The holidays may be just past, but any time is a great time to celebrate good food and good friends.
So, I was excited when a friend asked about recipes for making a prime rib for company.
The first thing that came to my mind was encrusting the beef in salt or a mixture of peppercorns or a blend of herbs.
A co-worker also immediately suggested salt-crusting the meat and even could run through basics of a recipe from a kosher-salt container by heart.
While it sounds intimidating, marinating prime rib, tenderloin or beef roast, then encrusting it isn’t difficult. But it is a wonderful way to retain the juices of the meat while imparting amazing flavor.
Don’t worry. Salt encrusting doesn’t make the meat salty. The marinade provides a barrier to keep the salt from taking over, and you simply brush away any salt remaining after cracking the crust.
You can take short cuts, but it’s well worth starting the marinating the day before you will cook the meat.
I love herb-encrusted meats because I like to tinker with flavors. And, while I use little salt, pepper is great.
A few years ago, some of my family tired of the traditional turkey for Christmas, and we made prime rib, instead.
We marinated the meat overnight, then went through the steps to encrust it in salt and cook it. Divine.
If you’d like to try salt encrusting, here is a recipe from Morton International, the salt folks, that was provided to Just Ask Joyce column in The Billings Gazette a few years ago. Designed for a sirloin-tip roast, the recipe can be used for prime rib or tenderloin.
HERBED ROAST BEEF IN SALT CRUST
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. ground pepper (black or white)
1 boneless beef roast, between 4 and 6 lbs.
1 box (3 lbs.) coarse kosher salt
1-1/4 cups water
Combine oil, onion, garlic salt, basil, marjoram, thyme and pepper in heavy plastic bag. Mix well. Add roast. Coat well with marinade. Marinate in refrigerator two hours or overnight.
Line roasting pan with aluminum foil. Combine coarse kosher salt and water to form a thick paste.
Pat 1 cup paste into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle in pan. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Insert meat thermometer. Place roast on salt layer. Pack remaining salt paste around meat to seal well.
Place roast in a 425-degree oven and roast 16 to 18 minutes per pound for rare (140 degrees), 20 to 22 minutes per pound for medium (160 degrees), or 25 to 30 minutes per pound for well done (170 degrees).
Remove roast when thermometer registers 5 degrees below desired doneness. Let roast stand 5 to 10 minutes in salt crust before carving.
If using an instant-read thermometer (the kind that isn’t inserted before roasting), check the estimated cooking time. Take roast out of the oven 10 to 15 minutes before it should be done.
You may have to poke a hole in the salt crust first before inserting the thermometer. Continue roasting, if needed, and test temperature again in 5 minutes.
To remove roast from salt, you may need to use a hammer. After removing the crust with a stiff pastry or vegetable brush, whisk away any remaining crystals.
Note: Be sure to use coarse kosher salt, not rock salt, regular table salt or pickling and canning salt. Rock salt may have impurities; table salt and pickling and canning salt are too fine.
(My co-worker suggested preheating the oven to a scorching 500 degrees and putting the prime rib in the oven at that heat for about 10 minutes, then backing back on the heat for the remainder of the cooking time.)
Here is another prime-rib recipe that a Colstrip reader provided to the Just Ask Joyce column:
PERFECT PRIME RIB ROAST
Use any size prime rib roast (allow 1/2 to 1 lb. per person).
Let meat set unrefrigerated until it is at room temperature, several hours or more.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix equal parts of salt, coarse ground black pepper and dry mustard (about 1 tbsp. each). Rub thoroughly onto all sides of roast.
Place meat on rack in a shallow roasting pan.
Place in preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes, and then the oven off.
Do not open the oven door!
Allow the meat to stay in the oven at least 3 hours, undisturbed. Just before serving, turn oven back on to 375 degrees and cook 30-45 minutes.
Remove from oven, let stand about 10 minutes, slice and serve.
All meat is medium-rare. For roasts 10 pound or more, I adjust the time up by just about 10 minutes for the oven on cooking times.