Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday Dinners

Well, it's over for another year.

The day after Christmas is always a combination of relief and letdown. Even for me. I'm not sure why. We had a nice day; we received great gifts. For me, two cookbooks, Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables and Jennifer MacLagan's Bones.

I am most of the way through Bones, which is full of wonderful recipes for everything from fish to frog legs. The book's sole disappointment is actually not the book's fault: gnawing bones is one of the best ways to wreck orthodontia. I once knocked a bracket off (the square metal "braces") chomping on the remains of a pork chop. Naturally I thought God was punishing me for eating treyfe. But no: the punishment is having crooked teeth and having to wait to make Deviled Beef Ribs until I am metal-free. Whenever that is.

But back to happier topics. I thumbed through CP Vegetables, found brussels sprouts with butter and chicken broth, and prepared them last night.

After some consideration, I had decided not to go overboard with the Christmas cooking this year. It's only the two of us, and while we both like to eat, neither of us possess large appetites. A huge bird with four side dishes and dessert would only overwhelm. So we went the simple, albeit expensive, route, purchasing a small prime rib roast from Enzo's Butcher in Oakland's Market Hall. With the roast--three pounds, two ribs--we ate the aforementioned sprouts and fingerling potatoes roasted in the crock pot. Dessert was a pie (purchased--no pie maker I). A bottle of Barbaresco. That's it. And we still have leftovers.

The roast intimidated me. I'd never prepared prime rib before. And my oven, while adequate, is no Viking. So here I was, with a fifty-dollar piece of meat and a case of nerves. I consulted all my Joys, like a good girl, and basically got the idea: a brief period of high heat, followed by a longer period of gentle roasting. Even I can handle that.

On Sunday I trimmed the meat of its excess snowy fat, mindful of the knife. Trimming fat is entertaining and it's easy to get carried away. This is fine with lamb, but the Romabuer Becker clan warns us that some fat must be left of on rib roast. I contained myself, then gave the meal a salt rubdown and tucked it back in the fridge.

Yesterday I took the roast from the fridge at 3:30 and heated the oven to 450 degrees. At 4:30 I popped it in. After half an hour I turned the heat down to 325 and waited. While waiting I opened the Barbaresco, which the wine merchant said needed to time to aerate before drinking. Oenophile that I am (not), I decided a small taste test was necessary. Very nice. It is safe to say that wine, like scotch, has a direct relationship to its price. This wine tasted every penny of its thirty dollars, which sort of made me wish I'd never bought it.

Taste test concluded, I set about making a jus (Jews do not do gravy. We just don't). This consisted of a cheaper red wine, butter, shallots, dried mushrooms soaked in hot water, the water strained for grit and added to the pot, and a bit of chicken stock. I let this reduce while the roast did its thing. By six o'clock the meat had browned nicely and read just under 130 degrees on my meat thermometer.

Every cookbook tells you to take the drippings and make pan gravy. Frankly, these drippings were so fatty I stuck with my wine/mushroom concotion.

Carving was a challenge as I have no carving knife. I made a few game slices with Hockeyman's eight-inch Henckels. Kitty offered his assistance, but I managed to carve the thing without bludgeoning it. (Or Kitty, who was in the way but only trying to help.)

Hockeyman, it turns out, had never eaten prime rib and of course though it wonderful. For a modest boy he has an expensive palate.

I was just relieved that damned thing turned out, and ate carefully around my latest bit of broken orthodontia, a loose wire.

We do indeed have leftovers, but not the overwhelming kind you end up guiltily tossing. We'll eat more meat tonight, but I am hoarding the beefy ribs for tomorrow's meal: lentil soup with beef bones, carrot, and (if I get to the market) leeks.

Oh, for a bandsaw in the kitchen.....

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