Every week, Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.
Today: A rib roast that won't let you down, even when you abandon it.
I'm really going to do it. Forgive me! I'm going to compare an utterly genius recipe for rib roast of beef to Angry Birds. I lack the eloquence of Craig Claiborne or Amanda Hesser, who have, in turns, kept this recipe alive and made it legendary. Instead, I'm going for the easy sell.
Let me explain.
Ann Seranne was a prolific cookbook author, a sometime editor of Gourmet magazine, and the woman responsible for developing this roast beef recipe, which is not only foolproof and perfect in its results, but also is designed to fit neatly into your life and holiday feasting schedule.
"Relax." It was both an instruction and a promise in Claiborne's game-changing New York Times article in 1966. Because, aside from a few necessary steps, that's all you can really do.
Here are those steps: You should remember to buy the rib roast, and to take it out of the refrigerator in the morning. Then you must massage it with a little flour, salt and pepper (I hope you're not getting too tired). Then -- stay with me -- you'll need to properly read a chart to determine exactly how long to roast the thing at a blazing 500 degrees (5 pounds? 30 minutes.) before shutting off the oven. Then you will have to control yourself not to peek inside for 2 hours.
Sound too stressful? Seranne points out you can always go out "for a game of golf or an appointment at the hairdresser." Or more realistically, make your sides and dessert, vacuum, and practice pouring cocktails. You can abandon the roast for up to 4 hours and it will still be warm and ready to serve. Seranne explains, "I've never trusted meat thermometers." Me neither!
Her hurry-up-and-wait method is akin to releasing a slingshot, or getting a running start before you hurtle down a slip 'n slide, or, with a flick of a finger, sending an angry little bird arcing toward a tottering house full of pigs. But imagine doing all those things with a sensei guiding you, so that you'll never miss your mark. Seranne is that roast beef sensei.
As Amanda explained in her Recipe Redux column from earlier this year, this roast is so delicious not just because it's perfectly cooked, but also because the blanket of flour crisps up into an unbelievable crust. It mimics the classic technique of dredging things in flour, salt and pepper before frying (which I'm pretty sure my grandmother used on every piece of meat that ever wandered through her kitchen, with great success).
But frying a roast would be dangerous and not genius. Sizzling a flour-dusted fat cap of a roast at 500 degrees? Genius.
I recommend that you read Claiborne's and Amanda's stories in their entirety too. You'll get to see a modern adaptation of the recipe using dry-aged ribeye and panko, and learn that Seranne was also a devoted breeder of small dogs.
It's sad to think that, unlike other cooks who were catapaulted to fame by Claiborne (like Marcella Hazan and Paul Prudhomme), Seranne is rarely talked about these days, other than in the context of this recipe.
Just imagine the gems lurking in all those back issues of Gourmet, in all the books she wrote -- from the revolutionary and grand (1,001 Ideas for Parties, Fairs and Suppers; Good Food without Meat) to the banal but surely useful (The Complete Book of Freezer Cookery).
Let's all try to find those gems, shall we? Next time you see a book by Seranne at a dusty antiquarian cookbook store or on your mother's shelf, crack it open. You can play Angry Birds later.
Ann Seranne's Rib Roast of Beef
Makes about 2 servings per rib
From "Ann Seranne's Recipe for a Perfect Roast: Put it in the Oven and Relax", The New York Times, July 28, 1966
One 2- to 4-rib roast of beef, weighing 4 1/2 to 12 pounds
Freshly ground black pepper
Want more genius? Try Flo Braker's Pains d'Amande
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by James Ransom