makes meat-lovers swoon.
The whole rib roast is the most imposing, but even small roasts express stature as well. The process is the same whether cooking a large or a small roast. Meat is cooked according to its thickness, not its weight, but both are good indicators of the time to be roasted.
A good thermometer
There is no sense in cooking an expensive piece of meat without a good meat thermometer, the kind that goes into the meat when it is removed from the oven, or a digital one with a cord that beeps when the meat is ready. I prefer an instant-read thermometer, readily available in grocery and specialty stores.
Remember, meat continues to cook when it is removed from the oven, so test frequently to avoid overcooking.
For the cook who has only five minutes of time free, roasts only need to be put in the oven, checked occasionally with a meat thermometer and then rested 10 minutes or so at room temperature after being cooked to the desired degree.
Five minutes more of the cook’s time beforehand bumps up the flavor, with marinades and rubs applied the day before. Even a little more of the cook’s time, and the addition potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables to the roasting pan makes the entire meal easily accomplished.
The names of the roasts change according to the animal. Beef are sold as “rib roasts” with the bones and “boneless rib roasts” without the bone.
Pork loin is the same cut of meat from the pork. It’s rare to find it sold with the bones these days as they are sold separately for barbecued rib lovers. The boneless loin roast is, however, an ideal holiday roast. Succulent and tender, it makes carving easy, and can be cut to accommodate the number of people being served, before or after roasting, with the rest to be served another time.
Rack of lamb is same cut of meat as the rib roast as well. Depending on the size, it will serve one or two. Two racks are as easy to roast as one, and small families will enjoy the treat.
Cooking a roast is the answer when the cook’s time is worth more than money or time in the oven. During the holidays, a good roast can save money as well, partly because now is the time of year they are on sale, but also because they go so far, from feeding a family a special holiday dinner to sandwiches the next day, and soup after that.
Beef Rib Roast
The most majestic of the roasts, the exterior should be crusty and brown, the interior rosy red. Some people prefer to cut between the ribs, serving everyone an extravagant piece of meat as is done in steak restaurants. Others first slide a long sharp knife between the ribs and the meat, then slice thinly.
1 standing beef rib roast (6-7 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
Rosemary or other herbs, optional
Garlic cloves, chopped
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Rub the roast with seasonings as desired, fat side up, standing on the bones and move to a roasting pan. If the pan is much larger than the roast, add a little liquid — water, stock or red wine mixed with a bit of water — to prevent the juices from burning.
Move to the oven and reduce the temperature to 400 degrees. Roast until the internal temperature reaches about 130 degrees for rare, 140 for medium-rare, 11/2 hours.
Remove from the oven to a warm heatproof serving platter, and let stand 30 minutes. It will increase 10 degrees during the first 10 minutes of resting. Carve.
Zippy Pork Loin Roast With Rub
The roast can be cooked in two ways: roasted long and slow, making a melted barbecue-like meat; or roasted at 350 degrees, making more of a typical roasted meat. The meat becomes very dry if cooked past 145 degrees since it has so little fat, so avoid overcooking.
2 cups honey
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
4 tablespoons rosemary, crushed
10 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless pork loin roast
Mix together first seven ingredients. Place the loin in a sturdy sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the meat; let marinate in a pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Remove the pork from its marinade and shake off the excess; reserve the marinade. Tie the two sides of roast together, if necessary, to make 1 piece. Move to a roasting pan and place in the oven.
After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 250 degrees. Roast until the thickest part of the meat registers 145 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 5 hours. Turn the roast over in the pan every hour or so. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 to 30 minutes before slicing. Slice and move to a serving platter.
Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil and reduce by about half. Pour the reduced marinade over the meat. Serve hot, or refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.
Variation: Cook 2 hours in a 350-degree oven, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145 degrees. Let rest 15 to 30 minutes.
Rack of Lamb
Be sure to purchase a rack large enough for two.
11/2- to 2-pound rack of lamb
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh rosemary
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup red currant jelly or muscadine jelly, melted
Note: The bones are normally scraped or “Frenched” when purchased to expose the ends. If not, make a firm slice across where the meat is flat on the bone, a few inches from the end of the bones, and slide off this small piece of meat, set aside. Slide a small knife between each pair of ribs and remove the adjacent meat.
To scrape further, hold knife on one side of the bone, position the thumb firmly on the other side, and scrape with the knife. If icy cold, it is possible to pull the membrane off with fingernails.
Mix the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub on the lamb, and place in a sealable plastic bag with the oil, tossing to coat. Marinate for 1 hour or up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the rack of lamb in a shallow baking pan 25 to 30 minutes for rare, or to an internal temperature of 125 degrees; 40 minutes for medium-rare, or 135 degrees. To present, cut down between the ribs. Arrange on the platter, crossing the bones; or serve on the plates. Pour melted sauce or jelly onto the plate.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathalie dupree.com.