Vegans, you may want to look away for this portion of the evening. I'm just saying.
The problem with cooking a huge piece of meat is that we don't normally do it. This made the angsting over this part of christmas dinner fairly extreme. I was all for making a much more standard main dish, but John really wanted to do something big and fancy, and why not? It's christmas dinner; when else are you going to be so fancy?
But we didn't know what to do, so we decided to let the meat selection decide for us. We asked John's mom and future stepdad for a butcher recommendation and drove out to Merindorf Meats in Williamston, MI.
The real question is why neither of us had ever been there before. John grew up maybe five miles away. Of course, John is also a vegetarian, so that's probably why, right? Still. It was a really excellent market, with super knowledgeable people who not only practically picked out dinner for us, but also gave us detailed cooking instructions for everything. WELL WORTH IT.
So we bought a rib roast. Except we didn't buy just a rib roast--we bought an entire massive side of beef. Like, a 16 pound quarter-cow-torso. The extremely helpful butcher cut off eight pounds of it for a swanky dinner rib roast, and then chopped the rest into eight 1-lb steaks. So we made the rib roast for one big family dinner and took the eight steaks to the gathering for the other half of the family.
The cooking was pretty easy. For one thing, the butcher had packed the meat in an herbed marinade for us. I have no clue what was in it. What I do know is that we didn't have to do ANYTHING to the meat before cooking. Zero.
John (who was in charge of meat) started things off by browning the roast on all sides in a hot frying pan while the oven preheated to 400F/200C.
When everything was brown and crusty, the roast (prepped with meat thermometer) went into the oven. We left it for 20 minutes at 400F/200C, and then turned the heat down to 325F/160C for the long haul, which was approximately another two hours. At maybe an hour in, John added a bunch of cut potatoes, carrots, and pearl onions to the pan. (Yes, we sat there and peeled a sack of pearl onions. YAY.)
When the internal temperature read 135F/57C, we took the roast out of the oven, tented it with foil, and let it rest for half an hour. According to the recipe the butchers gave us, medium rare is 140F/60C, but, like everything else, a big roast will keep cooking a bit after you take it out of the oven. So.
When John's mom sliced the roast, we discovered we had gone a bit over--it turned out just about medium--but that was ok. It was still really beautiful and juicy, with a fine grain and excellent texture. Hooray!
We served our roast with a simple pan jus and a sour cream horseradish sauce, which we made the night before and left in the refrigerator overnight. This was super simple: mix sour cream with jarred horseradish, season with salt and pepper, and chill. That's it. Needless to say, this was not only excellent on the meat, but also on mashed potatoes.
Next up: all the vegetables in the land. SUBSTANTIAL vegetables.