There is something stately and welcoming about a standing rib roast. And as the centrepiece of a Christmas dinner, it is truly magnificent.
Roast beef is both an American and British tradition for the holiday feast. In the United States, turkey is eaten at Thanksgiving in late November, so beef is served at Christmas in many homes. In Britain, a large roast of beef was an upmarket holiday alternative to the ubiquitous, less costly goose.
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According to my butcher, Stephen Alexander of Cumbrae Butchers, Toronto, "People are serving what they want to eat rather than going with the traditional turkey, which is often dry. Rib roasts and tenderloins are the two roasts of choice."
The secret to a great rib roast is to begin with great meat. Look for marbled, aged meat such as prime Canadian Angus beef, preferably naturally raised. The meat should be hung for 21 to 30 days for the best flavour. When it comes to roasting, I am a firm believer in the high-heat method, which involves searing the meat at 450 F before turning the oven down to 350 F to complete the cooking. Although there is more shrinkage than if you cooked the roast at a consistent, but lower, temperature, the fat gets crispy this way and the meat is juicier. It also allows the outer part of the roast to cook more fully than the inside giving your guests a choice of well-done, medium or rare.
Let the roast stand for 20 minutes after cooking. Use the time to make the gravy.
1 7-pound standing rib roast
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary and thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
Combine mustard, olive oil, garlic, parsley, pepper, soy sauce and thyme in a bowl. Brush over roast. Let sit for 2 hours or overnight refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Turn on broiler. Place roast on rack in roasting pan and broil about 4 minutes. Turn off broiler and continue to bake at 450 F for 30 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 F and bake 1½ hours longer or until desired degree of doneness. An instant-read thermometer should reach 120 F for rare, 130 F for medium rare and 140 for medium. Remove roast to carving board and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut strings and remove meat from bones. Carve down into thin slices. Serve with pan gravy.