Monthly Archives: December 2012

Standing Rib Roast: Your NYE Party Money Shot

Holiday parties deserve showcase pieces of meat. For New Year’s Eve you might want to cook what is often considered to be the money shot of cuts–the standing rib roast (aka prime rib). The high price of a quality piece of meat like this often scares people away from cooking one (especially if you’re buying organic or pasture-raised which can run upwards of $20 per lb. so it literally can hearken back to the original definition of “money shot”).

But cooking a rib roast couldn’t be easier (and it’s usually pretty quick too, depending on the size). Here’s my how-to documented when I made one of these for Christmas dinner. The most important thing with a piece of meat like this is not to do too much–let the quality of the cut shine through and be sure to buy top-quality meat.

But first…did you ever notice how much a rib roast is shaped like a breast?

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Okay…enough digression…

First you want to let your piece of meat sit at room temperature for at least a couple hours, if not more. I know, gasp, let meat sit non-refrigerated…it’s okay. Bacteria only live on the surface of the meat, and you will be annihilating anything soon (also, if you buy quality meat from a reputable small butcher or butcher it yourself as I do, especially with grassfed beef, bacterial contamination is incredibly rare). The reason you want the meat room temperature is so that you can keep a nice rare-to-medium-rare middle, without having too deep of a fully cooked band around the edges of the roast or, alternately, having a raw center.

Just look at this beautiful piece of meat, sitting waiting to be cooked…

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This is, if not obvious, a “three-rib” roast. Standing rib roasts are usually sold by number of ribs. This one weighed 4 lbs. (and so would feed four to six people depending on their appetites and how many sides you had), but keep in mind this was from a Dexter steer, and so smaller than the usual. A typical full-size three-rib roast will feed more like 6 to 8 people. Although they sell two-rib roasts, I find them a bit too small to stand properly in the pan and you don’t get a great ratio of cooked outer part to pink inside–too much cooked part, so I’d recommend a three-rib minimum (basically a two-rib roast is just a super-fat rib steak).

(And as an aside, for those of you who like to geek out on the butchery, as I do, a standing rib roast is basically a giant chunk of the rib primal, trimmed up a bit. The rib primal is the center part of a steer’s backbone (ribs 6 through 12), the chuck being at the head end of the rib and the short loin, sirloin, and round following behind it to the tail. The biggest roast you can get is a seven-rib behemoth, which will feed a lot of people. You can get boneless rib roasts, but, in my humble opinion, this is just a giant waste of money and flavor–a standing rib roast is so easy to bone post cooking and you get so many taste benefits from cooking on the bone (plus for people who like to gnaw meat off of bones, as I do, you get that wonderfulness!).

Next, you will want to make a very simple wet rub for the roast. Preheat your oven to 450F while you make the rub. I prefer minced garlic, s & p, olive oil, and either thyme or rosemary. Keep it simple. You can even use quality garlic powder (it does exist) instead of minced garlic (did I just advocate for garlic powder on a super expensive cut of meat??? the horrors!).

So: (I think photos convey these steps just fine…)

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Then you want to rub the roast all over with the rub.

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Set it in a roasting pan that’s not too big. Depending on how the roast was butchered, you may be able to stand the roast on its rib bones so they form sort of an arch with the meat on top. I feel that this position allows more fat to drain away from the meat and for air to circulate nicely creating even cooking. However, if your roast won’t stand this way, position it so that it “stands” as best it can.

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Place the roast in the oven and roast at 450F for 20 minutes to give the outside a good sear (the bacteria-annihilation stage alluded to above). Then turn the oven down to 325F and roast for 10 minutes per lb. for rare, a bit more for medium-rare. After that start checking the internal temp with an instant-read meat thermometer (essential…don’t cook an expensive piece of meat like this without one). Insert the thermometer from the top, so as to not lose any juices through the puncture hole. I like to take mine out at 115 and let it rest for a good half hour for a perfect rare-to-medium-rare. Be sure to let the roast rest–I can’t stress this enough with any piece of meat…the juices need to settle back in or you will have dry meat.

Wow…beautiful, huh?

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(Note: you can make a jus or pan gravy from a rib roast, but I’ve found that the small ones just never yield enough drippings to make it worthwhile (especially with grassfed roasts, which seem to not drip anything at all except clear fat). A standing rib roast is a very fatty cut of meat, and there is so much fat to separate from the juices, so if you do end up with enough lovely brown stuff on the bottom of your pan, be sure to use a gravy separator to degrease the sauce.)

Then carve it! There are multiple ways to carve a standing rib roast–you can cut large, steak-thickness pieces or cut thinner slices. I prefer the latter. Either way the easiest carving technique is to separate the meat from the bones and then slice through the resulting boneless roast. You can cut between the rib bones and hand them out to those who like to gnaw on bones (provided the chine bone was cut off–in butchering geek-speak this means that part of the backbone was sawed away longitudinally so that you can cut between the ribs without encountering knife-impenetrable bone).

Okay, ready to carve (standing rib roasts are fun to do tableside, as they are much, much simpler to carve than, say, a turkey…). Have two knives ready–a boning knife and a slicing knife–and a carving fork. Position the roast so that you can slide the boning knife down between the bulk of the meat and the rib bones:

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You may need to creatively reposition the roast as you go…or just get creative with your body positioning:

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This roast had the chine bone intact (I was in a lazy butchering mood–I don’t own a power bone saw), so here’s what to do: at the bottom of the rib bones pull the meat away with your non-carving hand and curve the knife around to separate the meat from the chine and feather bones (although on this particular roast, the slaughterhouse had cut through the backbone in a way that left just tiny slivers of featherbones on the rib primal, so I just sawed them off during butchering):

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(If you have a roast with the chine removed, you’d just cut off the ribs and feather bones separately if you are going for the thin-slice technique I’m describing here. The feather bones may also have been removed by your butcher.)

Then take your now boneless roast and position it for carving thin slices. Cut through parallel to the cooked ends. Give those end pieces to people who like their meat more well-done or medium.

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Voila! Carved roast ready to put on people’s plates.

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(And yes, I am channeling the ghost of Julia Child with my wine glass in the frame!)

I plated the rib roast with sides of manchego sweet potato gratin, sautéed kale with lemon, and a cannellini bean stew with walnuts (the latter because there was a vegetarian dining with us so I needed at least one side dish that could do double duty as a protein-heavy main). Yum…

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Mirror images?

Goofing around with a rib roast (a lovely, grassfed, heirloom-breed rib roast). Recipe post on the blog hopefully tomorrow for those of you wanting to cook something like this for NYE. The breed is Dexter–2/3 the size of a typical commercial steer, hence the smaller overall size of the roast.

Attacked!: An Ethical Beak-to-Tailfeather Response or What To Do With That Turkey Carcass

I’m saddened that my first long post was prompted by unpleasantness, but I’m trying to turn that around in a constructive, joyful manner. Yesterday, radical animal-rights proponents viciously attacked me and several fans of the Facebook version of The Burlesque Butcher in response primarily to this picture:

Granted, it is an arresting image–slightly macabre and not something one sees every day: a woman lovingly kissing a roasted hog’s head. That woman is me, of course, and the action was captured this past summer at the end of another successful hog roast after I had spent at least two hours breaking down and portioning a 130 lb. hog for an event crowd of over 100 very appreciative people. I was full of emotion on so many levels…elated to have splurged on a proper sustainably raised and humanely treated hog for the second year in a row, proud of breaking down a hog carcass faster than I ever had before, melancholy because I knew this year was the last year for the event–a pending divorce and move away from the house I had lived and entertained in for a decade meant the 10th iteration of our annual hog roast was the last. And so, ever one to play to the camera, I picked up the hog’s head and gently kissed it on the snout–out of reverence, out of respect, out of admiration, out of joy, out of amusement.

To then have complete strangers attack me as barbaric, tragic, and worse, was not something I expected. For many months, that picture has served as my avatar for a variety of different forms of social media and not once did anyone object. Most people, knowing me and my near obsession with how improperly most livestock is treated and how much of each precious animal gets wasted because people no longer want to take time with cooking or eat the so-called cheap cuts, saw the love in that picture, the beauty, the gentleness. This was a hog whose favorite food was the expired and spilled chocolate milk from the dairy at which he was raised, a fun fact I had just learned when at the farm to pick him up two days prior. This was a hog who got to run around with his siblings in a large pen, dotted with mud puddles to swim in. (The dairy explicitly started raising hogs for meat just so they could productively use non-sellable milk from their lovely grass-fed cows instead of having to throw it out–it doesn’t get much better than that.)

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And so I and some of the amazing fans who came to my defense got called psychopaths, sociopaths, murderers, attention hounds, “f*cking desperate for attention”, ugly, old, unhealthy, tasteless, shameful, would-be cannibals, and “more than a little dysfunctional” (that last one from someone who purported to be a mental-health professional, yet was making gross assumptions based on a handful of images). One woman hoped that I would be murdered (I deleted that comment, banned the poster, and reported her as abusive). Another woman accused me of mocking animals and “killing for pleasure”. I shudder to think at the insults that these same individuals would have flung had I instead posted, for example, this dynamic picture of me sawing open the pig skull to, in proper nose-to-tail fashion, serve the brain to interested party-goers (sadly, the brain had not been cooked long enough to eat–the fire had been a bit too low at the head end of the hog, and I was wary of taking it out of the skull and cooking it a bit more, given that it had been essentially sitting at what may well have been a danger zone temperature for the 6 hours of hog roasting).

Curiously, this assault on my page and my fans occurred while I was making turkey stock from the carcass of my Festivus party turkey–honoring the bird from beak to tailfeathers as much as is possible with a commercially produced Organic Valley turkey (obviously it was lacking things like the feet). I know these propaganda-blinded activists will never be convinced that meat eating can be done in a respectful and sustainable way, but it floors me that they can’t see I’m one of the good guys. If more people ate the whole animal, not just select parts, we would kill far fewer animals each year. And so here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your leftover turkey carcass, if you still have one sitting in your fridge.

I’m hoping my readers know how to make stock, so I will skip that explanation for now (but if you don’t, leave me comments to that effect and I can do a stock-making post sometime). So I added water to what’s in this picture, and let it do its thing. But you can get more than just stock or soup out of the carcass. One thing I do that I think many don’t is strip every bit of meat, fat, skin, etc. from the carcass after simmering. Some of this goes to the dog and some to me and/or whoever I might be cooking for.

Before I settled down to strip all the meat off the bones, I skimmed off enough soup for a late lunch, heated it to a simmer in a small pot, shredded a bit of the turkey from the soup, added some chopped carrots, and then immersed some pre-packaged gnocchi (which are a great! quick alternative to dumplings–you can’t always make every element from scratch).

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Then I set to the task of stripping every bit of useable meat, skin, fat, and cartilage from the bones. I keep two containers–one for human consumption and one for the dog–some meat is too dry and all the skin, fat, etc. is too soggy. The dog, in fact, had been drooling the entire 6 hours the stockpot simmered on the stove–he knows he always gets treats on stock-making days. What one ends up with looks like this: a large pot of golden, rich stock; a container of shredded turkey perfect for putting back in the soup (although not all of it is suited for this purpose) or doing some creative repurposing; a container of treats for the dog; and a small bowl of bones.

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It’s always astounding to me how little actually ends up getting thrown out (and yes I know there are good uses for the bones–the reality is that sometimes one can only do so much).

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So what to do with all this shredded, somewhat spent turkey that has been picked from the carcass? I used to adhere to the line of reasoning that the carcass had given all its essence to the stock and just gave the dog all the soup-soaked meat. And yes, it can be kind of sawdusty in texture after being simmered for 6 hours (not to mention the fact that often the parts that go in the stock pot are those that got overcooked, like the ends of the wings), but with a little cooking magic, tasty concoctions can be achieved.

One of my favorite uses for this meat is to make croquettes–you add back flavor and moisture. (Another is turkey, noodle, and veggie casserole with lots of creamy sauce.) Here’s how I make croquettes (and sorry for not having step-by-step photos…I was hungry and documenting slipped my mind):

Shred some meat fairly fine. Add some grated onion (the grating helps disperse the moisture from the onion better throughout the mixture), some torn parsley leaves, some breadcrumbs (I prefer panko, but you can use whatever), an egg or two or three depending on the volume you’re making, s & p, and paprika. Mix together and gradually add in a bit of liquid until you have a consistency that will hold together into a patty (I prefer heavy cream, but milk works fine as would broth or even water). Form into patties and fry over medium heat in a combo of butter and oil until nicely browned. Serve with leftover jus, gravy, demi-glace, or just naked. A runny fried egg is nice on top too!

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And of course, since I got to eat my dinner, Magellan the Newfoundland gets his too after so patiently waiting!

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Photo Shoot Happy Accidents!

Yes, that is the word “MEAT” in large white block letters right next to my ass…and for the food geeks among you, you will appreciate which cookbook it is (for the non-food geeks, it’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Cookbook–an essential bookshelf item for every meat lover).

And for those of you cooking turkeys today…pat it bone dry and rub that sucker all over with a giant chunk of butter!

Merry Christmas from the Burlesque Butcher!

Christmas seems a most appropriate time to kick off this new blog and web-presence venture. One of the few times of the year that the average household cooks a really large piece of meat or a larger-than-chicken-sized whole animal like a turkey or goose. So here’s hoping you had (or are having) as much fun playing with your food as I did!