ROAST BEEF AND YORKSHIRE PUDDING -
CHRISTMAS EVE HERITAGE
Mother's trademark was her roast beef. From Festive to funeral, Mother paid tribute with prime beef standing rib roast. The number of guests did not matter. All seven ribs topped with feather bones were presented on a silver platter and set in front of my Father to carve. Those were the days when A cook fat side up meant the better the quality, the more marbled the beef. The fat covering the roast was meant to drip through as it roasted slowly in a 325 ° F oven until brown on top and perfectly rare in the center. And, we ate the fat. We relished the fat! The best part of the beef was the excess salt and pepper that permeated the burned fat, just as the tastiest part of a lamb chop was the singed fat between the double rib bone. To A French a chop by removing the fat and meat from the bone was to create elegance through sacrifice.
Baked potatoes were cut in half, scooped out and mashed with butter, milk and salt before being returned to their shells and placed under the broiler with a thick layer of cheddar cheese that bubbled over the sides. These were accompanied by America's wartime innovation, canned peas and carrots swimming in post-war accessible butter. When canned goods of the forties modernized into the frozen food era of the fifties, we were able to serve out of season green vegetables direct from the new freezer we had seen advertised on television by that pretty lady, Betty Furness.
Mother began holiday dinners ceremoniously with champagne, just as her mother and grandmother had done before her. The butler's table was removed to the outer hall from its place in her dining room and set up as a bar. Dozens of enormous shrimp embellished with parsley were mounded high on a platter on her coffee table, and glazed almonds purchased from the local Hungarian bakery filled a silver leaf-shaped tray. This festivity lasted exactly one hour, mainly due to the timing of the roast beef cooking in the oven.
Although my menu differs from hers in some respects, the standing rib roast (trimmed of fat) remains steadfast, along with her Parker House Rolls, Ice Cream Torte, and, of course, the beautiful tradition of popping the cork from bottles of chilled champagne .
STANDING RIB ROAST
Yield: Allow 1 pound per person
Purchase all seven ribs for economy. Remove the shoulder bone and chine if the store has not trimmed the beef. Slice off the bottom two ribs for steak kebabs (Recipe, page ), or Stroganoff (Recipe, page ) and freeze.
Do not cut through or remove the ribs before cooking or the timing will change.
Cooking time: If you have a meat thermometer, remove the roast from the oven when it registers 120 ° for rare beef, 130 ° for medium-rare, 140 ° for medium, and 150 ° for well-done. Let the meat stand for 15-20 minutes before carving. The juices will settle and the texture will be firmer, allowing easier carving. It will continue to cook internally as it stands. If you do not have a thermometer, follow the method below for a beef that is first seared 15 minutes in a preheated 450 ° F oven. (This seals in the juices) Cooking time includes the first 15 minutes. Do not baste at any time.
Rare 16-18 minutes per pound
Medium-rare 20-22 minutes per pound
Medium 24-26 minutes per pound
Well-done 30 minutes per pound
The smaller the roast, the longer time needed per pound to cook..
First 5 ribs prime or choice beef, approximately 8-10 pounds
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter
Optional: 1-2 cloves garlic
3 Bermuda onions, sliced thick
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups beef broth
Bring the beef to room temperature. Slice off as much fat as possible without cutting into the meat. Sprinkle the beef and bones with salt and black pepper. Brush the melted butter over all. If you like garlic, crush a clove or two and rub it into the beef, or slit the top with a sharp knife and slice the garlic into thin slivers to insert.
Preheat oven to 450 ° F. Line a roasting pan with the onions and celery and place the beef on top bones up. (In my Mother = s day, the beef was cooked fat side up for the fat to drip through the beef. When the fat has been cut away, it is best to cook the beef bones up to keep it moist.) Pour the broth into the bottom of the pan and roast, uncovered, 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 ° F and cook until done to your liking. Turn the beef over the last 20 minutes to brown the top.
To slice: Cut the bones off before slicing. Serve with gravy and white horseradish on the side.