Holiday Eats

By Amy Zarichnak

As someone who cooks for a living, I get bombarded with questions about food all the time. However, it seems that the questions I get asked most are questions about what I make for my loved ones during the holidays. Whether you’re simply wanting to make the tastiest dishes for the people you love, or if you’re looking to impress your guests (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love to get compliments on their food?!), it pays to have a couple dishes in your repertoire that are easy and delicious, but also extraordinary enough to “wow” your guests. 
I have a hard time getting my family to try new things, and they like to have the same dishes year after year (“Or it doesn’t feel like Christmas!” according to my brother). However, I usually try to sneak in at least one new side dish or appetizer every year. Sometimes it’s a keeper, and sometimes they don’t love it the way I thought they would.
I have decided to share some of my family’s “keeper” recipes for this holiday season. We usually do a tapas meal for Christmas Eve, full of cocktail meatballs, cheese and meat platters, fondue, crudité, dips, and small bites. For Christmas, we do a prime rib, and it’s outstanding. New Year’s is again about a smorgasbord of small plates. However, no matter what holiday(s) you celebrate, you’re sure to find something below to crush your craving or satisfy your sweet tooth.
As much as we love to eat, keep in mind that the season is actually about those people with whom you spend the holidays!  My family has the story about the time my grandmother dropped the turkey, and the year I brought home a new boyfriend only to have juices from the roast spill out into the oven, smoking us all out of the house for an hour as the smoke alarm screeched.  These things add to our history as families, and make us laugh over the years. Your food doesn’t have to be perfect for memories to be made. Food is important, but family is why we cook!

Garlic and Rosemary Rubbed Prime Rib with Au Jus and Horseradish Sauce
My parents were always undecided about what to have for Christmas until I started cooking more, and I felt that the best meal for my red-meat loving family was a prime rib. As it turns out, my mom was just not comfortable preparing such a large (and expensive!) piece of meat, worried that she’d make a mistake, but it’s quite simple. It’s also extremely delicious and makes for a rich, satisfying holiday dinner when paired with your favorite potato dish – we do either twice-baked or garlic-mashed with the skins on – and a vegetable. Make Yorkshire puddings as a traditional accompaniment.  

Prep time:  25 minutes
Marination time:  Up to 24 hours
Cook time:  1 hr, 45 mins to 2 hrs 30 min.
Makes approximately ten 1” slice servings of prime rib

1/2 cup rough-chopped fresh rosemary, 
plus 2 teaspoons minced and reserved
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
10 large garlic cloves, chopped, plus 2
cloves minced and reserved
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 -10lb well-trimmed beef rib roast, tied (bone-in will yield more flavor, but boneless will work)

Add rosemary, oil, garlic, and salt to a food processor and pulse to a chunky paste. Massage into the beef roast while standing in a roasting pan. Massage into the bottom of the roast as well. Cover and chill for up to one day.

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Uncover beef and roast in oven for 30 minutes for a nice crust on your roast. Turn the heat down to 350°F and roast for another 45 minutes. Temp your roast by placing a thermometer into the center of your roast (from the top).  Your roast will be around 120°F degrees for rare, 130°F for medium rare, and 140°F for medium. Add cooking time as needed, but pull the roast from the oven when the temperature reaches the desired doneness. Reserving all the juice, gently remove the roast from the roasting pan to a large cutting board. Let the roast stand, loosely covered with foil, for a minimum of 20 minutes for juices to redistribute and for carry-over cooking to allow the roast to reach its desired doneness, up to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, skim all fat from the juice, and simmer lightly in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5 – 10 minutes, until slightly reduced. Taste, and add reserved rosemary, garlic, and salt and pepper as needed. Beef broth can be added if juice doesn’t yield enough to serve all your guests.

Slice roast into 1” – 1.5” slices and serve with au jus and horseradish sauce (recipe below).

Horseradish Sauce
Prep time:  15 minutes
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

1 ½ cups sour cream
2 tablespoons – 1/3 cup prepared horseradish, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped chives, for garnish

In a small bowl, mix first three ingredients together. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve in small ramekins garnished with a sprinkling of chopped chives.