For a special occasion, there’s nothing like serving a gorgeous prime rib roast with a rich homemade red wine sauce. Although most refer to any rib roast as “prime,” it’s not necessarily the truth. In order for meat to be prime, it must come from U.S.D.A. prime beef. So, when placing your order with the butcher for “prime beef,” don’t forget to ask him if that’s what you’re going to get! The key to success when making a lean roast beef (and I can’t stress this enough) is using an accurate meat thermometer, that registers as low as 120F. Although convenient, I rarely use an instant thermometer since it really bothers me to continually poke holes in my meat, as it roasts.
For the roast
- 4 rib roast (8 1/2 to 9 1/2 pounds), well trimmed with a thin layer of fat remaining on top (ask the butcher to cut the meat off the bone, crack the ribs and tie the meat back in place)
- 20 garlic of cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 rounded tablespoon Kosher or sea salt
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper (lots)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons aromatic dried)
- 2 rounded teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed, to lubricate the meat
For the sauce
- 4 1/2 tablespoons Clarified Butter
- 4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 8 ounces fresh button mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped (to yield 1 cup)
- 3 cups Beef or Veal Stock
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 generous teaspoon tomato paste
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons port wine (preferably vintage, but a high-quality ruby port is perfectly acceptable)
- 1 tablespoon whole butter or thick crème fraiche, as a final enrichment (optional)
To season the beef
Place the minced or pressed garlic onto your work surface and sprinkle it with the salt, lots of black pepper and herbs. With the blade of a sharp chef’s knife, press the mixture together, scraping and mixing until the mixture starts blending together. Drizzle on up to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and continue to scrape, press and mash the garlic mixture until it becomes paste-like. Sprinkle the meat all over generously with pepper. Rub the garlic-herb paste all over the exposed meat (bottom and sides included). Pour some olive oil on top and pat it all over, until the entire seasoned surface really glistens (Rub in additional oil, as needed.) Apply more pepper to the top, leaving the roast looking heavily seasoned and very lubricated. Cover the meat with oiled plastic wrap, greased side down, and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours, before roasting.
Early on the day of serving, start your sauce
Melt the clarified butter in a 2-quart saucepan, over medium heat and, when hot, stir in the shallots. Sauté the shallots until they turn translucent, about 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Raise the heat to high and cook the vegetables until the mushrooms are tender, and most of their released liquid evaporates, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour and cook the vegetable-roux, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the stock and wine and bring the liquid to a full bubble. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer the sauce, uncovered, until the flavors concentrate, the texture thickens and the volume reduces to about 2 1/2 cups, which will take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. As it simmers, occasionally skim off any accumulated foam, from the top of the sauce.
Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool for a bit, then pour it through a fine-mesh sieve that’s positioned over another clean saucepan. Press hard on the solids to extract all of their goodness, then discard them. Place a doubled sheet of paper towel over the saucepan and apply the lid. (This prevents a skin from forming on the top of the sauce and also keeps any condensation from falling into the sauce and diluting the flavor.) Set the saucepan aside, for now.
To roast the meat
Bring the seasoned meat close to room temperature. Place the raw roast, bones side down, on a shallow baking sheet and preheat the oven to 450oF for at least 30 minutes. Sear the meat at 450oF for 30 minutes. While searing, if planning to make Yorkshire pudding, see the next step, as soon as the meat enters the oven.
After the initial sear, insert a meat thermometer into the top-center of the meat, so the tip reaches the center of the eye. (If the tip sits on bone, your reading won't be accurate.) Reduce the oven temperature to 325oF and roast the meat until the internal temperature reaches just above 120oF (for medium-rare), which will take about 1 hour and 45 minutes, after the initial sear. (This will take longer if the meat was initially cold.) Remove the meat from the oven and transfer it to a warmed serving platter. Tent the meat loosely with aluminum foil and set it aside, allowing it to rest, before carving.
If making Yorkshire pudding
Assemble the batter as soon as the meat goes into the oven and let it sit out, covered, while the meat cooks. When the meat leaves the oven, increase the temperature to 450F and follow the instructions, as written, for baking Yorkshire pudding. If not making Yorkshire pudding, I suggest that you freeze your rendered beef drippings in a labeled 1 cup heavy-duty freezer container. That way, you can make Yorkshire pudding, flavored the traditional way, whenever you choose.
To slice the meat, finish the sauce and serve
First reheat the sauce, uncovered, over low heat until it’s hot. Let it simmer, gently, until ready to serve. Cut any strings off the roast and discard them. Lift the eye of beef off the ribs and place it on your cutting board (you may need to use a knife to help release it). Place the bones to the side. Slice the meat into 1/4-inch thick slices and overlap them on a warmed serving platter. Slice the ribs into individual sections and place them around the meat. Pour any juices from the carving board, over and around the meat.
Stir the port into the simmering sauce and bring it back to a full simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the stove and, if desired, stir in the optional butter or crème fraiche. Pour the sauce into a warmed gravy boat and pass it, along with the meat, straight away. Accompany the meat Yorkshire pudding, if desired.
A Beefed-Up “Jus” Sauce Variation (Embellished Natural Juices)
Omit the red wine sauce and, after carving the meat, pour the juices from the carving board into a saucepan and add 2 cups beef or veal stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer stock for one or two minutes. Adjust the seasoning by adding salt and pepper, to taste. Pour half of the broth over the meat and serve the rest in a warmed sauce boat. If desired, you can stir in a tablespoon or so of butter or crème fraiche after removing the pan from the stove, to enrich the texture. Taste for seasoning, though since added fat (although wonderfully rich) tends to be muting to seasoning.
Timing is Everything
The meat can be seasoned one day ahead and kept refrigerated, well covered with oiled plastic wrap.
The stock can (and should) be made weeks or months ahead, and frozen.
The sauce can be made early on the day of serving and left at a comfortable room temperature, as directed.
If making the lamb variation, you should simmer the lamb bones in veal or beef stock the day before making the sauce, allowing the time required to chill and defat it.