At this year's annual Christmas Dinner, we figured out this was my 13th year for hosting. I always serve the same menu, partly to maintain my preparation sanity, and partly because my family has come to know, expect, and love certain foods. If my dinner has become a part of their Christmas traditions and memories, who am I to mess with that?
Click to see my Christmas Dinner menu (with recipes).
This year (or last, technically, since it's now 2010) I spent Christmas Eve day as I have for the past 13 years - prepping for Christmas dinner. I have it down to a science now, what steps I can do ahead of time, to make the actual Day of the Feast go more smoothly. So Christmas Eve came and I was exhausted from the full day of cooking, but ready for the coming meal. Unfortunately the elements conspired against me and waylaid my plans - a Kansas City blizzard
convinced us to postpone the dinner until New Year's Day.
Also unfortunately, the food I had prepared wouldn't keep a week, so my nuclear family of four had what my daughter called a "test dinner" on Sunday. The test was successful, and we had some lovely leftovers last week (since Christmas menu feeds about 10 people).
So last Sunday I went grocery shopping for Christmas Dinner, round 2, and got another 7LB standing rib roast. My father-in-law, a Food Network junkie, suggested I "dry age" the roast, as a means of preserving it for a week in the fridge, instead of freezing and defrosting it within a week.
According to sizzlersranch.com,
"when prime beef is dry aged, two things happen. First, moisture
evaporates from the muscle meat creating a greater concentration of
beefy flavor and taste. Secondly, the prime beef’s natural enzymes
break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle, tenderizing
To dry age a roast at home, you remove the roast from the shrink-wrap and rinse well. Pat it completely dry then wrap it in cheesecloth. Place on a rack in your refrigerator overnight, then remove, unwrap, discard used cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Then put it back in the fridge for about a week. When you're ready to cook it, you remove the cheesecloth, and trim any dry "yuckies" to give you a nice fresh surface, then cook per the recipe.
I was a bit nervous about leaving a roast basically "open" for a week in my fridge, protected only by a few layers of cheesecloth. But I read a few articles online and it seems an accepted technique. I found the article, "Standing Rib Roast - Dry Aged" at the Virtual Weber Bullet, particularly helpful.
So enlightened, I bravely struck out into new cooking territory and followed this dry aging technique outlined by chef Guy Fieri.
The vote was unanimous - this year's roast was the best yet. My family couldn't stop talking about how tender and flavorful it was. My husband commented that it was much better than the "test roast" we'd had the previous Sunday, and while the roast didn't look any different after cooking, he could really tell the different in taste and texture.
My father-in-law, who is very picky about his meat cuts and preparation, said, "this is exactly how it's supposed to be done." Since my family all knows how particular he is, I had to share that comment with everyone and a general cheer arose. I was very pleased with myself.
Since it wasn't difficult or particularly time-consuming, I expect I will continue using this technique for future roasts.
Oh, and I thought I would mention the amazing wine my dad brought to share - he received it as a gift from a vendor. It was a fabulous berry-ish red wine from Spain - Sierra Cantabria Colección Privada. I think he said retail price is around $50, and boy, could I tell the difference from our usual box-wine fare! Very rich, and just amazing with my melt-in-your-mouth prime rib.
So ends my 'foodie' review. Have you ever tried a new cooking technique that made you nervous at first, particularly for a "command performance"? Did you try anything new for your holiday cooking this year? How did it turn out?