Saturday, January 2, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Buffalo Prime Rib

NOTE: This recipe works equally well with beef or buffalo.

Prime rib is the king of roasts.  When served to friends and family, it connotes respect, love, and gratitude.  While prime rib is hard to totally screw up, if you're spending upwards of $12 a pound for the meat, why not deliver perfection? 

In my book, prime rib perfection marries meltingly tender meat with an intensely flavorful exterior crust.  Now, larger cuts of meat like prime rib, tenderloin, standing rib roast, etc. have a relatively small surface area to volume ratio as compared to steaks or filets.  This means that seasonings applied to the outside of a roast are playing the flavor game a bit short-handed, since sliced portions include large cross-sections of interior meat that are relatively devoid of seasoning.

Enter the seared-on crust...

You can get a lot more mileage out of a seared-on crust than you can from sprinkled-on seasonings or a dry rub.  The reason for this is two-fold:  1) With a crust, the seasoning layer itself is thicker, which means it packs more flavor per square inch due to its greater volume; and 2) once the roast is sliced and plated, all that crust will begin to dissolve into the meat juice that accumulates on the plate—bringing lip-smacking seasoning to bites that are composed of wholly interior meat.

The key to an outstanding crust for your prime rib (or any roasted buffalo or beef) is to start with a sticky paste that clings to the meat before, during, and after searing.  For cuts of beef and buffalo, I like to use a paste made from beef base (the salt), butter, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice.  The lemon juice adds tang, and the butter and beef base combine into a nice sticky paste.  Feel free to add other herbs, spices, or flavors as you see fit. Just make sure it's sticky.

Here's the low-down:

  • Buffalo prime rib - roughly 3 pounds
  • 2 Teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons gluten free beef base
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
To create the seasoning paste, start by combining the beef base and butter.  You can either combine (and then heat) the beef base and butter in a small stainless steel saucepan, or combine them in a small glass bowl and microwave them for 20 seconds or so.  Be careful in either case, the beef base has a lot of salt and some sugar in it... and it goes from paste to hot goo very quickly!  Once the beef base and butter have melted, add in the pepper, garlic, and lemon juice and stir around to make a thick paste. If it is too runny, add another tablespoon of beef base and heat a bit more.

Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat.  While the skillet heats, coat the roast all over with your seasoning paste.  When the skillet is just starting to smoke (probably 5-7 minutes), add 1/8-inch of oil (canola) to coat the pan, and toss in the roast.  Sear the roast on all sides, holding it up on the narrow sides and ends if need be.  Once you've got a nice crust on all sides (which might take 15 minutes), put the whole skillet and roast in the oven to finish.

I generally like to serve prime rib at medium rare.  The ends will be closer to medium-well, and there will be some medium sections between the ends and the rarer middle.  To cook the meat to medium rare, you'll want to pull it from the oven when the geographic center of the roast reads about 130 degrees F on an instant read meat thermometer.  This may take 1-2 hours depending on the size of the roast.

Once out of the oven, place the roast on a cutting board, and tent it loosely with aluminum foil.  The roast will continue to cook as it rests.  After 15 minutes, slice the prime rib into 1/2-inch slices and serve immediately.

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