I have to cram all of my cooking into my allotted
two days at home. This week I had multiple
culinary questions that required answers.
The dishes in question? Prime rib and smoked chicken. The questions? Oh, so many... we'll start with the prime rib. (I recommend reading this previous essay on Prime Rib for background info... it is now pinned at the top for your convenience.)
I had ordered an "upper prime-grade" prime rib from the online butcher Porter Road. Would it be as wonderful as the same, sublimely delicious (and extravagantly expensive) cut from Holy Grail Steak Company that I had previously bought and roasted?
The experts suggest refrigerating prime rib salted and uncovered for a day or two in order to form a nice dry crust... could I accelerate this preparatory air-drying process by directing a fan on the (un-refrigerated) roast?
Could I "pre-crust" the roast in our new convection oven at 500ºF, wrap it in foil, transport it to my mother-in-law's house, and then finish the roasting? (I knew that I could... but would it come out crispy or soggy?)
How would my relatively new "perfect (little) roasting pan" perform with prime rib?
Would the dinner guests like my latest version of "faux jus," my attempt to replicate prime rib's luscious pan drippings only in much larger quantity? And would potato flour roux successfully transform it into a silky and gluten-free gravy?
Meanwhile, I was simultaneously finalizing my smoked chicken technique: brining the chicken overnight in a solution of a cup each of salt, sugar, and Frank's Hot Sauce dissolved in a potful of water; patting the chicken dry and then applying a salt-less homemade rub (garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper, thyme) and letting it sit for 3-4 hours; then smoking it at 225ºF to an internal temperature of 150ºF and then starving the fire pit of oxygen.
Yeah, it was a busy couple of days in the kitchen, but of course I loved every minute of it. Here's how everything turned out, in order–
The Porter Road "upper prime" prime rib was delicious, but not quite as fantastic as Holy Grail's somewhat pricier version. Alas, one gets what one pays for, mostly.
The "perfect little roasting pan" is indeed absolutely perfect for medium-sized roasts like this smallish boneless prime rib. Its compact dimensions left room for the potatoes and veggies in the oven.
The fan trick worked GREAT, as did the "pre-crusting" in our new convection oven. We established that blasting 500º air on a rib roast nicely browns the exterior while leaving the interior sufficiently raw to benefit from a long, slow roasting to the proper (125º) final temperature. The only catch? I didn't allow enough time to finish the roasting in Mother-in-Law's oven at 250º... I had to crank it up to 350º to get the thermometer needle moving so as to coincide with a civilized dinner time. (250º for a longer roasting would have made the meat a more uniform rosy pink.)
And the faux jus? Mother-in-Law has decades of fine cookery experience as well as a knowledgeable and discerning palate. She really liked it, and that is all I need to know, except how to produce it more cost-effectively. This version was liquid gold in two senses... to wind up with a precious quart required two bottles of decent French red wine, a boatload of meaty beef bones (oxtails, ribs, etc.) a pricey dollop of veal demi-glace, assorted vegetables, and a lot of patient roasting and simmering.
Potato flour roux is such a wonderful gluten-free sauce thickener that I'm surprised it doesn't appear in any recipes I have found. Surely your Grumpy Old Man-splainer didn't actually invent this, right?
The smoked chicken came out perfectly moist and fabulous. Eliminating salt from the rub was the result of a lesson learned on my last attempt... brining provides all the saltiness this dish needs. I smoked the chicken for perhaps three hours and then cut the air supply as we were leaving for Mother-in-Law's house with our moveable feast. Stuffed though I was with prime rib upon returning home, I nonetheless gorged myself on a few hunks of perfect smoky deliciousness.
And finally, the biggest hit of the evening was completely unexpected. For the simple green salad that accompanied the meal, I substituted a little verjus blanc for some of the balsamic vinegar in the dressing... always a good idea if you have some on hand, as it lends a fresh and bright touch to summer salads.
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And now, Dear Reader, I'm heading out for another work week with a cooler full of leftovers and a mind already spinning new culinary questions to answer next week.