Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Prime Rib and Cutting a Christmas Tree

Christmas make people do crazy things. If you don't believe me explain to me why people make fruitcake and wear sweaters with jingle bells attached. There is something about the magic of the season that makes people only use 1/2 of their brains. Here is a story to prove that. Annette and I had been married for about 5 years our children ranged from 1 year to 4 years old. We decided that it would be fun to cut our own Christmas tree. We were living in Michigan at the time and we had just gotten a nice snowfall, about 6 inches. We decided that Saturday would be the day to go in search of the perfect tree.

On Thursday the weather man said it was going to warm up and start raining on Friday. Sure enough Friday afternoon it started to rain and the temperature hit the low 50's. Saturday morning we got up and got ready for our big tree excursion. The temperature had dropped back to the 30's the snow was gone. We bundled the kids up in their show suits. The youngest turned 1 on Thanksgiving day so she could barely walk as it was, put her in a pretty little pink and white snow suit and she was like Ralphie's little brother in the movie The Christmas Story.

We went out side and piled in the minivan and we were off. We go to the tree farm only to see the melted snow had tired the entire place into a giant mud farm. Then it started to rain again. The combination of rain, mud and cold temperatures made a slippery mess. Ashlyn's pink and white snow suit quickly became black. The rain and mud forced us to park a long way from the trees and we had to walk back over the hilly tree farm to locate the trees we were allowed to cut. By the time we found the trees the kids looked like snowmen, well actually mudmen. My wife and I had mud up to our knees. We quickly cut dow the first 8 foot tree we saw and started back to the car. The way back was up hill. The kids were falling more frequently and were now crying. I was dragging the tree which became heavier as we went as it picked up mud as we went along. Finally we stopped to come up with a plan. Crying kids, a long trek up hill back to the car, 3 kids that didn't want to walk and that were covered in mud and 1 large tree. Eventually I came up with the idea of having the kids sit on the tree and hold the trunk. That way I could drag the tree and the kids at the same time. We made better progress because we weren't stopping every 2 minutes to pick up a kid who fell in the mud. People were laughing at first but by the time we reached the car others were doing the the same thing. I had invented the treebogan. We got home and hosed off the tree and the kids. You would think that would be the end of the story but no there is more.

When we set the tree in the stand we realized the tree we grabbed had a large curve in the trunk. It would not stand up in the stand. After sticking a lot of wedges in the stand we eventually go the tree to stand up. We decorate the tree and laughed. On Sunday we had friends come over for a Christmas party. About 1/2 hour into the party the tree fell over. Several of us tried to get the tree upright but the tree would not cooperate. Where we put the tree was in the corner of a room that had windows all around the outside walls. Someone suggested we get a rope and tie the tree to a nail in the wall, of course with all of the windows we couldn't put a nail in the wall. So we tied 2 ropes around the tree, opened 2 windows and ran the ropes outside. Once the ropes were outside we secured the ropes to shrubs in our yard. We never cut our own tree again, but in 28 years of marriage can you guess which Christmas tree we have never forgotten? 
This is the recipe I made last year for our Christmas dinner. It was the first time I ever made prime rib. The prime rib recipe was based on a Tyler Florence recipe I found on the Food Network website.

Prime Rib With Horseradish Crust

1 bone in prime rib beef roast, 3 ribs, about 6 pounds
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup grated fresh or prepared horseradish
Leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups canned chicken or beef broth

I made a couple of changes to this. I only used a 1/4 cup of salt and it made a good paste (described below) and I still thought that some bites seemed very salty. I started with 1 tbs of flour and the gravy was very soupy so I added one additional tbs and ended up with a thin gravy. This was ok as the leftover gravy can now be used for aus jus. The recipe took every bit of the 2 hours, if it wasn't for my children wanting to leave to get home before the snow, I would have cooked it a little longer. It was still very good and the gravy was excellent.

Here are Tyler's instructions with my comments in brackets [ ].

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the beef in a large roasting pan with the bone side down. (The ribs act as a natural roasting rack.) In a small bowl mash together the garlic, horseradish, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil to make a paste [I used a mortar and pestle to get everything finely mashed]. Massage the paste generously over the entire roast [I had enough paste to cover top and sides but not the under side where the bones are]. Put the pan in the oven and roast the beef until the internal temperature of the meat registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (medium-rare), 1 1/2 to 2 hours [See my comment above]. Remove the beef to a carving board and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Pour off some of the pan drippings and place pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. [I saved 1 tbs of drippings to go with the original 1 tbs of flour. I wished I would have saved more since I ended up adding more flour to thicken it. I would save 2 to 3 tbs if you want thicker gravy.]

Add the white wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by half. Whisk in the flour, then add the broth and continue to cook, whisking until sauce thickens into a gravy, about 10 minutes. [I would use low sodium broth if use Tyler's 1/2 cup of salt. It took longer than 10 minutes to get thicker gravy, but I had to go back and add additional flour to thicken it.]


  1. You have truly outdone yourself with this one! Amazing photo. So drool wrothy. I would love to be a guest amongst this family dinner.. the roast is perfection. Hope you all have the best year to come ever... and the happy happiest Christmas... many thanks for your continued support and friendship!

  2. That looks just amazing. What a treat to have the BEST cut of beef available. :)

  3. LOVED your Christmas tree story! :D

  4. Greg,

    We made this one the other day. Yumm!! We took your suggestion and halved the salt as well as used low-sodium beef broth. Still may reduce the salt from there just a little bit. Our other note is that we had too much olive oil. We had a hard time getting the au jus to thicken to gravy with all of the oil.

    Regardless, it was wonderful! Keep up the great work!