Laura Dean Bennett
There’s something about cold weather that seems to call for more protein on our plates.
After all, we have to keep up our strength to fight off the Arctic blasts of winter.
If there’s one show-stopping piece of meat that makes an everlasting and elegant impression on a hungry pack of carnivores, it’s a standing rib roast served with Yorkshire pudding.
It might well be the piece of beef for which the expression, “kill the fatted calf,’ was coined.
Just its name sounds impressive – and complicated.
But, really, the most challenging aspect about a standing rib roast is the expense of the meat.
However, as an occasional splurge, it is certainly worth it.
This meal is a time-honored tradition in England.
They have been serving roasted beef with a simple baked batter known as Dripping Pudding in Yorkshire in the North of England, since at least the mid-1700s.
The standing rib roast is the part of the beef from which we get the prime rib. And as many steak aficionados will tell you – that’s the best steak there is.
Although a beef has 13 ribs on each side, it’s the sixth through the twelfth ribs that are the “rib primal section.”
If you are lucky enough to be able to get your meat from a butcher, or you have an excellent meat department in your grocery store, you may have this roast with or without the ribs still attached.
With the ribs still attached, this roast is referred to as a “standing rib roast.”
You can, of course, have a boneless prime rib roast. Some prefer that, because it’s easier to carve.
But the meat is so much more flavorful when it’s roasted with the ribs still attached.
Besides, there’s nothing like the dramatic presentation of a standing rib roast – and you can’t have that without the ribs!
And take into account how many side dishes you plan to serve.
With the Yorkshire pudding alongside, you’ll probably only want one or two side dishes – maybe a green salad and a green vegetable – to complete the meal.
Whether your guests will be able to manage dessert remains to be seen.
A standing rib roast takes only takes a few minutes of prep time before it’s ready to be whisked into the oven.
The beauty of this excellent piece of meat is that it is so flavorful, that it requires very little in the way of seasoning.
Salt and pepper are more than enough.
But my mom always liked to add an extra touch of garlic to any roast.
She’d sliver a bulb or two of fresh garlic and insert the pieces into the meat in tiny slits made by a paring knife.
If you really want to go all out, you could dress up your roast with a rub.
You can cover the meat with the spice rub up to 24 hours in advance – wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to roast.
Fresh herbs – rosemary is a good choice – with lemon zest and Dijon mustard makes a nice rub.
But remember not to salt the roast until just before it goes into the oven.
If you’re going for a medium rare or rare center, there’s no need to bring the meat up to room temperature before cooking.
Place the meat, fat side up, in a metal roasting pan that’s slightly bigger than the roast itself.
If the pan is too big, the juices from the meat will spread out in the pan and evaporate – and you’re going to need every ounce of the juice.
If you were cooking a boneless roast, you’d want to use a roasting rack.
But for a standing rib roast, that’s not necessary – the bones themselves will serve as the roasting rack.
One side of the meat will have more fat on it; you want the fatty side facing up so the meat will baste itself as it cooks.
Do not add water to the pan, and do not cover it!
There are three ways you can roast a prime rib.
Low temperature for a long time –
At 325º, the meat will take about 17 to 20 minutes per pound.
At 450º for the first 30 minutes – to sear the outside; then 325º, allowing about 13 to 15 minutes per pound.
Your roast will shrink less if you cook it low and slow, but searing it first gives it extra flavor.
A meat thermometer is the best way to guarantee the roast turns out exactly the way you want it, and with a piece of meat this dear, why take chances?
For an accurate reading, push the thermometer into the middle of the roast, making sure the tip is not touching fat, bone or pan.
For medium rare, cook to 130-140º.
For medium, cook to 145-155º.
There’s no such thing as cooking a standing rib roast until it’s well done – that would be sacrilege.
Remember, the roast continues to cook after you take it out of the oven. Its temperature will rise at least another 5º.
Let the roast stand for 15 or 20 minutes before carving.
No need to fret about how to satisfy everyone’s preference for doneness.
The slices taken from the ends of the roast will be the most done, and the middle will be the least done.
Nothing completes a standing rib roast like a traditional English Yorkshire pudding.
But Yorkshire pudding isn’t pudding at all.
It’s really a soufflé.
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fat from the roasting pan
3⁄4 cup dry red wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Whisk in the flour and salt. Pour into a small pitcher, cover and refrigerate.
Set oven at 450°. Skim the surface fat from the roast drippings, reserving both the fat and the pan with the drippings.
The key to a good Yorkshire pudding is to have both the pan and the fat very hot when you pour in the batter.
This ensures that the batter will puff up nicely.
Spoon two generous tablespoons of the fat into a metal baking pan.
Put the pan in the oven until it is very hot – about 4 minutes.
Pour the batter onto the fat in the hot pan. Bake on the lower rack until the pudding is golden and puffed, about 20 minutes, rotating once if puffing unevenly.
While the Yorkshire pudding is baking, make the gravy.
Place the roasting pan with the drippings over medium heat. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits.
Cook until the gravy is reduced by half – about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a gravy boat.
The trickiest part about this meal is timing.
Just before the Yorkshire Pudding is ready, carve the roast and arrange the slices on a warmed platter.
Do not be intimidated- a standing rib roast is actually much easier to carve than a turkey – just be sure you are using a sharp carving knife.
Stand the roast on its base- ribs pointing up and toward you- and pin it to the cutting board with a carving fork.
Slice between each rib down to the board, cutting around any pieces of chine bone left by the butcher.
This will yield a thick slice of roast still on its rib.
There is also the English method of carving this roast, which gives you the option of making your slices as thin as you like.
Cut a thin slice off one end of the roast to make a flat surface, and set the roast up on the flat end.
Place a carving fork between the ribs to hold the roast steady while you slice horizontally across the top, cutting each slice free of the bone.
Whichever carving method you choose, give yourself room to work.
Use a large cutting board and lay each slice on a warmed serving platter as you go.
Timing is everything.
Like a soufflé, Yorkshire pudding deflates shortly after it comes out of the oven, so try to get it to the table immediately out of the oven to display it at its height.
Serve a neatly cut square with gravy alongside each slice of meat.
It’s always nice to serve a little horseradish sauce with a beautiful slice of roast beef. Try this recipe.
Zesty Cream of Horseradish Sauce
1 cup well-drained prepared horseradish
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Few drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.