Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election Diversion: Channeling Molly

I can’t think of a better time to share a few thoughts about food and cooking than the day after US Election Day 2012. I'm thinking about Molly. 

That’s Molly Stevens, of course, author of All About Braising and All About Roasting.

But starting from the beginning: My daughter gave me All About Roasting as a Christmas gift last year and I spent most of the week that followed enjoying just reading Molly Stevens.

Where better to start than to make the dish on the cover-- One-Hour Rosemary Rib Roast— and not just to try making it but to cook it in earnest, following Molly's directions step-by-step -- channeling Molly, as it were--  for my daughter’s birthday in mid-January. 

The meat counter at Sehome Haggen had a prewrapped piece at $7 a pound and Molly makes it incredibly simple: Two days before dinner, I followed every direction including getting the right kind of kitchen string to lay under the roast and even using the mortar and pestle to mash the garlic into a paste. This cut already had the ribs hinged, so I rubbed the meat with the garlic paste, generously salted and peppered the roast, and arranged sprigs of rosemary between the ribs and the roast and on the top the roast. Then I tied the sprigs down with the three lengths of kitchen string laid under the roast.

(OK, Molly, it wasn’t that smooth and it didn’t look like the pictures that showed how to do it 
nicely. I cut the strings too short the first time. I got the order mixed up and put the rosemary sprigs on before slathering on the garlic paste. And I had to wash the small baking dish I was planning to use before I could put the roast in the refrigerator.)

But: In went the roast, uncovered, to the refrigerator exactly 48 hours before it was supposed to go into the oven.

For the next two days I was fascinated by how the surface texture of the roast changed beneath the bushy sprigs of rosemary. The surface of the roast contracted from the salt which created a crusty layer. What a wonderful distraction whenever I opened the refrigerator door.

On the big day two days later, we drove the roast 90 miles south to my daughter’s home and got her oven heated to 450 degrees. Two hours after we took the roast out of the refrigerator and having it at “room temperature,” we popped it in the oven.

This is the part that’s filled with anxiety: I wanted it medium-rare and Molly tells me to check it regularly after the internal temperature reaches 100 degrees— and to remember that the roast will keep cooking while it “rests” after being taken out of the oven.

After 60 minutes, the internal temperature is 105 degrees. (OK, all ovens are different.) At 75 minutes, it’s at 110 degrees. Take it out and let it “rest” and it will reach the 125-130 degrees desired?

Five of us are standing around the oven door. "Leave it in for a few more minutes" prevails.

At 80 minutes, the internal temperature is 120 degrees. “Take it out, take it out!”

I imagine that by the time it “rests” for its obligatory 20 minutes, the roast will be well done, dry and spoiled. The rosemary is burned to a crisp. The instant-read thermometer reads 135 degrees five minutes into the “rest.” Ruined? Ruined! No, I had it in too deep and was hitting the rib bone.

After 20 minutes, the first slice of the carve reveals perfection: Crusty exterior, brown then the pink of a juicy interior. The taste? Best piece of meat I’ve cooked. A perfect gift in return for a wonderful present.

Have you Channeled Molly?

--Mike Sato


  1. No. But now we are going to. We have spent $ hundreds trying to make a good rib roast. Our attempts quite mirror your comments of the thermometer and the timing discussions and the odd preparastions. Never have made one that came out very well, and some were awful. But the head cook here, ever intrigued with a not yet seen cook book, has Molly's book on reserve at the library and so we will give it a go soon. Let you know how it comes out.

    1. You'll make Molly proud; let me know how it comes out. Mike


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