What To Cook for Christmas Dinner? (part 1)…

Gatsby in the morning snowIt’s a little after 7 am — 5° outside, and it’s barely daylight. The three big dogs have already been out, racing each other to see who can pee the fastest and get back into the house. The two cats barely got within two feet of the cracked open door before — with tails angrily switching — they scurried down to the basement to its furnace room and their cat box.

We are expecting our first major snowstorm (9 to 12 inches of light fluffy snow) and I’m sitting with my Keurig cup of black coffeeSchanuzers in the morning snow  — too lazy to fire up the Rancilio and make myself a cup of Illy cappuccino (which is what I really wanted). I’ve got to get to the store before the flakes fly…

Living in a tiny tourist town in New Hampshire, you have  to plan ahead for holiday meals. The closest large supermarket is about 50 miles away… A comprehensive list is mandatory; there’ll be no dashing down the street for that important, exotic ingredient you forgot.

I’ve already decided that the big Christmas feast this year will be English: dry-aged prime rib, individual Yorkshire puddings, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes au jus and a Lawry’s salad.  Lawry’s salad, you ask?

Both Michael and I grew up in the Los Angeles area.  And both of us spent a certain amount of time back East.   We didn’t meet until the early ‘90s, but one thing we had in common was our fond childhood memories of Lawry’s Prime Rib Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The spinning ice cold bowl of Lawry’s salad as the waitress (yes, waitress) simultaneously spun and poured just the right amount of Lawry’s Sherry French dressing was a treasured dramatic interlude that led up to the main event.

At some point, Lawry’s discontinued selling their signature dressing at all.  I freaked! I had only one almost empty bottle left…  I worked for days on deconstructing the recipe and finally succeeded (almost). Thank God they decided to offer it for sale again a year later… I now keep a safe supply on hand.

Onto the main course:

Prime rib, as you probably know, is rarely true “prime” meat, it is most often “choice” grade. But that’s okay— true certified ‘prime’ is way too expensive for all but a few of us…

Here are a couple of ways to make up the difference:

Buy your roast (never boneless) well in advance, at least a week before the big day. I always get at least a 5-rib roast. (I find the 3-rib ones just too small, and there are no leftovers!)  Have your butcher cut out the chine bone. Some butchers also want to cut the center meat portion off the bone and then tie it to the ribs. I tried this, but it sucked — cooked too quickly and didn’t get that great flavor into the meat next to the bone.  Who doesn’t  love to gnaw on a perfect rib the day after? Just get rid of the chine bone.

Now put the roast, uncovered, on a wire rack over a plate in your fridge. Leave it there to air dry for at least 5 days and up to 8, turning once in the middle of the time. Don’t be grossed out. The outside will turn a darker color; the meat will seem to shrink and shrivel, and at the very end, may even smell a little – shall we say – ‘ripe.‘   Trust me, this is all part of the plan.  Have you ever gone into some of the top steak/prime rib restaurants in the big cities and  seen the huge sides of beef just hanging out in a glassed-in refrigerated area?  That’s how they get their award-winning steaks and roasts.  You’re just doing the home version….

(to be continued) 

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