Sunday, June 26, 2011

Standing Rib Roast - Prime Rib Roast

Beefy Tale

Summer 2011.  Heading south through Wyoming to Denver on the second half of a week long vacation after visiting Mt. Rushmore and other touristy sites, we were looking for a locavore-inspired dinner. The City of Cheyenne locals recommended that the best prime rib in town was at the downtown Albany Restaurant.  After all, we were in the midst of cattle and bison country – why eat fish? (And the trout on the menu was farm-raised from out of state!)

Albany Restaurant’s house specialty was their slow-roasted prime rib which is also called Standing Rib roast. After our orders were taken, Pop reminisced about the quality of beef when he first got started in the meat business.  Over the years, Pop has shared his meat delivery stories but for some reason, his retelling of this tale at this dinner table seemed more relevant.

Pop immigrated from Canton, China to “Gold Mountain” aka California when he was 13 years old entering through Angel Island.  He initially worked at a laundry in Woodland before settling in San Bernardino in southern California.  His sponsor was the family patriarch, whom we called Cheern Dai Yea. They shared the same paternal grandfather but not the same grandmother.

As Pop started out learning the trade of butchering, he delivered meat on a wholesale route while working for his relatives’ businesses in the 1940’s before WWII.  He regularly trucked racks of prime ribs to San Bernardino’s Antlers Hotel, a ritzy hotel in those days and now gone.  The weekly deliveries would be accounted for as they were brought through the back kitchen door but once the head chef had confidence in Pop’s delivery system, he just signaled Pop to haul the meat straight into the walk-in cooler. If the deliveries were made around dinnertime, the restaurant kitchen smelled particularly delicious with the aroma of roasted standing rib roasts lining the kitchen counters awaiting the dinner rush.

“Help yourself to some beef,” the head chef often offered.  Pop started to slice the small end of the roast - the chef mentored: go for the large end.  It has more marbling and fat carries more flavor.  

Mom roasts her prime rib using a fail-safe recipe.  Hoping to find a USDA Prime grade (more fat marbling = more flavor), she and Pop go shopping for the roast at least a couple weeks in advance of roasting it.  The roast is then stashed in the back of the fridge to allow for further ageing. Nowadays, says Pop, beef is sold too fresh.  It’s not suppose to look bright red – a flavorful aged piece looks a little “old”, darker red in color, maybe with a little browning on the edges. Hmmm…kind of like a well-aged red wine.

Standing Rib Roast - Prime Rib Roast

Rib Roast with bones
Salt and Pepper
Yellow onion
Red Wine

Bring the roast to room temperature.  Peel and smash several cloves of garlic.  With the roast bone side down (this is where the "standing rib" comes in), make small slits, sporadically spaced, about ½” deep on the top of the roast to insert the garlic.  With the side of a cleaver or chef’s knife, flatten a couple stalks of celery including the leaves.  Slice onion.  

Place the roast bone side down on a rack in a roasting pan. Generously season roast with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle celery and onion over the roast and then slowly douse with ½ - 1 cup of red wine.  Add about 1/2” water at the bottom of the pan. Cover top of roast loosely with foil and remove foil about an hour before finish. Roast approximately 15-20 minutes per pound at 375°F for medium-rare (120-125°F temperature taken in the center of roast). Replenish pan juices during cooking.   A 5-rib roast will take about 2 hours to get to medium-rare.  Remove roast from oven, loosely cover with foil, and let roast sit in pan for about 30 minutes before carving.  The roast will continue to cook a little more on its own.

Serve with pan juices if desired.

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