Sunday, January 12, 2014

Simple Prime Rib Tips

Aaron and I did prime rib (a.k.a., côté de bœuf, should you be looking for it on a French menu) twice this holiday season, first a trial run with cheap prime rib, and then a second round for Christmas dinner, using aged grass-fed beef from the fantastic locally sourced high end boucherie across the street from me. Sadly, I also had a house full of guests, and no time to photo, so there are no prep photos available.

Like many things in cooking, it's actually really easy to make awesome prime rib once you know the technique. Was the grass-fed dry aged beef sublime? Oh yes. Was the cheap beef also delicious and meltingly tender? Yep.  In fact, it was good enough, easy enough, and cheap enough I might just add prime rib to my list of weekend dinner options.  Salt on Friday night, cook on Saturday or Sunday, some lazy rainy day when I don't plan to leave the house.  It's cheaper than a decent burgers and fries for two.

As usual, Kenji Alt-Lopez (from Serious Eats) is my go-to guy for food science, but I wound up using a mix of techniques from him and the Amazing Ribs guy to get it just right.

Salt. Salt, salt, salt. As I mentioned in this post on the old blog, salt is magic. We salted 24 hours in advance both times, wrapped it tightly with waxed paper, and let it rest in the fridge to let all the salt permeate the meat. 

Cut the bone off, and tie your roast so that it's as round as possible. That helps it cook evenly, so that it's the right temperature and level of doneness. The bone doesn't actually add flavor (that is a myth), and you can use the bone for making gravy later.

Once you've tied it and the salt has had time to penetrate, slather it with a tablespoon or two of an herbed oil. Amazing Ribs has some tasty sounding recommendations, but I just used peppercorns and rosemary in olive oil. Let that sit for another hour or so to extract all the oil based flavor compounds from the herbs. 

Cook it low and slow. I cooked it at about 225 ºF, and for six people's worth of prime rib, it took about two hours to get it to 120 ºF in the center, which is medium rare. 

Once it's near the appropriate internal temp, sear it in a very lightly oiled hot pan. Direct heat, hot as you can get, to develop a nice brown crust on that oiled herb surface without cooking the interior any further.

Once I had seared the meat, I set it aside to rest, not because it needs it, but because it bought me time to sear the bones that I had held aside, and then to build up a nice red wine pan sauce using the searing juices from both. I seared the bones in the same pan as the meat, poured a cup of wine over them and reduced it along with some rosemary, and then finished it with whatever drippings I had, and a bit of beef broth.  Then I pulled the bones and added a sprinkle of fresh parsley.  If the drippings were very lean (mine were), a tiny pat of butter swirled in helps the sauce become a nice rich emulsion that won't run off your meat.