Like many cooks, whether pros or home cooks, I rely on ‘the bible.’ I’m not referring to the religious text that recounts Jesus Christ’s life and influences the thoughts, actions and feelings of millions of Christians. I’m referring to the classic, and dare I say legendary, cooking reference – for it is much more than a cookbook – The Joy of Cooking. I was first introduced to The Joy of Cooking in the mid 1980s after my sister bought a copy. Since then, I’ve referred to it for relatively simple things such as Drop Cookies and Crêpes to more challenging dishes as Grilled Lobster, Chicken Livers and Risotto. However, also like many cooks, I have developed some level of experience and expertise in the kitchen so I don’t turn to the Becker, Becker and Rombauer work for every kitchen and cooking query I have. At times, I can create on the spot or trust my instincts and my experience to make wonderful things happen in the kitchen.
Christmas 2014, however, was not one of those times. Since getting married, our Christmas meal has largely been either my rendition of my childhood Christmas fare (roast turkey, baked ham) or my wife’s version of her mother’s Mechado (a beef stew with vegetables in a fresh tomato sauce). Last May, my wife and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary so this Christmas we felt that we needed something different. Growing up, I was fortunate to feast on my mother’s Roast Beef. I’ve never done one myself and we contemplated doing one for Christmas but neither of us were completely sold on the idea. Then the idea of Prime Rib came to mind and it stuck. Neither of us had ever made one but our friend did – her first time – last year and guinea pigged it on us. It came out successfully, seemed pretty easy to do so we decided we’d do the Primec Rib in our house this go around.
However, having never done one, I referred to the bible. When got to the page and found the passage I needed, I read it and reread it no less than four times. Then I rustled through the beef pages to find other entries for variations of Prime Rib. Then I reread what I initially went to and shared it with my wife.
“That’s it?” was her response.
The instructions were very innocuous. Preheat the oven to 450. Liberally salt and pepper the meat. Cook it, uncovered, for ten minutes. Lower the heat to 250 and cook it for whatever time is needed, based on the weight of the meat, to get the temperature you want. In this case, at 30 minutes a pound for medium, we were looking at 90 minutes.
Like I said, innocuous. Well, it should have been. But, having never done a Prime Rib before, my uncertainty and, perhaps, the curse of arrogance from knowing a little about kitchen and cooking things, I felt the creep of mental and emotional injury. 250?! That’s it?
Well, after seasoning the meat, I put it in the oven and did what The Joy of Cooking told me to. I also made an advanced apology to my wife, just in case it didn’t turn out. If for some reason, it came out underdone, I figured I could just sliced the meat and fry it. If it came out overdone and ruined, I was all set to reenact the final scene in A Christmas Story and take my family out for a Christmas dinner at the nearest Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have the neighbour’s dogs to blame for a ruined meal.
After the time was up, I put in my cooking thermometer, got the desired temperature and let it set for the mandatory cool down and juice retaining minutes. I finished making the sauces and the sides and, shortly thereafter, dinner was served. And, if I may pat myself on the back, the Prime Rib turned out perfectly.
I haven’t recounted this for you so I can brag and show you how wonderful a cook I am. What my intention is, however, is three-fold. One: Don’t fear trying new things. Two: Have your plan and resources handy. (While my small opinion will count for little, I just want to say that The Joy of Cooking, at least in my culinary experiences, has been and continues to be the go to reference.) Three: Be humble and don’t get in your own way. Most of you follow these tips anyway. Heck, for you they’re less likely tips or reminders and your routine kitchen practise. For me, though, doing the Prime Rib was like an accidental Christmas present to myself and it reminded me of those three things and, now that I’ve been reminded of them, I intend to take them with me in the kitchen and, hopefully, out of the kitchen as I venture into 2015.
Happy cooking everyone! Thanks for stopping in my kitchen.