Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Dinner

Our family has an unwritten rule that if you do something once, it becomes a tradition. This includes "big" things like Cabel bringing a Buche de Noel (Christmas Log Cake) and "little" things like Santa setting up the train under the tree.

Our traditional "big" Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve at Meegan parents. We feast on ham, cheesy potatoes, green beans, a "steakhouse" salad, and a veggie platter. It is such a rich and delicious meal that if I had it more than once a year, I'd be what my doctor would call "morbidly overweight."

Regardless, since Christmastime is family time, we try to have the family over for a (light and subdued) Christmas Day dinner. This year it was going to be just Meegan's parents.

I mumbled that I'd like to do a roast beef, but it was so expensive and I'd never done one before. Meegan chimed it that her grandfather always did a roast beef. Well, that cinched it. Roast beef it was.

What to have with the roast beast was easy: Yorkshire pudding, potatoes (in case the pudding didn't turn out), parsnips, and creamed spinach. I set off to Fred Meyer in search of meat. Fortunately for me, the butcher was setting out some rib eye roast just as I began searching. Unfortunately for him, I barraged him with dozens of questions. How long do I cook it? How do I know it's done? How do I serve it? I ended up with a 7.5 pounder and finished the rest of the shopping.

The next days were filled with many, many Internet searches and cookbook consultations on how to cook my $38 purchase.

Then, I talked to my Uncle Doug, the Ultimate Barbecuer, about all the conflicting information. He almost hung up when I told him I was going to roast the beef in the oven. His advice was to get the Weber as hot a possible, put the beef on indirect and check the temp after about an hour and a half. When I said that all the guides say that if I want medium rare to take the meat out when the meat thermometer reads 145 degrees.

"I don't care what your guides say, 145 degrees is too hot. Take it out when it read 125 degrees. The people who like their meat ruined (i.e., well done) can get the ends, and the people who like it red get the middles."

He was right.

I convection roasted the beef for 2 hours, when the meat thermometer read 120 degrees (I was worried that it was in there too long). That gave me about 35 minutes for the meat to set and to cook the rest of the food.

The result was better than I could have ever expected. The beef had a temperature for each of us--from well done to rare. The Yorkshire pudding was sublime. Creamed spinach added an elegant touch of green. And parsnips are just about my favorite veggie, so I couldn't go wrong there.

Shortbread cookies and hot chocolate made up dessert.

I think now we've added yet another traditional meal to our slate. It's a tradition I'm looking forward to.