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Holiday favorites: Main-course meat

Poaching it in butter results in a very evenly cooked, silky rib roast. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

How do Christmas and New Year’s entrees differ from Thanksgiving entrees? Well, I know people who roast a turkey for Christmas, too. But more often, we’re talking roast beef, maybe rack of lamb, perhaps goose. In short: Make something big and fancy.

We asked David Hagedorn, in his Real Entertaining column this month, to do something different from his initial goose idea, which is how he ended up writing about a truly delicious cassoulet in this week’s section. But over the past few years, we’ve had some other spiffy ideas for centerpiece-quality dishes that are perfect for the holidays.

For a budget-oriented holiday meal, consider Ris Lacoste's ham. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

About this time last year, Bonnie Benwick challenged chef Ris Lacoste, whose long-awaited eponymous restaurant opened recently, to concoct a holiday menu for 12 on a budget. The whole shebang, which ended up clocking in at only $130, featured an intensely flavored
mustard-and molasses glazed ham.

In that same Dec. 16, 2008, section, we also featured Hagedorn’s Chef on Call installment on Bourbon Steak’s Michael Mina, who went in the opposite direction and called for spending about that much money on the beef alone. The centerpiece of his holiday menu might be the most indulgent roast recipe ever: butter-poached standing rib roast.

You can make this while you sleep -- literally. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

We have recent evidence that if you’re up for the expense of not only such a piece of meat, but enough butter to immerse it in, the results will be delectable. Bonnie took this on for our staff holiday party this year, and even though its butter bath lasted a little longer than expected, the beef was positively luscious.

Almost two years ago, we just barely missed the holidays for Steve Katz’s popular piece on the easy, very effective technique of slow-roasting beef. But plenty of readers have used it for their Christmas and New Year’s menus since. The second-best thing about the slow-roasted beef recipe, after its general ease and excellent result, is that its leftovers easily lead into a roast beef hash spiked with beer sauce and pickled peppers.

Some other ideas:

It's not roasted, but it's holiday goose nonetheless. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

* White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford’s take on rack of lamb, this one with rosemary-mustard glaze.

* From New Orleans food critic, author and radio-show host Tom Fitzmorris, a delicious ham glazed with root beer and mustard.

* From another New Orleanian, pastry chef David Guas, comes this holiday goose: really just the breasts, marinated in a simple combination of orange juice, Worcestershire sauce and honey, then cooked in a skillet. It may not meet the "make it big" part of the instruction I began this blog post with. But it sure qualifies as fancy. Besides, a whole roast goose should be so easy, and delicious.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  December 23, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
 | Tags: Christmas, Joe Yonan, holiday favorites  
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