Prime Rib of Beef Au Jus

By Kurt Michael Friese

Nothing is more impressive on a holiday table than a roast prime rib of beef. Ask your butcher to prepare a 12-pound prime rib roast, with the fat cap left on and bones left in.

prime-rib-recipe12-pound bone-in prime rib roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 cups beef stock

Preheat your oven to 325.

Rub the ends of the roast with the olive oil, then firmly massage the garlic, salt and pepper into the top (the fat cap) of the roast. Nestle it in a large roasting pan, at least 2 inches deep, and place in the center of the oven. Roast for 2-3 hours, basting with the accumulated fat every half hour. At one hour in, add the chopped vegetables to the pan with the thyme and stir to combine with the drippings.

At about 2 hours, check the internal temperature by sticking an instant read thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the roast (Once a roast reaches 100 the temperature will wise at an accelerated rate, so check every 10 minutes or so. Try to use the same hole each time, as poking it in many places allows more juices to escape).

When the internal temperature has reached 120, remove from the oven. Move the roast to a carving block and cover with foil or an inverted pot and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. This allows the meat to relax, the juices to redistribute, and makes for an even medium rare as the residual heat raises the internal temperature to 125-130.

Strain off and reserve about 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan (for the Yorkshire Pudding) and increase oven temperature to 425. Meanwhile, place the roasting pan with the vegetables over medium heat on the stove and add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes the strain, reserving the jus. Taste for salt, adjust and serve.

Yorkshire Pudding

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons roast beef fat or lard
3 tablespoons cold water

An hour in advance: Whisk eggs with the salt until frothy. Mix in the flour, whisking constantly. Add the milk in a thin stream and beat until the mixture is smooth. Chill for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a 12×9 casserole, heat the beef fat or lard on the stovetop until it sizzles. Beat the batter once more, adding the cold water. Pour into the sizzling fat and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the dish, lower the heat to 400, and cook an additional 15 minutes. It should be well risen, crisp, and brown. Serve very hot with Prime Rib of Beef Au Jus.

Serves 12-16

Feast Without Frenzy: Keep it Light

No doubt, there are a lot of heavy things that crop up during the holidays. Cookies, roasts, various casseroles . . . your sister-in-law’s confession, Grandma’s harping on your bangs. But there’s nothing saying you can’t mount a counter strategy, for the food at least. Keeping your non-crucial meals lighter will lighten your spirit too (ever notice how grumpy and sluggish you feel when you’ve been eating heavy food day after day)?

Here are ten main course meals that won’t weight you down.

keep-lightPumpkin Curry — Gewurztraminer pairs beautifully with this creamy, spicy, aromatic pumpkin curry. If you have a lime tree, crumple up a leaf and throw it into the curry as it simmers (then discard)—it will perfume the dish much as kaffir lime leaves do.

Asian Turkey Salad — After heavy holiday meals, this bright, fresh salad is a nice, light respite. If you don’t have leftover turkey on hand, it would also be great with shredded chicken.

Barramundi with Chile and Shallots — Barramundi’s meaty yet flaky texture makes it a good pair for dishes with an Asian flair. Like this one, with caramelized shallots and chile and a savory splash of fish sauce. You can find barramundi at many fish counters these days, or in the frozen section of several supermarkets.

Simplest Roast Chicken — I’ll admit it: I’m a lazy chicken roaster. There are techniques that have you rotating the bird every few minutes so that it turns an even brown, but I like to pop it in the oven and not think about it again (aside from swooning over the scent) until the timer goes off for good. And good—very good—is what we’ve found this bird to be. You don’t have to use an organic, free-range chicken, but we’ve found that it pays off in both flavor and juiciness.

Fennel Blood Orange Salad with Miso Vinaigrette — I dare you to attach the word “deprivation” to this salad. The bitter blood orange, the earthy miso, the crunchy fennel, the hit of sweet juice and the bite of arugula all come together in a festival of flavors and textures. Top it with a mound of crab meat to make a gorgeous main course salad, or pair it with Simplest Roast Chicken or Crisp Cornish Game Hens.

Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Cups — I find that finger food naturally slows down a meal and focuses attention. When you’ve got juice dripping down your wrist and have to reach over your neighbor for the lettuce platter, it’s hard not to have the meal take on a different tenor.

Curried Mussels — I first fell in love with mussels years ago in France. Now, more and more, they’re one of my go-to weeknight foods. Mussels cook up super fast, they produce a flavorful broth with very few added calories, they’re at the top of the A-list in terms of sustainable seafood and, as if that’s not enough, they’re economical too.

Farfalle with Sausage and Arugula PestoRight about now, I get to craving the aromatic bliss of basil. But it’s tough to find in winter, and tends to be somewhat bland–and expensive–if you do. My seasonal secret? I use arugula, which is abundant right now both in my garden and on market shelves. The fresher the arugula, the more pungent the whole experience will be; for even more punch, pound the pesto in a mortar and pestle.

Classic Blackened Catfish — This dish brings back memories of my college days in New Orleans when I used to make it at least once a week. Little did I know then that I was making a sustainable pick! I’ll warn you from experience; your fire alarm will probably go off, so have a towel handy to fan the smoke away.

Crisp Cornish Game Hens with Pomegranate Honey Glaze — Removing the skin from the hens both decreases calories and increases the impact of this vibrant, spicy glaze. If you’ve never cooked with Cornish hens before, you’re in for a treat.

Feast without Frenzy: Freeze It

One of the easiest ways to free up time once house guests arrive is to have an arsenal of homemade frozen meals already prepared. And I don’t mean Birdseye. I’m talking chili, soups, braises, grains, pulses and even meat like pork carnitas and duck confit. The trick is to choose the best candidates to freeze. Here are three tips for scrumptious freezer meals.


Some foods are just better suited to freezing than others. Here’s a quick guide:

DO freeze these:

  • Meat (whole cuts and ground), poultry and fish, both raw and cooked (use common sense here . . . things like breaded chicken fingers are great to freeze fully cooked; temperature-sensitive cuts like steaks, on the other hand, not so much)
  • Grated cheese, milk and butter
  • Cooked beans, pulses and whole grains
  • Cooked bread, cakes and cookies
  • Raw pastry, pizza and cookie dough
  • Stocks, broths, soups, stews, chili, braises and casseroles
  • Butter and milk (shake well once thawed)

DON’T freeze these:

  • Eggs—either raw or hard-boiled
  • Vegetables and fruit with a high water content like lettuce, cucumber, jicama and melon
  • Gravies and thickened sauces
  • Fully-cooked potatoes and pasta
  • Yogurt and sour cream

Whatever you DO freeze, though, freeze it as fresh as possible. Freezing in essence pauses the process of spoiling, but it doesn’t reverse the process. Foods frozen fresh will taste best when thawed.

Chill Individually and Quickly. Pour liquids into a metal pot or bowl and set in an ice bath (a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water) or place in a wide, shallow container in the fridge (uncovered) until cool, then transfer to a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag. I like to store liquids in zip-top bags frozen flat so they can be stacked in the freezer.

Arrange smaller portions of solid cooked foods in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lay (carefully) in the freezer until frozen solid. Then wrap the pieces loosely in parchment paper and seal in a freezer-safe zip-top bag, pressing out air before closing. Chill casseroles uncovered in the fridge and, if keeping whole, seal with a covering of heavy-duty foil before freezing. Or cut them into individual portions and follow the cookie sheet procedure above.

Label, Time and Thaw. Label everything you freeze. You may be absolutely certain you’ll remember it was chicken fingers you froze, but trust me, in a month or two they’ll look suspiciously like the fish sticks you froze a week later. Use a permanent marker to label each container with the name of the dish and the date you froze it. Most foods can keep for quite some time in the freezer, but their quality begins to deteriorate after about three months. So plan accordingly.

Don’t ever thaw food at room temperature—the outside will dwell in the “danger zone” (40 – 140 degrees) while the inside continues to defrost. Instead, either thaw in the fridge (allowing roughly five hours per pound) or the microwave. In general, food frozen raw should be thawed before cooking while most cooked dishes can be reheated from their frozen state; just be sure they’re cooked completely through before serving.

Revelationary Duck Confit

This duck confit recipe, originally inspired by the Revisionist Confit of Duck Leg in Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cook, is one that has been repeated over and over again in our house. Because the duck legs are cooked in their own fat and juices–rather than being simmered in a layer of duck fat–it is loads lighter than traditional versions, yet still fall-off-the-bone succulent. I normally kick off winter by cooking up a dozen and freezing them. Whole, they’re delicious crisped up in a frying pan or the oven. Or shred their meat into salads, soups, pasta–even dumplings or tacos.

duck-confit-recipe3 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 bay leaves
5 tablespoons salt
12 duck legs

In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, pound or grind fennel seeds, juniper berries, peppercorns, garlic and bay leaves until a rough paste forms. Mix in the salt so the mixture is the consistency of coarse, wet sand.

Lay the duck legs out in a single layer in two roasting pans and rub on both sides with the spice mixture. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Remove covering from roasting pans and dab spice mixture off duck with a paper towel. Wipe out any liquid in the pan as well. Place a sheet of heavy-duty foil over each roasting pan and press down slightly to it rests closely to the duck. Seal well all around the edges. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before uncovering.

If using immediately, either shred meat or crisp in a frying pan or on a cookie sheet in a 450 degree F oven. If freezing, lay out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place flat in freezer until frozen solid. Then wrap loosely in parchment paper and seal in a freezer-safe zip-top bag.

Serves 12

Honey-Drizzled Banana Fritters

By Cheryl Sternman Rule

This recipe gets its sweetness from turbinado sugar, honey, and bananas, which become delightfully soft and almost custardy.  Because it’s traditional to eat foods fried in oil during Hanukkah, look no further if you celebrate this festive holiday.

banana-fritters-recipe1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons turbinado or (light or dark) brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup lowfat milk
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
6 bananas, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
Canola oil for frying
Honey for drizzling

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on a piece of waxed paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, whole egg, egg yolk, and almond extract. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet and stir gently with a rubber spatula to combine.  Add banana chunks and stir to coat.

Affix a candy thermometer to a deep saucepan, and add one inch of oil. Bring oil slowly up to 375 degrees. (Adjust heat as necessary to maintain this temperature throughout frying.)  Working in batches, carefully spoon battered banana chunks into hot oil, four to six at a time, without crowding the pan. Fry until golden brown, 1-2 minutes per side, turning them carefully as they bob. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Drizzle hot fritters with honey and serve immediately.

Makes 35-40 fritters

Sweetness and Light: the Low Down on Natural Sweeteners

by Cheryl Sternman Rule

For some people, trying to choose a sweetener is like trying to pick a cereal: with so much variety, it’s tough to know which to buy.

Complicating matters is the fact that in recent years, the mainstream availability of once-fringe products has bloomed, so sweetening your morning coffee or tea, or your homemade brownies and fruit crisps, is less straightforward than ever. Given that we’re now knee-deep in the holiday baking season, it’s high time to provide some clarity.

sweeteners-postOften, finding the right sweetener for the job is simply a matter of taste. Other times it’s crucial to the success of a recipe.

Here’s a rundown of some of the natural sweeteners you might encounter at the market:

Agave nectar: Produced from the agave cactus plant, this natural liquid sweetener is hailed by vegans and those who watch their blood sugar levels, as agave is lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners. While sweeter than sugar, agave is also more calorically dense; you’ll need less to sweeten your foods, but don’t mistake it for a “diet” food.

Stevia: Another natural, plant-based sweetener, stevia’s journey to the U.S. marketplace has been storied. In the 1980s, controversy surrounding potential fertility and reproductive concerns kept the FDA from awarding stevia GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status, but this status was awarded to the extract of stevia – called Reb A, rather than the whole leaf version – in 2008. Branded under names like Truvia and PureVia, stevia is sweeter than sugar and won’t raise blood sugar levels. Still, some groups continue to call for further research and testing to be completely convinced of its safety.

Honey: Varietal honeys, which come from the nectar of a single plant variety (much like single source wine varietals) are becoming more popular in this country, though most honey contains a mash-up of different plant nectars. Sweeter than sugar, honey’s color, intensity, and flavor are determined by the nectar of the plants from which it is produced.  (Some are herbaceous and floral, while others are dark and earthy.)  Taste different honeys to determine your favorite.

Maple syrup: Native to Canada and New England, maple syrup is made from tree sap that has been boiled until thick. Its grades are determined by when in the season it was produced, with light colored Grade A considered early season syrup and darker Grade B syrup produced later. Always seek out “pure” maple syrup to avoid additives.

Sugar: The granddaddy of sweeteners, sugar derives from either sugar beets or sugarcane, may be refined or unrefined, and can come in a spectrum of shades depending on the type.

Refined Sugar: Granulated white sugar is the most widely available, and most highly refined, sugar used in this country. As with refined flours, refined sugar has had the natural nutrients stripped from it during the refining process. The sugar we know as “brown sugar” in supermarkets is also refined white sugar, only it’s had molasses (a byproduct of the sugar refining process) added back in for color. Whether it’s labeled as “light” or “dark” only has to do with how much molasses is added. Powdered (confectioners) sugar is simply pulverized refined sugar, and is best used for frostings.

Unrefined Sugar: On the unrefined side, you’ll find natural brown sugar like turbinado (often called demerara in the Europe) with its large, dry, light brown crystals and muscavado, a very coarse, sticky, dark brown sugar. Turbinado can generally be subbed for refined white and light brown sugar. If you use muscavado in lieu of dark brown sugar, reduce the liquid content of the recipe by a bit to compensate for the sugar’s moisture—and be prepared for a strong molasses flavor. Jaggery, piloncillo and Sucanat™ are other types of unrefined sugar. In addition to having more complex flavor, unrefined sugars retain the minerals from the cane and beet plants they’re made from.

Whichever sweeteners you choose for any given application, you’ll want to consider the following factors: flavor, sweetness, caloric density (the number of calories per ounce), viscosity, level of refinement, impact on blood sugar, and the ability to cream, brown, or moisten your baked goods.

Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment.  With so many opportunities to bake this month, and to give homemade joy to your loved ones, it’s a great time to branch out and tinker.


Cheryl Sternman Rule is a food and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, including EatingWell and Body+Soul. She is the voice behind the food blog 5 Second Rule.

Child’s Play: A Salad Story

The seeds for this piece were planted when, on a trying evening, I recruited my daughter to help me make a “special” salad and pouts and whines (from both of us) turned to laughter and pensive smiles. Here’s a poem inspired by the spirit of that night . . .

child's-play‘Twas a night before Christmas and all through the day, visions of pomegranates and persimmons had played.
I thought to myself, “What a lovely salad this would be,” and was pretty darned sure my husband would agree.

When what to my weary knees should appear, but a wailing toddler in full princess gear.
“My shoes don’t fit, my nose it runs, and I don’t like the look of this one!”

Up to her stool I whisked her, inspired. I gathered my fruits. “Will you help me?” I inquired.
I filled a bowl with water and placed it before her. Then ripped open a pomegranate and gave her a quarter.

“You see?” I teased out the garnet seeds. “They’re beautiful,” I said, and my daughter agreed.
She splashed joyfully and, with surprising speed, managed to get out every last little seed.

By this time, both of our spirits were soaring and suddenly this salad was anything but boring.
A handful of pecans onto parchment I spread, and taught Noemi to crush them without hitting her head.

She patted and shaped each cheese disc just right, while I dressed the greens and the persimmons did slice.
We assembled the salad and then took our places, and I noticed with joy smiles on everyone’s faces.

Our plates were full, our hearts were light. A delicious meal for all, and for all a good night.

Persimmon & Pomegranate Salad with Pecan-Coated Goat Cheese

This colorful fall salad pairs two fall treasures: the persimmon and the pomegranate. If you have wee ones, put them to work seeding the pomegranate. Fill a deep bowl with water, cut the pomegranate in half, and show them how to keep their hands below water while they work. The seeds will drop to the bottom and the peel will float to the top, and you’ll have a neat and happy helper come mealtime.

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad with Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese

1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 pecan halves, toasted
4 ounces soft, young goat cheese
6 cups salad greens
1 fuyu persimmon, sliced in half and then into thin wedges
1 pomegranate, seeds removed and reserved

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees F.

Shake together shallot, vinegar, olive oil, molasses,  salt and pepper in a tight-sealing jar. Set aside.

Place the pecans in a zip-top plastic bag and gently crush with a rolling pin until they’re the texture of coarse sand. Cut the goat cheese into 8 pieces and shape each into a fat disc. Press into the pecans to coat on both sides and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes.

Toss together greens and persimmons in a salad bowl. Give the dressing one more shake and pour it over the top. Toss to mix and portion out onto 4 salad plates. Top each serving with 2 slices goat cheese rounds and sprinkle evenly with pomegranate seeds.

Serves 4

Feast Without Frenzy: Plan Ahead

Mention the phrase “meal plan” and you’ll likely hear a litany of reasons for why there’s no time. Yet even 15 minutes to plan ahead can help you set a simple framework that will make your holiday feast less stressful. Here are three steps to crafting a plan for your holiday meals.

feast-without-frenzy-plan-aheadStep 1 — Brainstorm. I always like to start my meals planning with a fun brainstorming session. Pen and paper in hand (and often a glass of wine too), I jot down recipes that have caught my eye and ideas I’ve been wanting to try. Right now, my menus for Christmas week include “awesome potato something,” “duck confit” and “winter salad with persimmons, pomegranate and frisée.” And I’ll continue to add to the general list as my family’s arrival date draws near. Let yourself get creative during this stage; part of its purpose is to get you excited about cooking rather than dreading what’s ahead.

Step 2 — Fit the pieces together. Once you have a list of recipes you’d like to make, it’s time to assign what to when. Make a rough grid—either on a pad of paper or on your computer—with the days of the big gathering on the top and the meals of the day on the left. Fill in the big meals and work backwards, fitting in dishes like pieces of a puzzle. Think about the logistics not just of the big feast, but of each day surrounding it. On a busy day, go with an easy pasta or stir-fry for dinner. If you’ve got a game-night planned, put a pork shoulder in the oven for tomorrow’s lunch. Follow a heavier day with lighter soups and salads. The idea is to strike a balance–of filling and light, of fancy and casual, of complex and super-quick–so your meals complement the dynamics of the days rather than becoming stressful to-dos.

Step 3 — Make an initial list. Once you’ve brainstormed and fit your pieces together (and don’t be shy about crossing out and shifting around . . . this is a work in progress, after all), make a quick list of the major items you’ll need. You can work out specifics as the dates approach, but having a rough idea of what’s ahead can help prevent being stuck without eggs, or ripe pears or avocados, or a special cut of meat come mealtime.

This week, bring a bit of goodness and light to your gathering by taking some time to plan out your holiday meals.

Carnitas de Lia

These carnitas are based on a recipe by Michele Anna Jordan that I’ve been using for years. Because the pork is braised in its own juice, these carnitas are much lighter than the traditional version, which is cooked in ample fat. Serve this Mexican-style pulled pork with guacamole, lime wedges, salsa and a basket of hot tortillas.