For the Christmas dinner – in Italy it is called the Cenone, there is usually a pasta dish, either in a soup or with sauce. This is followed traditionally by a roast – pork, beef or even a capon, with plenty of side dishes – contorni. I have selected three very special recipes for this day. Serve with the pasta dish of your choice (I have provided many recipes for you to inspire you in past issues). This year in my house I will make homemade pappardelle with crème Gorgonzola, fresh figs and grated Amaretto cookies. The children don’t like Gorgonzola so I also make them the traditional ravioli. The Charred Prime Rib Roast is admittedly a bit of work, but the result is really worth the effort and is likely to be the best that you have ever had. It goes perfectly with the potato dish – Tortino di Patate. I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and hope your table is full of family, tradition and love.
Christmas Salad with Candied Walnuts and Shaved Gorgonzola
6 cups arugula
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1 head Frisée lettuce
1 cup beets
2 handfuls candied whole walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberries
1-1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
4 artichoke hearts, quartered
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white champagne vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 piece of endive
Place the Gorgonzola cheese into the freezer for 1 hour before shaving. Since the cheese is soft, you will need to ice it sufficiently to be able to shave it, but the result is worth the extra effort.
Place walnuts and sugar in a skillet over a medium flame, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves into a light brown liquid and coats the walnuts. Remove walnuts from skillet and spread them out on a sheet of wax paper to cool.
Core, cut and separate the iceberg lettuce into a large salad bowl. Add the arugula, Frisée and endive and toss. Drain the beets and artichoke hearts and add to the salad along with the candied walnuts and cranberries, then toss. Shave the partially frozen Gorgonzola cheese and add to the salad. When ready to serve, add the lemon juice and mix together the vinegar with a high-quality olive oil. Serve with a chilled Prosecco or a sparkling Rosé.
Tortino di Patate
3 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp fresh flat leaf parsley, divided
5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
2 cups freshly-grated sharp Asiago cheese
1 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a substantial sized baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray; set aside.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high flame. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the flour until it is evenly combined and cook for 1 more minute. Add in the cream, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of parsley. Whisk until combined. Continue cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes until the sauce just barely begins to simmer around the edges of the pan – avoid letting it come to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
The potatoes, sauce and cheese are added in layers. I find that four layers produces the ideal consistency. Spread one fourth of the sliced potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Top evenly with one quarter of the sauce and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup of the shredded Asiago cheese and some of the Parmigiano. Repeat these steps for each layer.
Bake for 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and cooked through. Be sure the top layer is browned. If not, place under broiler for a few minutes. Transfer baking dish to a cooling rack. Sprinkle with extra Parmigiano.
Charred Prime Rib Roast
6-7 lb rib roast (4 or 5 bones)
6 tbsp seasoned rub (see below)
2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 cups baste (see below)
board dressing (see below)
For the seasoned rub
1 cup sea salt
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp garlic salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
For the baste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp very fine minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp grated yellow onions
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
For the dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp rosemary, chopped
To make the Seasoned Rub – Combine the salt, black pepper, garlic salt and cayenne in a small bowl. Transfer to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and pulse to the consistency of sand, or you can cheat and go to Williams Sonoma like I do and buy a rub…easy breezy. Try the Porcini rub.
To make the Basic Baste – Combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice and vinegar in a 2-quart saucepan and bring just to a simmer; remove from the heat. For the best flavor, refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for 1 to 2 days (reheat over low heat to melt the butter before using). Whisk the lemon juice and vinegar into the baste before using.
To prepare this rib roast, it will need to stand up in the grill and will need to be propped up against something. The easiest trick is to use a brick, wrapped in foil! Set up the grill and preheat it to high. Season the beef all over with the rub, plus the pepper, then lightly moisten your hands with water and work the seasonings into the meat. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Place the beef on the clean, unoiled grill grate to sear – cook for 1 minute. Turn and cook for another minute. Turn the meat and cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 3 minutes longer.
Put the foil-wrapped brick on the grill grate and lean the meat up against it. Cook for 4 minutes. Turn the roast and repeat until you have cooked it for 4 minutes on each of all four edges. Move the brick to the side and continue cooking the roast, turning every 3 to 4 minutes and basting each time the meat is moved, until the internal temperature registers 105°F on an instant-read thermometer; this should take 25 minutes.
Transfer the beef to a platter; brush lightly with the baste and let rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes. Remove the brick from the grate. Put the roast on the hot grill and cook, turning every 3 to 4 minutes, basting lightly every time the beef is moved, until the internal temperature registers 120°F.
Meanwhile, make a basic dressing by combining the olive oil, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Slice the meat 1/4 inch think and turn each slice in the dressing to coat. Place on a platter and then pour the resulting meat juices over the roast.