Turkeys are for Thanksgiving. When it comes to Christmas, if you're a traditionalist it's likely that beef is what's for dinner.
Dave Zino, executive chef for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program, said the most traditional Christmas beasts are the standing rib roast and the beef tenderloin.
"Those are kind of the iconic roasts for the holidays," Zino said.
There's a reason for that. Both of these roasts tend to be on the pricey side, normally starting at about $10 a pound and up - and up. Right now, though, local stores are offering holiday specials, with standing rib starting as low as $4.77 per pound.
Either would seem like a pretty basic roast, right? You just stick it in the oven and take it out when it's done.
Well, not exactly. And while you'll want to be sure you're using the best method to roast them, there are several schools of thought on what that method is.
For example, Lawry's the Prime Rib has a recipe on its website that suggests roasting a standing rib - also known as a rib-eye roast - atop a bed of salt, in a 350-degree oven.
"The salt helps to form a crust on the ribs and help keep the moisture in," said Dave Simmons, executive chef of the Las Vegas Lawry's. "It helps to dry some of the liquid out of the meat, allows the other side to caramelize. It's that caramelization where you really get the most flavor. That's why people ask for the end cut often; that's where all the flavor is."
There's only one minor point here.
"That's not how we cook it in the restaurant," Simmons said.
Simmons starts his roasts at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.
"That kind of caramelizes the outside," he said.
Then, he turns it down to a lower temperature.
"The lower, the better," Simmons said. "About 225 to 240 is really a good temperature. You yield more of the prime rib. It shrinks less and you get a more tender rib." He said to figure about 12 to 15 minutes per pound.
And this is a case where size is important. Simmons said he wouldn't recommend anything less than a half a rib, which is 7 to 8 pounds, or about three or four rib bones.
Zino recommends roasting the meat at 350 degrees.
"You want to make sure that you put it in a shallow roasting pan," he said. "All roasts, with the exception of the rib roast, we like to put on a rack. Because the rib roast has the bones, it creates a natural rack."
Don't cover, Zino said, and don't add water. Use an instant-read thermometer or oven-proof meat thermometer.
"What you want to do is pull your roast out about 10 to 15 degrees under the desired doneness, because the internal temperature is going to rise," he said.
Simmons said he likes to cook his roasts to 120 degrees, which means the beef is rare in the center.
"I know I've got three to four slices of rare in each roast," he said. "Then they go to medium rare, then to medium, medium well and well done."
Zino recommends using a paste rub (his recipe follows); Simmons seasons his with - no surprise here - Lawry's Seasoned Salt.
And both chefs said there's one more really important thing to remember: Let the roast rest after you take it out of the oven.
"After it comes out of the oven, you should tent it with foil and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes," Simmons said, "to let the juices redistribute through the roast. Cooking pushes all the juices to the center; letting it rest lets the juices redistribute. If you cut right into it, all of the juices are going to run right out.
"That's the hardest thing - getting people to wait."
Zino pointed out that the resting period provides an opportunity to finish other dishes in the oven, which helps relieve what he calls "holiday angst."
"Let it rest and put the green-bean casserole in the oven and everybody will be happy," he said.
If standing rib and tenderloin both are out of your price range, don't despair. Both chefs said there are a lot of lower-priced alternatives for your Christmas beast.
"I like the tri-tip," Zino said. "It's from the bottom sirloin. It's surprisingly tender, just a great beef-eating experience."
He also likes another cut from the sirloin, the sirloin cap roast or culotte.
"Again, it's one of those surprisers - 'Wow, this is really tender,' " he said.
Simmons said something that's "really outstanding" for the holidays is a pork crown roast.You can request it already formed, or form it yourself by using two bone-in pork loins and frenching the bones, then slitting the meat so that each loin can be bent into a semicircle and tied together, to form a shape similar to a king's crown.
"And then in the center you would put your favorite stuffing - oyster, sausage, cornbread," he said.
RIB ROAST WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE
1 beef rib roast (2 to 4 ribs), small end, chine (back) bone removed (6 to 8 pounds)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground mixed peppercorns
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish, or 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine seasoning ingredients; press evenly onto all surfaces of beef roast.
Place roast, fat side up, in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef, not resting in fat or touching bone. Do not add water or cover. Roast 2¼ to 2½ hours for medium rare, 2¾ to 3 hours for medium.
Meanwhile, prepare horseradish sauce: Beat cream in medium bowl just until soft peaks form; do not overbeat. Add horseradish and chives; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135 degrees for medium rare, 150 for medium. Transfer roast to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes.
Carve roast into slices; season with salt, as desired. Serve with horseradish sauce.
Serves 8 to 10.
- Recipe adapted from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association
MUSTARD PEPPER RUB FOR BEEF ROASTS
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon mixed black, white, green and pink peppercorns or black peppercorns, cracked
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Combine rub ingredients in small bowl; press evenly onto all surfaces of beef roast.
Place roast, fat-side up, in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef, not resting in fat or touching bone. Do not add water or cover. Roast to medium rare (145 degrees) to medium (160) doneness.
- Recipe adapted from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association
LAWRY'S ROASTED PRIME RIBS OF BEEF
1 (4-rib) standing rib roast
Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 bag (5 pounds) rock salt
Sprinkle fatty cap of roast with Seasoned Salt. In a heavy roasting pan, spread rock salt evenly over bottom; place wire roasting rack on top of salt. Place the roast on rack, fatty side up. Make sure no salt actually touches the beef.
Insert meat thermometer in thickest part of meat, making sure it does not touch bone. Roast in preheated 350-degree oven until thermometer registers 130 degrees for rare, 140 for medium, or approximately 20 to 25 minutes per pound.
Remove from oven and let stand 20 minutes before carving. Using a sharp knife, slice meat across the grain for serving. Discard rock salt.
Serves 6 to 8.
- Recipe from Lawry's the Prime Rib
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@review journal.com or 702-383-0474.