- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Splurge
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There is something about a big rib of beef sitting proudly on its carving board at the table that makes that table, and those around it, so immediately celebratory. The extravagance of it, the ridiculous vastness of it: this is a proper, stand-up-and-clap feast.
The Port and Stilton Gravy, grapily aromatic and tangy, is the perfect festive foil to the juicy meat. Although its inspiration – the gloriousness of blue cheese melting on top of a steak from an American grill – is not in itself seasonal, port and Stilton are the essence of English Christmas. Just the words “port and Stilton” make me hear the crackling of logs in the fire, smell the chestnuts roasting there, see twinkling tree lights and hear descanted carols. Too much? Maybe, but isn’t that the whole point of this time of the year?
I love the mixture between rich, rounded ruby port and sharp, salty cheese. The onions, sweet and soft from the beef’s roasting pan, add depth as well as texture if you liquidize them, in a blender (it doesn’t work the same way in a processor) with the broth, which, in turn, is then combined with the port and Stilton. But this Christmas gravy is good enough without, so if you don’t feel like blending or your onions are too blackened from the pan, you can dispense with this step without cause for concern.
ROAST RIB OF BEEF
- 8 ½ lbs beef standing rib roast (a 4-rib roast)
- 2 onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 2 tablespoons garlic oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt or ¾ teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
PORT AND STILTON GRAVY:
- 2 tablespoons fatty juices, from the roast beef pan
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup ruby port, plus 1 tablespoon cooked onions from the roast beef pan (optional)
- 2 cups organic beef broth, from a carton
- 1 ¼ cups crumbled blue cheese
- 1 teaspoon red currant jelly
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra juices from the roasting pan and carving board
For the Roast Rib of Beef:
1. Take your beef out of the refrigerator to bring to room temperature, which could take an hour or possibly more, and preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Put the onion slices into a roasting pan and sit the rib of beef on top of them. Use the onion slices as props to help the rib sit up on its bones in an “L” shape.
3. Smear the oil over the white fat of the rib and sprinkle with the salt, thyme and cayenne pepper.
4. Cook according to the beef’s weight and your taste. I like my beef nice and rare, so I give it 15 minutes per pound, which means, for a roast this size, a cooking time of about 2 hours unless the beef’s straight out of the refrigerator, in which case, add another 20 minutes or so. If you want medium beef, give the roast, from room temperature, 20 minutes per pound, and if you like well-done meat, 30 minutes per pound. As for feeding capacity, this size of roast will certainly look after a big tableful, from 8 with lots of leftovers to 14, without the definite promise of them.
5. When the beef comes out of the oven, remove to a carving board and allow to rest in a warm part of the kitchen under a tent of aluminum foil for 30 minutes before carving; or just leave, tented in its pan, for the same time.
6. Do not start cleaning up the pan, even if you have taken out the beef, however, as you will need some of the pan juices and onions for the gravy.
For the Port and Stilton Gravy:
1. Make a roux by adding the 2 tablespoons of fatty juices from the roasting pan to a saucepan, whisk in the flour, and then the ½ cup of port, and keep heating and whisking over a fairly gentle heat, until thick and bubbling.
2. If you want to blend the onions and broth, do so now, by putting any but the blackened onions in the blender goblet with the beef broth, and liquidizing. Or leave the broth just as it is, straight out of the carton.
3. Take the saucepan off the heat, and gradually whisk in the beef broth. When all the broth’s added, put the pan back on the heat and cook, whisking to make sure any lumps are banished, over a medium heat for 2 minutes.
4. Crumble in the blue cheese, then drop in the red currant jelly and turn up the heat to let the gravy bubble for 5 minutes.
5. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed, and then the remaining tablespoon of port, along with any bloody juices – what we called red gravy when I was a child – from the carved beef. Pour into a warmed gravy boat.
© 2008, 2009 Nigella Lawson
Nutritional information is based on 14 servings, includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, and does not include the optional ruby port.