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Standing Rib Roast

Mish Mish via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The next few weeks are going to be filled with celebratory dinners, scaled back, of course, because of COVID. Even if it's just the two of you, or maybe one more trusted couple, there's no reason you can't pull out all the stops and serve up one of the most majestic meals of the season. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino, it's hard to top a standing rib roast for dining majesty.

The first thing we should make clear is that you have two options: beef or pork. Prepared well, both cuts make a dramatic and welcome appearance on the holiday table.

To make a pork crown roast you will need two full racks, giving you between 20 and 26 ribs total. Now unless you are a very competent butcher, you should ask your own butcher to prepare the racks for you. This involves removing membranes, trimming the chine bone, "Frenching" the rib ends and numerous other refinements. It's really worth it to get a professional to handle this.

So you'll take your two flat racks, stand them on end with the meaty side out, and use them to form a crown shaped circle. Loop some butcher's twine around the circle, tie it down and you're set.

What you now have is a hollow crown, which is begging for some stuffing. And here is where you can let your imagination run riot. The essential ingredients seem to be onion, apples, celery and some kind of crumbled bread. Also likely to appear is pork sausage, along with the traditional seasonings like sage, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. But cranberries, cherries, mushrooms, potatoes or dried berries can also be used; and you have the entire gamut of breads to choose from.

Once stuffed, you can rub the outside with oil and make sure the meat is seasoned with salt and pepper. To roast, you'll want the hot sear first method, so roast it for 20 minutes at 450°, then lower the oven to 350° and roast until you have an internal temperature of 145°.

The standing beef rib roast, also known as the prime rib, is a different animal. There are at most 9 ribs in a beef rack, but traditionally you will use as few as two, or as many as 6. The configuration of rib and meat is the same, with the meat hugging the convex side of the rib. But the size is quite different. A slice of beef rib roast is more of a steak than a little old chop. It's a big piece of meat. To prepare the roast, and let's say you have 4 ribs to serve 6 people, is not hard.

Be sure to let your roast come up to room temperature before cooking. So 4-5 hours on the counter is good. Trim the roast of excess fat, and now you have the choice of cooking it bone-in or bone-out. The advantage to bone-out is that you can season the entire rib eye roast, and then truss it back onto the ribs. That seam between the meat and ribs can also allow for some kind of stuffing, so keep that in mind.

Seasoning can be as simple as using a rub, or whipping up a paste to slather on. I've made one featuring mustard and it was sensational.

Cooking time is critical, because you are definitely aiming for a rare doneness. Once again the sear-first approach is useful. 20 minutes at 450° and then lower the temperature to 350° and roast until you have an internal temperature of 120°. This may take a lot less time than the cook books say, so use that oven thermometer frequently. At any rate, take the roast out of the oven, cover it with foil and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.