Day 269 – National Prime Rib Day

I don’t think I’ll get a lot of sympathy if I start to complain that as part of my quest I had to spend a portion of my day trying to find some Prime Rib. That’s kind of a first world problem. Nonetheless, that was my dilemma today. It’s not as easy as you would think – at least on a Thursday. It’s not the menu fixture it once was. I had to really look at some menus online and hunt for it. In the end, I found some at the 99 Restaurant and it ended up being pretty good. But it wasn’t easy.

Prime Rib is simply roast beef, although it’s a bit more than that. When I hear of roast beef, I think of the rump roast that my Mom would cook almost every Sunday night when my grandmother and uncles would join us for Sunday dinner. If you look at the chart below, the rump roast (which is a round roast) comes from the hindquarters (hence the rump name). A Prime Rib is, oddly enough, cut from the rib section of the steer and is specifically the section of the ribs that go from rib six through rib twelve (the other ribs are used for short ribs and more). To be considered Prime meat by the USDA, the beef must have abundant marbling (fat within the beef) and must come from a cow under 42 months of age. However, the term Prime Rib predates the USDA’s beef-grading system and doesn’t necessarily mean the same. So technically you could have Prime Rib that is not Prime Beef. When I have told Lola about cuts of beef before, it tends to confuse her and she needs a visual aid. Because of that, we actually have magnets on our fridge with the cuts of beef listed on them (although it’s not quite as in depth as the chart here). But, if someone happens to gift us with an unbutchered side of beef, we’ll be ready to carve that sucker up.

Cuts of Beef

We used to serve Prime Rib on the weekends at the restaurant I used to work for (the New England Food and Beverage Company). The reason why restaurants only serve Prime Rib on weekends is because you have to cook the whole 25 pound rib at a time, so they offer it as a weekend special because that’s when the most people are in your building. If you don’t sell out of it, that’s a lot of waste (or a lot of roast beef sandwiches). It would always be the first thing you had to tackle on the Prep List for the day because it would need to cook all day long. You would fire it in the oven at a high temp for about an hour and then you would put it in a warmer where it would continue to cook low and slow for the rest of the day. By service time, it would be right at that rare-medium rare mark. Pieces were cut to order and if you wanted it on the more well done side, you would get either the coveted end piece (which was always around medium well) or it would go in the oven with some au jus and cook the rest of the way. The whole rib was kept in a warming oven for the night and the cook would have to pull it out every time someone ordered it. He/she would then have to slice it and then put it back, so although it was simple, it was laborious to plate. The cook also had to be pretty good at eyeballing what a 12 ounce piece of Prime Rib looks like as compared to 16 ounces and of course, the 32 ounce king cut.

When I was young and would go to fancy restaurants with my parents, I’d always go for the Prime Rib. To me it was just super tasty roast beef which I was a fan of, but it was also exciting because it always looked so big on your plate. The possibility that there was a giant cut of beef out there that was almost three times the size of the cut I was eating was magical. I would see other people getting it and it was mammoth, like something Fred Flintstone ordered that would make his car fall over. When I got older and a bit more sensible, I realized that there’s really no need for that much beef. The smallest cut is enough beef. Anything bigger is just ludicrous. Still, for a young boy who loved Prime Rib, the king cut was something you could dream about. You don’t see the 32 ounce piece in many restaurants any more unless you are in one of those old school steak houses which are decorated with dark wood, low lighting and memories from the eighties. It’s a dying breed.

While Prime Rib may not be a fashionable trend in restaurant fare any more, you can’t deny it’s deliciousness. Thankfully, I have in-laws that agree with that and now as a family tradition, Pete and Cherie cook a giant, bone-in Prime Rib for the family on Christmas. When I remember that they are cooking this, I usually start to drool and that kicks in about the second week of December so its kind of an issue. Cherie is kind of famous in the family for being a good cook and really good, savory dishes are her specialty. She’s a fan of the good things: pasta, cheese, sauce, garlic and more cheese. That makes for some great food. Pete is a good cook too and when they make dinner, you have to be ready to loosen your belt afterwards. The Christmas Prime Rib has been captured in photos quite famously (at least in our personal Facebook circles) with me carrying this mammoth beast to the table and Pete, carving knife and fork in hand, anxiously waiting to cut in. Pete really sells the whole image with his enthusiasm. The other funny moment from that night was Pete’s walking around like a German general giving instructions on how to cook the rib as a slight mockery of Cherie’s need for control in the kitchen. It’s a funny little bit, although I really do admire Cherie’s leadership in the kitchen. Too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. In any case, this is our holiday tradition and it always comes out so good that you feel full for days. Just seeing this makes me wish Christmas was here.

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Prime Rib its not cheap either so I am grateful to Pete and Cherie for their holiday generosity in the name of good food. That’s super kind of them. It’s also why I didn’t cook one today. Not that I’m opposed to buying good meat, it’s just that it was only going to be me tonight and that didn’t warrant buying a whole rib. Lola was visiting a friend in New Hampshire and I was working until about 7, so making my own just didn’t make sense. That’s when I started looking online to see where I could grab some for take out after work. Nothing was really popping out to me and when I searched, I was getting a lot of links to chain restaurants like Outback and Texas Roadhouse. Those places are fine, they are just not on the island. So I thought about what chains are on the island and I came to the 99 Restaurants. Their menu said they had Prime Rib every Thursday through Sunday while it lasts. I had my answer. I’m sure there were local steakhouses or family restaurants in the area that had Prime Rib, but the 99 was just more convenient and the food is usually pretty good. After work, I made my way there and called in my order to go. It was ready right on time and they even provided delivery right to my car so I didn’t even have to get out (which was good because I was intently listening to the Yankee game on the radio). Pretty convenient.

When I got home, I unpacked it an put it on a plate (I’m not a huge fan of eating out of styrofoam containers). It actually looked pretty good. It was on the rare side which is what I wanted and I was worried that it would be a bit overdone. It wasn’t exactly hot but that was because it had to be transported home so no fault of the restaurant. I got the 12 ounce cut with French Fries which gets served with au jus and horseradish dipping sauce. The au jus is a must because it keeps the rib juicy and even a little warmer on each bite. It gives it a little saltiness too if you dunk your piece into it. The horseradish sauce is a must when serving Prime Rib, although I’m not a fan. It’s basically a mix of horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and sour cream and it’s the perfect accompaniment, it’s just not my thing. Still, I would have been offended if it had not come with it because it’s such a part of the whole Prime Rib experience (incidentally, Pete makes a great version of this sauce, or so I’m told).

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For any non-meat eaters out there, this picture probably makes you gag (and it’s actually rare enough so some actual meat eaters might even feel a bit icky). But that’s Prime Rib. If it cooks any more than that, it gets less tasty. There’s always a lot of fat in a Prime Rib and that can be a good thing (although it looks gross). Fat delivers a lot of flavor to the beef, so seeing it is a good thing. The big pieces you just have to cut out. One of the most overlooked parts of a Prime Rib is the outer portion which tends to get crusty and well seasoned as it cooks. It gives you texture and a robust burst of flavor. I kind of feel those crust pieces are the best bites. The meatier parts of the beef can get a little chewy, so having those outer pieces balances it all out. This was actually pretty good. I like 99 Restaurants although I don’t go there that often. However the food always seems to be good, the service is usually up to par and it’s a good value. I was impressed that they could deliver a good piece of Prime Rib on a to go order too. They get good marks.

The struggles of doing this quest are not easy. Today I had to search out one of my favorite types of roast beef and then I had to eat the whole thing! The things we have to push ourselves to do all in the name of adventure. Oh well, such are the trails and tribulations of this undertaking. Writing this I kind of remembered some fun things about Prime Rib and how I’ve been around it for a long time. As a youth, it was my dream meal. As an adult, it was something I sold and had to cook. And as a celebrator, it has become a nice little family tradition filled with equal parts deliciousness, kindness and fun. That’s kind of cool. I may not order Prime Rib every time I see it on a menu anymore, but I like seeing it there as an option. It’s a happy memory and I like knowing that it is still there for me when I have the craving, complete with horseradish sauce.

Next up: National Blueberry Pie Day

Sources: SeriousEat.com and Visualy.com

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