Christmas Redux

by Kelly on January 5, 2010   

Mood lighting and a selection of small houses set amidst a snow drift -- Dad's specialty

I might have called this “Christmas Pwnd (daugher #2 correction, pronounced ‘pohnd’)” if I had the guts, but I don’t. Okay, some of you know what “pwnd” means, but I quite possibly do not. Any online definitions just use other words I don’t fully understand, like “schooled” or “punk’d,” which in a strange way gives me the nervous giggles. But I feel this (white!) Christmas was “pwnd” because everything we made was successful — we owned Christmas dinner. We didn’t overcook the roast, made perfect Yorkshire pudding, concocted some amazing Brussels sprouts that were eaten by haters of same, and pulled a dessert out of the hat due to a freak snowstorm.

I say “we” because the two daughters really jumped in this year, as well as nieces and a sister-in-law. Daughter #2 took all the pictures with her point-and-shoot. I didn’t haul my bigger camera to Oklahoma (where we spent the holidays) so she stepped up. Daughter #1 made the delicious and appetizing appetizer, a Thomas Keller/Ratatouille (the rat)-inspired construction, and the dessert, an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation.

This is so easy and I dare you to stop eating it when it's warm

The snow started midday on Christmas Eve, after first rain then sleet. That’s never a good mix and sure enough, family members trying to get to Tulsa that day were stuck in Norman, Oklahoma at a Motel 6 under a foot of snow. Those same relatives were bringing dessert, so we knew we had to pull something together and we wouldn’t be able to get to the store. A little internet action produced the recipe, and improvisation on the fruit produced a lovely combination.

So here’s the whole menu for the evening of December 24:

White Bean Purée, Roasted Squash & Tomatoes with Chive Oil and Crostini
Prime Rib Roast with Rosemary Port Wine Sauce & Horseradish Cream
Caramelized Cipollini
Yorkshire Pudding
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Maple
Blueberry, Raspberry & Cranberry Cobbler

A Few Words About Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Port Wine Sauce & Horseradish Cream

We were expecting 13 people, so I started with a 4-rib, 10 pound beef roast, which I got at Whole Foods. The beef came from Idaho — strange, since Oklahoma has some wonderful beef, but it’s amazingly hard to find locally sourced beef in Tulsa. For lots of leftovers, get a 5-rib roast, but this one served us all with some left. The roast was already tied. Bring the roast to room temperature before cooking, which means out of the fridge for a couple of hours, covered lightly.

Have on hand a very good quality meat thermometer. We had the old plug-and-leave-in type, which will not do. My mother also had an unreliable analog quick-reading thermometer, and with $100 worth of meat to roast, we decided to get a new digital thermometer. My brother was sent on this errand, and he brought home the thermometer of the gods: an instant read, plug-and-leave-in digital one that sits outside the oven. Well worth the $20 for future meat cooking.

Preheat the oven to 450°F to sear the roast. Put several rosemary sprigs in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the roast in the pan, ribs down. Pat dry with paper towels and rub several tablespoons of softened butter on the exposed ends of the roast. Sprinkle with pepper but not salt. Leave uncovered.

Cook the roast for 15 minutes at 450°F, reduce the heat to 325°F and continue cooking until the meat thermometer registers 120°F for rare. Baste the roast a couple of times while it cooks. Our roast took about 2 hours to reach this temperature. Remove from the oven and cover with a loose foil tent and “rest” the meat for 15 to 20 minutes. This allows the juices to retreat back to the center of the meat, leaving it juicy instead of dry. The roast will continue to cook while it rests, so it’s important not to go much past 120°F when you take it out of the oven if you want rare meat. Keep in mind that the roast will cook an additional 5 to 7 degrees when you decide which zone to aim for on this chart:

120°F to 125°F: Rare
130°F to 135°F: Medium-rare
140°F to 145°F: Medium
150°F: Much above this and a rib roast may not be your best option!

This meat has been well-rested

To carve the meat, turn it on its side on a cutting board that will collect the juices. Cutting close along the rib bones, sever the meat from the ribs. They can be set aside and used later. Turn the meat back upright and slice across the grain. Use a newly sharpened knife for this.

The Yorkshire pudding cooks while the meat is resting, but make the batter early in the day and leave it in the refrigerator. It also benefits from resting, as do we all. Yorkshire pudding can be made in the roasting pan, but I find it awkward to remove the roast, pour off some of the fat, and start the pudding. I use a large Pyrex baking dish, and you can also use popover pans for individual servings.

3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/3 cup roasting pan drippings

Whisk the eggs with the salt, beat in the milk and then the flour. Set the batter aside in the refrigerator until needed. After the roast comes out of the oven, raise the temperature to 450°F. Using a baster, pull about 1/3 cup of drippings from the roasting pan and pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Heat the dish in the oven for 5 minutes, remove, and pour in the batter. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the pudding is very puffy and golden. Serve immediately.

There's never enough -- consider making two

For the Port Wine Sauce, start early in the day as well. Sauté one large shallot with a tablespoon or so of butter in a heavy saucepan until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of good-quality port and the chopped leaves of a sprig of fresh rosemary. Burble over medium-low heat until reduced somewhat, about 30 minutes. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and burble another 30 or 45 minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons of softened butter with 2 tablespoons flour on a plate. Drop in pinches of the butter/flour paste, whisking after each addition until the sauce is very slightly thickened — you may not need all of the paste. Season with pepper and serve.

Adds to the amazing aromas in the kitchen

Finally, to make a simple Horseradish Cream, add 2 tablespoons of cream-style horseradish or more, to taste, to 1 1/2 cups of sour cream. Mix in a pinch of sugar, thin slightly with half & half and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed. Chives make a nice addition to this, too.

By seven o'clock it was looking like this outside, right out the front door

A Few More Words About Cipollini, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts

Cipollini show up sometime in the fall, and they are my favorite onion. They require some prep, but the flavor is worth it. Drop whole cipollini in boiling water and blanch for a minute or so. Remove and cool slightly. Leaving the root and stem-end intact, pull off the top papery layer. In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, and cook them gently, turning every so often, until deeply coloring, about an hour. Season with pepper and parsley and serve.

So sublime

Sprinkle with a little parsley and serve alongside the beef

That something so simple as mashed potatoes can be so controversial — what potato to use, how to mash it, how to make it garlicky. Here’s what I have concluded: use a plain old russet potato. They break down enough to mash up beautifully. Boil them halved in salted water. Simmer whole cloves of garlic in butter until tender, about 20 minutes, mash with a fork, add half and half, heat to bubbling, and use this to mash into the potatoes. When the potatoes are done, drain off the water, put the pot back on the heat, and toss the potatoes to cook off the excess water. Keep on low while you’re mashing them. Use an old-fashioned potato masher, and a lot of elbow grease. Whipping them makes them gummy, and a ricer is too much work. Add more half and half, if needed, or butter, if wanted, or chicken stock (thank you sister-in-law!) and mash and beat like heck until they are really silky (again, thank you sis-in-law). Season liberally with salt and pepper along the way. If you are holding them over very low heat or reheating them in the oven, they can be a bit “wetter” to start.

Not photogenic but a classic with the beef

Trim and cook the Brussels sprouts until just tender when pierced with a skewer. Cool and halve. Chop a couple of strips of good-quality bacon and cook in a large skillet until brown but not crisp. Add the Brussels sprouts, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper and sauté until browning. Add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup and toss another minute.

I have to thank my Brussels sprouts *doubting* niece for making these

So after the wine and coffee and a game of Balderdash, we were off to be snug in our beds. While we slept, it snowed even more. And only a few times in my life has Christmas Day looked like this:

I was dreaming of it...

Kelly McCune © 2010

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue R. January 5, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Dear Kelly

thanks so much for this inspiring website and sharing these recipes! I miss the (many) years (ago) on Hayworth in LA when we were the “test” guests for your amazing cookbook recipes… so its nice to find this blog so I can follow from afar and try your recipes at home. I have decided to make the ‘clean up as you go’ advice my resolution/mantra for the new year — its working already! and especially liked the inside look at the many moods you have cooked through. I always imagined great cooks to have a kind of Buddha like calm about them whenever they were in the kitchen so its comforting to know that you have cooked through the same range of moods as the rest of us! looking forward to following this site…

Kelly January 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm

That was quite a time — grilling out back with our strange neighbor and his even stranger little dog. So glad you like the blog!

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