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.
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.
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 [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."