"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Herb-Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib Roast - A Holiday Feast!

My favorite holiday is Christmas.  Growing up in Haiti, Christmas to our family was about the "3 Fs" - Faith, Family, and Food.  Even being here - thousands of miles away, and now having children of my own, Christmas still means the same thing to me as it did when I was growing up.

This Christmas is no different.  On Christmas Eve, we all went to mass.  My daughter sang with her school choir (I was so proud of her).  On Christmas morning, I was so overjoyed watching the children's faces when they ran upstairs to the fireplace and saw that Santa had eaten the cookies, drank the milk, and the reindeer had eaten the carrots and drank the water the kids had left for them on Christmas Eve night.  Then, they reached into their stockings to see what Santa had left for them. The purity of their innocence brought tears of joy to my eyes.

For Christmas dinner, I wanted to make something special for my family.  I made this amazing and delicious herb-and-horseradish-crusted Beef Prime Rib Roast, roasted with red onions and root vegetables (a recipe that is inspired by a dish made by Tyler Florence from the Food Network). I served the Roast with pecan-crusted mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and a green salad with my own homemade balsamic vinegar dressing.

You may think that a prime rib roast may be overwhelming or expensive.  Actually, it is fairly simple to make.  And, if you buy it at Costco, the USDA Choice cut (the second best cut of beef, with Prime being the first) is about $6 per pound.

For dessert, I made this delicious apple and maple syrup bread pudding (courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine, January 2010) [http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Apple-and-Maple-Bread-Pudding-356873].  I modified this slightly.  Bon Appetit recommends using 2 Tablespoons of apple brandy.  Well, a bottle of Apple Brandy was about $25.  I couldn't justify buying a whole bottle.  So, I just used regular brandy that I had in my pantry.  Doesn't the picture alone make you want to try it?

As for the wine, we tried two special bottles of wine.  One was a bottle of Portalupi Pinot Noir (Russian River, Sonoma, CA).  One of my dearest and closest friends, Tara -- whom I met in College at UC Berkeley years ago -- was visiting from New York for the holidays, and gave us this bottle of wine as a Christmas present.

This Pinot is pure sophistication!   The winemakers describe it perfectly when they say: "Aromas of strawberry/rhubarb mingle with allspice and tea. Flavors of milk chocolate covered cherries along with strawberry/vanilla cream intertwine with intriguing truffle-like nuances. The body is medium weight yet expansively full across the palate. The finish, clean, with lingering call for ..... MORE!!!"  I have never tasted a Pinot this well-structured and elegant. 

Tara, Patrick, and I have made so many wonderful memories when we lived in Berkeley, especially those that revolve around cooking dinners together and experimenting with different types of wine until we found some that we really liked. It was so wonderful to share Christmas dinner with you, Tara.  We can't wait until you move back to the Bay Area so we can continue our dinner parties and sharing more wines together. We've missed you!

The other bottle was Joel Gott "815" Cabernet Souvignon (Oakville, CA 2006) that I bought at Safeway for $13.  This Cabernet was really good with the roast. It is very elegant, well-balanced and simply enjoyable.  It has a nice, deep ruby red color, and evokes aromas of ripened fresh berries, with a hint of mocha.  Its flavors are structured, reflecting tastes of blackberries, mocha, a hint of vanilla and mild peppercorns.  On the palate, it is very silky, smooth, with soft tannins and a nice finish.  What does the "815" stand for?  The winemakers' homepage says that it commemorates the birth of their first child, who was born on August 15, 2003 [http://www.gottwines.com/wines/CA_CS/2006/06CACS.htm].  This statement from the winemakers so perfectly captures the essence of my blog: "Why 815? During the 2003 harvest our first child was born. The 815 moniker is our way of commemorating Lucy's birth on August 15th. At four years old, each continue to thrive and evolve reminding us of the importance of celebrating family and enjoying life."

For the "decor", my very artistic and stylish daughter helped me set the table.  She did a fabulous job writing the place cards, putting the napkins in the napkin rings and setting the knives and forks.  [She loves to help set the table.]

I hope next time you and your family are celebrating something special (or maybe next time you want to make something special for your family to enjoy), you will try these recipes and these wines.  And, if you do, please do write a comment and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Happy Holidays!


1 bone-in prime rib beef roast (3 ribs, about 6 pounds)
1/2 cup of combined fresh Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Rosemary (finely chopped)
5 cloves of garlic (crushed or finely minced)
1/2 cup of Prepared Horseradish
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons
About 2 Tablespoons of Kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon of butter
3 Carrots
2 Parsnips (or any other root vegetables you like similar to Parsnips) (peeled and sliced length-wise in 1/4
2 Red onions (peeled and cut cross-wise in 1/2)
4 Purple potatoes (you can use red, or Yukon gold potatoes)
1 whole head of garlic (cut crosswise in 1/2)

1 cup of Beef stock (or broth)
1/2 cup of good red wine (use from the bottle you about to drink with the roast)
1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Take the Roast out of the refrigerator and let it stand for about 1 hour before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together the herbs, garlic, horseradish, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Butter the roast to keep in the moisture.  Season the roast generously with about 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Rub the herb mixture all over the roast.  Place the roast (bone side down) on a roasting pan.

Season the vegetables with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix them all together to coat the seasoning.  Arrange the vegetables, except for the potatoes around the roast in the pan (you will add the potatoes during the last 30 minutes of cooking).

Place the roasting pan in the oven.  Cook at the 450-degree for 15 minutes. (Rule of thumb: No matter what size of roast you have, it's important to cook it at 450 degrees for the first 15 minutes.)  Then, reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast to your desired temperature/doneness, which is between 1 1/2 hour to 2 hours, depending on how you like your meat done (make sure you baste the roast every 1/2 hour).  Here is a great website that has suggestions for cooking prime rib roast and how to tell when it is done:  http://www.primesteakhouses.com/how-to-cook-prime-rib.html. 
According to this website, rare meats measure in at 120° to 125° with a bright red center that grows slightly pinkish towards the exterior. Medium rare meats measure between 130° to 135° and are characterized by their extremely pink center portion that grows brown towards the exterior. Medium meats have a light pink center, brown outer portions and readings of about 140° to 145°. Medium well is not pink at all and is achieved at 150° to 155°. Well done is reached at 160° and above and is characterized by a uniform brown color.  Remember: when the meat is done, pull it out of the oven, cover it with a foil, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  It will continue to cook up to about 10 degrees.

When you are ready to make the gravy, move the roast and vegetables from the pan onto a platter, and cover the roast with the foil.  Remove some of the top grease from the pan, but leave the browning bits on the bottom of the pan.  Turn on the stove to medium-low heat.  Add the wine to de-glaze the pan.  Stir in about 1 teaspoon of the broth in the flour to liquify the flour.  Pour it into the pan.  Then, pour the rest of the stock into the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let it simmer until the sauce is slightly thicker (not too thick).  Pour the gravy into a gravy bowl, and serve with the roast after you carve the slices.  Enjoy!

4 Large sweet potatoes (or yams)
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese (about 1 small container)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup of chopped candied pecans (Trader Joe's has some that are delicious)
1/2 Tablespoon of unsalted butter

Cooking Instructions
Grease a baking dish with the butter on all sides.  Bake the sweet potatoes, with skin and wrapped in foil, while the roast is cooking for about 45 minutes (or until soft).  Remove the potatoes from the oven, and let them stand for 30 minutes (or until cooled).  Peel the potatoes, and mash them.  Stir in the mascarpone cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Pour mashed potatoes in the greased baking dish.  Top it with the pecans.  Bake for about 1/2 hour, and remove from the oven.  When the roast is out of the oven, turn on the broiler to medium.  Broil the top of the sweet potatoes until the pecans have a nice golden brown color (about 3 minutes; watch out so you don't burn the pecans).  Serve the potatoes with the roast.

About 1 pound of brussels sprouts (washed) 
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Steam the brussels sprouts for about 5 minutes (just until they are softened up a bit, but still firm).  Place the steamed brussels sprouts in a shallow baking dish.  Season them with salt and pepper, and the olive oil.  Mix them so they can coat with the seasoning.  Bake them in the oven (with the roast in) for about 30 minutes or until they have some nice grill/golden color, and are soft when you insert a fork in them.

APPLE AND MAPLE BREAD PUDDING (Bon Appetit, Jan. 2010, as modified)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons apple brandy [NOTE: I used plain Brandy to save $$, and it was still delicious]
1 1-pound loaf pain rustique, all crust trimmed, bread cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (6 1/2 to 7 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 5), peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices (about 7 cups)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup plus additional for brushing (preferably Grade B)
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
Cooking Instructions

For custard:
Whisk eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt in large bowl. Add milk, cream, and brandy and whisk until well blended. Add bread cubes and press to submerge into custard. Let soak at least 30 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread cubes to submerge.
For apples:
Meanwhile, position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 9x5-inch glass or ceramic loaf pan with at least 3-inch-high sides. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple slices and sauté until deep golden and beginning to soften, stirring and turning apple slices frequently, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup maple syrup, then brown sugar. Simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens to syrup, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Mix half of apple slices into bread custard mixture. Transfer bread pudding mixture to prepared pan. Arrange remaining apple slices atop bread pudding in 2 lengthwise rows. Spoon any remaining syrup from skillet over apple slices. Place loaf pan on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills during baking).

Bake bread pudding until puffed and cracked on top, apples are deep brown, and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pudding registers 170°F to 180°F, about 1 hour 30 minutes (pudding will rise high above top of pan). Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature 45 minutes to 1 hour (pudding will fall). Brush apples on top of pudding with additional maple syrup. Spoon pudding into bowls and serve warm or at room temperature.


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