Herb-Roasted Prime Rib and Potatoes

December 29, 2012

I’ve never made prime rib before. Partially because standing rib roasts are so expensive (usually cost at least $80), but also because Prime Rib always seemed bland; tender but bland. So I made this herb-roaster prime rib for Christmas dinner, because it seemed to offer more interesting flavor. In addition, I used Chris Kimball’s home, dry-aging technique. After 5 days in the back of my refrigerator wrapped in cheesecloth, the roast resembled something costing twice as much. In the end, I was happy with the dry-aging technique, which improves the beef’s texture and concentrates it’s flavor. But I very disappointed with the recipe, because the herb-flavor did not penetrate the beef. Worse yet, Most of the herbs were trimmed away with the fat cap. 3-stars. Next time I will stick to a more traditional jus, so that the added flavor of the the jus can be enjoyed in every bite.

It looks delicious, but only 3-star

It looks delicious, but only 3-star

Comments:

  1. This recipe does not seem to be as thoroughly tested as most of Chris Kimball’s recipes. In fact, it is not from Cook’s Illustrated, but rather from The Best One-Dish Suppers. An example of the issue, while Chris Kimball mentions adding oil in step 5, he fails to add it to the ingredient list or say how much oil to add or what type to use. I used two tablespoons of olive oil, which seemed okay
  2. Chris Kimball over-rests the roast for 30 minutes. True, the internal temperature of the beef doesn’t fall much in those 30 minutes, but the outside portions of the beef were noticeably cool. I’d recommend that you start to carve no later than after 20 minutes, and keep the cut beef tented with aluminum for until dinner.
  3. I was worried because Chris Kimball usually under-estimates cooking time for potatoes, so I par-cooked the potatoes for 8 minutes in microwave. I tossed them with 1 tablespoon olive oil and covered with plastic wrap, and shook them half way through microwaving.
  4. I bought a 3-rib roast weighing about 7-1/2 pounds. But I cut my roast into two smaller roasts (one roast had 2 ribs and the other had 1 rib). My kids prefer the end-cuts, and are happier if the beef isn’t too red.

Cost: $35
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 1:00 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original version of this recipe is here. His dry aging technique is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it this week are given below:

7-lb beef standing rib roast (3 or 4 ribs)
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3 pounds small red potatoes

  1. About a week before dinner, remove the roast from packaging, rinse well, and pat completely dry with paper towels.  Wrap the meat with three layers of cheesecloth, Place on wire rack with the fat side up; set over a sheet pan and place in the back of refrigerator (the coldest part). After 24 hours, remove, unwrap, discard cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Place back in refrigerator for up to 6 days undisturbed.
  2. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5 1/2 hours before serving. Remove cheesecloth, cut away the fat and trim the ends and any discolored parts of roast.  Allow roast to sit a room temperature for 2 hours for more even cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, set an oven rack to the bottom position in your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees for 20 minutes. Prepare your V-rack (set inside a roasting pan) by coating it with vegetable oil spray.
  4. Pat the roast dry using paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Put roast on your V-rack, and roast at 450-degrees for 1 hour until becomes well browned.
  5. Meanwhile, add the minced thyme and rosemary, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 teaspoon sugar to a small bowl, and stir to combine.
  6. Remove the roast from the oven and reduce to 250-degrees. Take the herb-mixture and evenly spread over the roast. Bake for between 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the internal temperature of the beef registers 130-degrees for medium-rare; 140-degrees for medium and 155-degrees for medium-well.
  7. While the roast cooks scrub your potatoes and cut them in half.
  8. Put roast of a cutting board and allow to rest for 20 minutes, and turn up your oven to 450-degrees. Remove the v-rack from the pan and discard all but 3 tablespoon of the rendered fat from the bottom of the pan. Add cut potatoes to pan, season with salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated. Arrange them so that the cut side faces down in the pan. Roast until the potatoes are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  9. Just before the potatoes are ready, carve the roast. Hold the roast steady with a carving knife, and cut along the bone to remove. Set the roast cit-side down and slice across the grain into 1/2″-thick slabs. Keep the cut beef tented with aluminum foil until ready to eat.

Broiled Steaks

December 21, 2012

I haven’t eaten plain steak in 2-1/2 years, so today I went back to the same broiling technique I saw on Cook’s Country a few seasons ago. Of course, with plain steak the end result depends entirely upon the quality of the beef. I found some nicely-marbled, semi-boneless shell steaks and was rewarded with 4-1/2 stars. Next time I want to try their dry-aging technique. which wraps the meat in cheese cloth for 4-days in your refrigerator.

Plain steak with compound butter

Plain steak with compound butter

The recipe has two secrets. (1) Add 2 cups of salt to the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan; the 40-cents of salt will completely stop any smoke from filling your kitchen. (2) Before you pre-heat your oven, put a wire rack on top of the disposable pan and arrange your steaks on top of the wire rack. Use a ruler to measure the height from the counter to the top of the steaks, mine measured 3-1/2″. Then set an oven rack so that the top of the steaks will be 1-1/2″ from the broiler element. In my case the closest I could get was 2-1/2″, which added 5 minutes to the broiling time (see comments below if your like your steak medium-rare).

Comments:

  1. If you like your steaks either rare or medium-rare, then you must measure out the distance to your broiler element very carefully. If your measurements mean that the tops of the steaks will be more than 1-1/2″ from the broiler element, then you must reduce that distance. For example, buy a taller disposable aluminum pan or set on an overturned rimmed backing sheet.
  2. If you like your steaks medium and the tops of the steaks will be more than 1-1/2″ from the broiler element, then bake for no more than 5 minutes in step 5.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $15
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 6:00 pm. Dinner Time:  7:00.

Compound Butter Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Steak Ingredients:
4 strip steaks, rib-eye steaks, or tenderloin steaks, 1″ to 2″ thick
2 cups table salt
3″-tall disposable aluminum pan

  1. Remove 1/2 cube of butter from refrigerator and allow to soften on counter-top for an hour; or microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Trim away any excess fat. Pat both sides of your steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.   Add 2 cups of salt to the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan. Then put a wire rack on top of the aluminum pan and arrange your steaks on top of the wire rack. Use a ruler to measure the height from the counter to the top of the steaks, about 4″. Set an oven rack about 5-1/2″ from the broiler element; i.e. so that the top of the steaks will be 1-1/2″ away.
  3. Mix together the ingredients for the compound butter and refrigerate.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees for 10 minutes.
  5. Put steaks on middle rack in oven. Bake, flipping twice according to the following schedule: 1″ thick steaks; 6 minutes, flipping every 2 minutes. 1-1/2″ thick steaks; 8 minutes, flipping every 3 minutes; 2″ thick steaks; 10 minutes, flipping every 4 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven flip and pat dry on both sides using paper towels .
  7. Switch from baking to broiling, by pre-heating the broiler for 10 minutes. Allow the steaks to rest while the broiler pre-heats.
  8. Put the steaks on the top rack so that they are approximately 1-1/2″ from the broiler element.
  9. Broil flipping 1″ thick steaks every 2 minutes, 1-1/2″ thick steaks every 3 minutes, or 2″ thick steaks every 4 minutes. Remove from broiler when they reach your desired doneness; 130-degrees for medium rare; 140-degrees for medium and 155-degrees for medium-well.
  10. Put steaks on serving platter, top with compound butter and tent with aluminum foil for 5 minutes before serving.
Steaks on wire rack over bed of salt

Steaks on wire rack over bed of salt


Traditional Chicken Stock

December 15, 2012

Is spending 5 hours to make homemade chicken stock really worth the $6 savings over store-bought broth? If you measure your answer in terms of time or dollars, then the answer is certainly no. So here’s why I make it nonetheless. First, the 5 hours of clock time is more like 30 minutes of effort. Second, I like the idea of using my chicken scraps rather than simply discarding them. When I buy chicken breasts, I always feel semi-guilty about throwing away 20% of what was once a living creature. But of course, the most important reason to make it is that homemade stock taste much better and is preservative-free.

After de-fatting, separate into usable sizes.

After de-fatting, separate into usable sizes.

My personal history regarding chicken stock is a checkered one: Years ago, all my “chicken stock” started with a bullion cubes (bullion is just the French word for broth). It was inexpensive and convenient, but unfortunately they are mostly salt (and chemicals). Any recipe that reduces stock made from bullion will become too salty. My childhood memories of metallic-tasting Campbell’s soup have always stopped me from buying canned broth. So lately, I’ve been buying 32-ounce cartons of broths, which taste much better, but can be inconvenient if I only need a cup or two (once opened the boxed broth should be used within a week). I suppose it could be frozen, but have never actually done so.

Comments:

  1. The most important thing in terms of logistics, is to keep a gallon-sized Zip-lock bag in your freezer. As you trim your chicken over the months simply add the chicken scraps to the bag. My first misconception with stock is that I had to have 5 pounds of fresh chicken scraps all at once, which of course would never happen.
  2. This recipe makes the equivalent of three 32-ounce cartons of chicken stock. It usually takes me about 2 months of regular cooking to gather enough chicken scraps to make a batch of stock. In terms of my kitchen, that’s more than enough to satisfy all my chicken stock needs.
  3. For recipes where I need a smaller amount of stock, I measured out 2-cups into Zip-lock bags. I laid then flat on a baking sheet and froze them. I can thaw out a bag for just 2 cups of stock at a time. From an old quick tip. I also have some containers with 3 and 4 cups, which satisfy my soup making needs.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 1:00 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

5 pounds assorted chicken parts (backs, necks, legs, and wings)
3-1/2 quarts of water
2 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  1. Add chicken parts to a stockpot just large enough to hold them. Cover with water, adding an extra 1″ of water (about 3-1/2 quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high burner. Use a ladle or skimmer to remove any foam that rise to the top.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and cut carrots into 2″ lengths. Cut celery into 2″ lengths. Peel and quarter your onions.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add chopped vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Reduce burner until it is barely simmering (bubbles just barely breaking the surface). Cook for 4 hours, occasionally skimming any impurities that rise to the top.
  4. Line a strainer with cheese-cloth and place over a large bowl or pot. Strain away and discard the solids; do not press on solids.
  5. Allow to cool completely (you can use an ice-water bath to speed the process). Refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to accumulate to the top; then lift off and discard the semi-solid fat.
  6. Separate into individual containers in commonly used sizes. The stock should only be refrigerated for up to 3 days, but holds well in the freezer for up to 3 months; but be sure to completely thaw in refrigerator before use.
Divided into 4 cup, 3cup, 2 cup and 1-12 cup sizes

Divided into 4 cup, 3 cup, 2 cup and 1-1/2 cup sizes. So they’re pre-measured.

After  chilling, the fat is easily removed with a spoon

After chilling, the semi-hardened fat is easily removed with a spoon


Thai Grilled Chicken with Spicy Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

December 7, 2012

When growing up, my meals were always very straight-forward. Often just some type of protein cooked in a skillet without any seasoning (except maybe salt); simple and bland. So nowadays I tend to over-compensate; I’m always looking for interesting recipes. And while the long title of this recipe gives the appearance of being exotic, it is still kid-friendly enough where my picky-eating son can just skip the dipping sauce. The herb-rub gives a nice depth of flavor to chicken breasts. As a bonus, I loved this recipe because it allowed me to take advantage of a mild evening for grilling. Anytime you can be outside on a December evening is always a treat. I wish the great flavor of the spice rub penetrated a little deeper, but at least the sauce was there to save the day. 4-stars

Flavorful chicken that's definitely worth making

Flavorful chicken that’s definitely worth making

Chris Kimball offers the following advice if you want to prepare it in your oven. Pre-heat your oven to 450-degrees with an oven rack in the lower-middle of your oven. Put the chicken on a wire rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Cook the chicken for about 30 minutes, rotating half way through baking time. When the chicken reaches 160-degrees, broil the chicken about 6″ or 7″ from the broiler element for 3 minutes until the skin becomes crispy.

Comments:

  1. The list of ingredients is somewhat long, but fish sauce is really the only thing you aren’t likely to have in your pantry. Well, of course you’ll have to make a separate trip to the supermarket for the ginger, garlic, limes and cilantro.
  2. With split chicken breasts on sale for $1/lb, this recipe was exceptionally inexpensive. Usually this recipe will cost more than $10 to prepare.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Chicken and Brine Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
4 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 small cloves garlic
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Rub Ingredients:
12 medium cloves garlic
2″ piece fresh ginger
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. In a large bowl, add 2 quarts of water and stir in 1/3 cup sugar until dissolved. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise. Allow to brine for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile prepare sauce by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl. The pressed garlic should yield about 1-1/2 teaspoons. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature until dinner (at least 1 hour).
  3. Rinse chicken under running water and use paper towels to pat the chicken dry. Use your fingers to slide between the skin and the meat, being careful that the skin stays attached.
  4. The pressed garlic should yield 1/4 cup, and the minced ginger should be about 2 tablespoons. Use your hands to thoroughly combine all the rub ingredients into another small/medium bowl. Rub about 2 tablespoons of mixture under the skin of each piece of chicken. Then rub a little more mixture over all sides of the chicken. Repeat with all chicken pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the grill.
  5. Light a full chimney start of charcoal, and allow to ignite for about 20 minutes. Evenly empty the coals over half the grill, leaving the other half empty. Pre-heat the grill grate for 5 minutes to clean more effectively, and season the grill with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
  6. Grill chicken with the skin-side down over the hot part of the grill for about 4 to 5 minutes until browned. Flip the chicken and brown the second side for another 4 to 5 minutes. After browned, move chicken to the cooler side of the grill and cover with a disposable aluminum tray. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes more until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-degrees.
  7. When cooked, loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest on serving platter for 10 minutes.

Turkey Caesar Salad Wraps

December 2, 2012

I have a problem every year in the days following Thanksgiving. I have tons of leftovers, but my residual full-ness from the Thanksgiving feast lasts longer that I feel comfortable keeping the leftovers in my refrigerator (Experts say to keep leftover turkey for 2 days). So I made a Caesar Salad Wrap and added some diced turkey to use up the last of the leftovers. The combination was perfect and gave a little variety to the turkey filled Thanksgiving weekend.  I know this post is 1 week too late for this year (but I’m a little bit behind with posting my recipes, so maybe keep this in mind for next year).

Light dinner on a full stomach

Light dinner on a full stomach

Comments:

  1. I made the full amount of Caesar salad dressing, but only made enough salad today to make 3 wraps. I used the rest of the dressing the following day to make a serve a small salad along with dinner.

Wraps:
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
2-1/2 romaine hearts
6 burrito-sized tortillas
leftover turkey

  1. Make salad dressing according to the recipe below.
  2. Rip the romaine into 3/4″ pieces; then rinse and dry in a salad spinner. Grate up to 1 cup of Parmesan cheese (I grated 1/2-cup because only ate half the dressing today).
  3. Dice leftover turkey into 1/2″-cubes.
  4. Add romaine lettuce to a large bowl and add the desired amount of dressing. Toss until the lettuce is evenly coating. Add croutons, grated cheese and diced turkey, then mix gently.
  5. Add salad and evenly distribute croutons and turkey filling and wrap tightly.

Caesar Salad Dressing:
1 large clove garlic
3 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets
2 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons canola oil
5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper

  1. Peel garlic cloves. Press directly into a small bowl, and add lemon juice and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, minced the anchovies and use a fork to mash to form a paste.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce, minced anchovies, and 2 egg yolks into garlic/lemon juice mixture. Whisk until it is combined.
  4. While whisking constantly, slowly pour the canola oil and olive oil into the bowl. Whisk until the dressing has become fully emulsified. Finally, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

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