“Splurge” has come to be kind of a taboo word, implying excess and irresponsibility. But, if you think carefully at what a splurge is truly supposed to mean — an occasional indulgence to be savored — it suddenly seems a lot better.
In my book, that’s what the holiday season is all about. Mind you, I’m not living a monastic life full of deprivation the other 11 months of the year, but when December rolls around, I’m really ready to enjoy some of those festive treats you just don’t have year-round. That includes Christmas dinner. I can’t think of a better time to celebrate in every sense of the word — each other’s company, the warm feelings of the season, and an especially memorable feast!
That’s why my go-to pick is the Standing Rib Roast. It’s the classic Christmas roast. The Big Kahuna of the dinner table. The show-stopper. The stuff of legend and family lore. The meal that will make YOU the reigning queen or king of holiday celebrations.
Making it is simple – really simple. I promise! (Don’t believe me? Here’s the recipe.)
Step 1: Start with a bone-in rib roast that’s loaded with marbling, the little white flecks within the lean meat. The marbling will melt as it cooks, leaving your roast with extra flavor and juiciness. Yes, a rib roast will also have fat around the bones and within the center of the meat. That kind of fat will not cook away completely, but does impart additional flavor. So you have a couple choices there: 1. eat (some of) it and enjoy the splurge, or 2. leave it on your plate and then share it with your dogs (or your neighbors’ dogs), making them the happiest critters on the planet.
Here, I’ve cut the rib bones away from the meat, and then tied them back on with butcher’s twine. This way, you still get the regal presentation, but it’ll be a lot easier to carve. If you don’t want to bother with this step, that’s fine – or, your butcher can do it for you.
You can also cut away some of the fat to expose the ribs more clearly, though I didn’t bother. Same for Frenching the bones, or trimming the meat and fat away from them. If you do, you can put the fancy little white paper frills on top of each bone when it’s served like they always did in old cartoons. It’s all about the presentation, folks.
Step 2: Season your roast generously, on all sides, with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, and place it, fat side up, in a roasting pan.
Step 3: Roast for 20 minutes in an oven heated to 450° or 500°F. This helps create a wonderfully browned, crispy, delicious exterior. Then, reduce the heat significantly – I like 300°F – and let it keep roasting. It should take approximately 15 minutes per pound to reach a lovely pink medium rare/medium doneness and maximum juiciness.
Step 4: Go hang out with your family and guests. Enjoy a glass of wine. Sample an appetizer. Play a game, or watch one on TV. Sneak in the other room and wrap a few last-minute presents … whatever you like. Your work here is pretty much done!
Step 5: Use a digital instant-read thermometer to check your roast’s progress, inserted in the thickest part of the meat not touching any bone or fat. When you have it 5 degrees below your preferred doneness, remove from the oven. The magical phenomenon of “carryover cooking” will take it the rest of the way.
Step 6: Allow the roast to rest before serving. Tenting it loosely with foil helps keep it hot. I let mine rest almost an hour while I got some side dishes ready, and it was perfectly warm when it was time to serve.
Step 7: Remove the twine, allow the bones to fall away, and slice into thin — or thick, your choice! — servings for your guests. Who, by the way, will be salivating and circling the platter like a pack of hungry wolves. That’s a compliment to you, dear host, and your roast with the most!
Raise a glass and celebrate all the blessings of the season, including memorable times created with loved ones around the table. Cheers to a one-of-a-kind Christmas celebration!