Thursday, January 2, 2014
Whenever I don’t get the chance to come around here and share food, I get a little on edge. Spending time in the kitchen is always rewarding, but it truly feels even more so to me if I can settle in here to share the experiences with you. I apologize for my absences throughout the past months. It turns out moving into a house and working retail during the most punishing time of the year were just about all I could handle in October, November and December. But I cooked my ass off, and I am finally here, on a snowy winter day, with a whole group of hours to myself, to be able to share what I’ve been doing.
And nothing will be right with the world if I don’t tell you about the roast beast to end all roast beasts that I cooked on Christmas Eve. So not only am I back with a post to greet the new year, but it’s a 2000 word treatise on how I dry rubbed and grill roasted prime rib for 20 and lived to tell about it. It was simply delicious and VERY exciting. I decided to grill my roast out of sheer logistical necessity, because where my family is gigantic, my 1960 wall oven is puny and well, we needed somewhere to heat the potatoes, so the beef got confined to the grill. No big deal, right? One of the most expensive cuts of meat you can buy, one of the riskiest cooking methods ever. I asked myself many times in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve if I in fact was psychotic for planning on doing this.
BUT, plenty of research, talking it out with anyone and everyone who would listen and a little leap-of-faith-blind-confidence “I can do it!” attitude (plus a half bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut Rose Champagne while cooking) and I was able to bring to the table the roast of all roasts. It was truly spectacular. I have to say I LIKE it when risks pay off!
To be completely fair and give full credit where credit’s due, I researched this process exhaustively online and ultimately found THIS invaluable article by grilling expert/ meat aficionado Meathead Goldwyn. I pretty much followed this recipe and technique to a T and was gifted with the most delicious prime rib of all time. If you have a basic knowledge of cooking, an excellent meat thermometer and you follow this guide, you will truly be rewarded with the most delicious prime rib roast OF ALL TIME, I promise. And you will have space in the oven for the asparagus, twice baked potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
GRILLED PRIME RIB
7-8 lb. prime rib eye (boned, trimmed and tied)
¼ cup kosher salt
2-3 tbs. pink peppercorns
2-3 tbs. black peppercorns
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch smoked paprika
32 oz. container beef stock
½ cup dry red wine (I used a Cab. from Chile)
1 carrot, peeled and left whole
1 stem celery, washed and left whole
1 onion, halved and peeled
1 shallot, halved and peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
A highly accurate instant read thermometer
Gas grill with a full tank of propane
*I doubled everything here (except the rub) and had enough for 14 adults and 6 children plus enough leftovers to make a beef pot pie.
24 Hours before cooking dry rub the beast:
When cooking a big, giant, show-stopping roast, I suggest hitting up a high quality butcher shop. Not only will the crew working there know enough to help you figure out exactly how many pounds your roast should be to adequately feed your crowd; they will also bone, trim and tie your roast for you, so it’s manageable and ready to go. You will want to purchase your roast one day before cooking, so as to dry rub and air chill it in the fridge.
Remove roast from packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a large roasting pan and set aside while you prepare your dry rub. Pull rosemary from stems and finely chop with kitchen shears. Combine black and pink peppercorns in a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind until coarsely chopped. Combine kosher salt, crushed peppercorns, garlic powder, rosemary and paprika in a bowl and stir together. Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil over the roast and smooth over all sides. Scoop a generous handful of rub and smooth onto the bottom, sides and end; turn and rub another scoop onto the top. The ‘top’ of your roast for both chilling and cooking purposes is always the side with the fat. Set roasting pan in fridge, uncovered, to chill overnight.
2-3 hours before cooking the beast:
Remove roast from the fridge and let sit at room temperature. If you have curious pets, set another roasting pan over the top, to protect it, especially if it’s going to be unattended. It is crucial to let a roast this large (or any good cut of red meat for that matter) sit at room temperature prior to cooking. It will ensure more even roasting and a shorter cook time. I had 14 pounds of solid beef happening, so I had mine at room temp. for over three hours before cooking. Do not get sketched out by this, any microbes will be killed during the cooking process. No one died or vomited at my Christmas Eve, I can assure you.
Set up the drip pan: If you have a giant roasting pan that can fit comfortably on your grill, you may use it. The pans I had both had large handles, which wouldn’t allow for the grill cover to close. So what I used was two giant aluminum roasting pans from the dollar store. I would suggest definitely doubling them up for stability, since they are a bit flimsy on their own. In the pan combine beef stock, wine, herbs, carrots, garlic, shallot, onion and celery. The veggies will be discarded eventually, so leave them whole or simply halved and peeled for simplicity’s sake. This pan full of savory juices will be not only a drip pan for the fat from the roast, but also the base for your jus, or gravy. I’ll use the term jus here for consistency’s sake and also because it is, in my opinion, far too thin to be considered a gravy.
Over the drip pan, arrange a cookie cooling rack so it sits in a stable fashion, and place the roast (fat side up) on top. This is your grill roasting rig. Admire it for a few moments, lift it carefully to feel how heavy/stable it is and respect the fact that there is a large amount of liquid and meat weight on a fairly flimsy pan. If you are careful, you will be able to ease this thing out the door and onto the grill without much incident; if you are me, you will probably end up with a splash of beef broth between your toes and on your jeans, but either way, the roast will survive.
Preheat the grill for indirect grilling about 30 minutes before starting:
“Indirect grilling” means that the protein you are cooking will be positioned over the unheated part of the grill, while only one, or perhaps two burners will be set to medium or low. I set one burner to high and when my temperature was still a little under 325, I turned the middle burner on to low. The drip pan and roast were set over the ‘cold’ part of the grill and in this way warm air circulates all around the roast, just like in an oven. The bonus of the grill: a little touch of smokiness and a delicious crust from direct searing at the END of cooking, not the beginning. I believe the reason my grill needed two burners to reach temperature was because it was very, very cold on Christmas Eve. So take into consideration any external temperature or precipitation.
Set roast on the grill, close lid and set timer for one hour. Check the temperature at one hour and not before; then, check the temperature every fifteen minutes thereafter. For a perfect medium-rare roast, pull the meat and drip pan off the grill at 115 degrees. The roast will come up another 5-8 degrees while directly searing the outside. Sear over the hot part of the grill on all four sides, about 5 minutes per side, until the internal temperature reaches 128. Pull the roast and let rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. I allowed mine to rest for upwards of 45 minutes. The internal temperature will rise another 5 degrees during this time, resulting in a spectacularly perfect, deep magenta pink colored, medium rare 135 degrees.
While the meat rests, strain the solids out of the drip pan and set the juice to boil and reduce. Let it crank and thicken with just a touch of flour if desired. Many people in your house may say to you “the gravy is boiling shouldn’t you turn it down?” Ignore them, and really just let it rip. It’s quite thin to start out and this will thicken it up just a bit and concentrate all the delightful flavors within. The hot jus will also help to warm the meat once sliced, as well as it will taste like liquid heaven. When ready to serve, slice the roast into thick ¾ inch slices and ladle jus over. Then prepare yourself to be showered with compliments and praise. As my niece Isabel said “it tastes like meat wrapped in heaven.”
This whole process was one of strategy, math and close temperature monitoring. Since I am good at none of these things, I strategized in depth and created a timeline which was my guide to the evening. I knew we wanted to eat around 7, minus 45 minutes for resting the meat, minus 20 minutes for searing, minus the roasting cook time, which I calculated to be about 2 hours. I suggest when you’re entertaining in a formal style, with a sit-down dinner time like this; reverse time-lining can be your best friend. I also used this kind of strategy when planning my wedding. If you know the reception has to end at X time, work backwards from there and give yourself an hour of wiggle room for issues. In cooking a large cut of meat in a non-traditional method, also always give yourself an extra hour cushion to account for any issues. Plan for the unexpected, but ultimately take a leap of faith and trust your instincts. I am by no means a grill master, but I basically edited all my cooking for Christmas Eve so that everything besides the roast was dead-simple and prepped two days before. I was determined not only to host but to enjoy myself, and with the help of everyone else and careful mental, mathematical scheming, I was able to do just that.
(special cameo by my brother, Jason, who really missed out on a second career as a hand model)