Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dignify Our Feast

To the left we see yet more Pieter Bruegel, Peasant Wedding. Which is lovely and cheerful and the people look like they were having nearly as much fun as my family was last night. The title is drawn from one of my favorite poems by Ben Johnson, "Inviting a Friend to Supper." I love feeding people. I love entertaining. Its heartfelt invitation hits me where I live, every single time. Which is funny as it was probably tossed off as a courtly trifle.

I'm home, which is to say that when I was doing dishes at eleven this morning the sun had just barely topped the southern mountains. (At this latitude in the winter, the sun rises in the south and sets in the south, and any other directional formulation is wishful thinking.) Last night we celebrated my brother's birthday. A delayed feast, he waited until I could be home to share it (or possibly cook it).

The menu featured a bone-in beef rib roast (if I could remember the proper name for it, I would tell you), mashed sweet potatoes (which have been discussed here ere now), Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and a big green salad to balance the enormity of our indulgences.

I have some philosophical opinions on salad-- namely a good salad should include a balance of sweet and savory, with some protein in it to give heft. I am inexplicably anti-creamy salad dressings. Last night's salad was butter crunch lettuce, apple, pecans, onions, and extra sharp cheddar with a port-pear vinaigrette. (One nice thing about cooking in my parents kitchen instead of my own: a better class of provender. A second nice thing: my parents have a dishwasher.)

I went for simplicity in the beef. I allowed it to sit out for a couple of hours, warming up to something resembling room temperature. I rubbed the seven pound monster with a bit of butter, and sprinkled it with an herb mixture -- the Tongass Blend from Summit Spice and Tea. I preheated to oven as high as it would go -- in this case 500 degrees. I placed the carcass on a rack in the smallest practicable roast pan (in order to minimize burning the drippings beyond use), and popped it in to the oven. I immediately turned the temp down to 350 and allowed it to cook unmolested until it achieved an internal temp of 150. (Some members of the family, including the birthday boy, inexplicably prefer their beef cooked past medium rare.) This took somewhere in the 2 and a half hour neighborhood.

On retrieving the gigantic hunk of beef from the oven, I made Yorkshire pudding, which I had never made before. I strongly suspect that I shall make it again. AND I shall share my recipe with you. While the pudding was baking I made a small vat of beef gravy.

Yorkshire Pudding

1 heaping cup flour. (All purpose is probably the canonical choice, but I used a finely milled whole grain product that they sell at Costco, which if I recall correctly somewhere contains the words "super grain". It functions more or less or exactly like all purpose white flour, but has a richer nuttier taste and is theoretically better for us. I am clutching at any straws of nutritional respectability in the meal I am describing.)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup milk

3 eggs

1/4 cup rendered beef fat (or other liquid fat, preferably with a high smoke point)

Combine the flour, salt, milk, and eggs in a blender or food processor, or a large bowl. Beat until smooth. Stick in the fridge for an hour to chill.

Preheat the oven to 350. (Assuming that you aren't cooking a roast of unusual size in it)

Pour your liquid fat of choice into a 9 in pie plate, or some other suitable receptacle. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. It needs to be really hot. Some recipes say smoking. I did not let it go that long on this outing. Next time...

Carefully pour the batter into the hot grease. It may spatter. Bake for 15-25 minutes,until puffed majestically and golden brown. Use it to sop up gravy. There should be lashings of gravy.

I suspect that in days ahead, I may just make up the pudding and some gravy (using stock) and skip the roast entirely.


  1. It's called a standing rib roast, or a prime rib if it's actually from a moo that received the "prime" rating. Either way, it's hella tasty.

    Everyone has their own yorkshire pud recipe, and God help you if you try to tell them different (remember, I live in Yorkshire; ostensibly, it was invented here. But then so was butterscotch, and no one can find it here). But there are two points I should mention about yorkshire puds. One way to serve them is to make a huge one, and fill it with the rest of your meal (meat, roasties, steamed veg, gravy). Each person only gets one pud, but since it's the size of their head, they won't mind. The other way is to take a muffin pan, and divde your fat between the tins, as well as your batter. Don't fill more than halfway with the batter, or you have more Yorkshire goo then pudding. Make about a zillion of these, and people can have multiples.

    If you oven bake some sausages coated in oil in a nice pyrex dish (with some more added) and perhaps some sliced oinions, and then pour the batter over the sausage when they're mostly done, you have toad in the hole.

    Also, I would kick my oven temp up to about 400 for the puds. But that's just me. If you've got something that works consistantly, yay!

  2. It works consistently, but since it's a regular breakfast food (sans beef drippings), I have time to experiment. The most recent experiments involved using a weakly sour sourdough for the batter which was most tasty.