When I was a little boy, my father commenced our family custom of preparing a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding for our Christmas meal, along with mashed potatoes and butter-boiled lady peas. The whole thing was a production rivaling the best West-end dramas.
Dad liked to cook the Yorkshire pudding using the most traditional method: baking it in the pan with the roast. This required removing the roast from the oven when it was almost ready, pouring off most of the pan drippings, returning the roast to the pan (without the rack) and pouring the Yorkshire pudding batter around the roast. When done properly, it is a sight to behold. The pudding bubbles up around the beef and browns along the bubble tops and high spots.
Despite its drama and beauty, however, this procedure has its drawbacks. First, the whole process is fraught with opportunities for mistakes as evidenced one year in our kitchen. I had gone back to the kitchen to refill my glass of water just as Dad was trying to remove the roast and tip the edge of the pan toward a ridiculously small measuring cup. My presence startled him, and the roast seemed to leap from the pan and onto the floor, where it landed with a splatty sound like a wet, fat man slipping and falling on a tile bathroom floor.
Because he was still holding a scalding hot pan and trying to pour rendered beef fat into a tiny Pyrex vessel, he couldn't immediately grab the beef, lying helplessly on the green slate floor. When the fat was poured off, he quickly turned his attention to the beef, reached down to retrieve it, and in his haste managed to kick it down the hall past the laundry room.
I stood there watching this epic tragedy play out before me with my mouth agape and eyes open as wide as saucers. Just as Dad was picking the hot meat up with his hands and doing a form of the Hot Potato Jig, his golden retriever, Gumbo Roux, brushed past me and began furiously licking the glistening, fatty trail left by the sliding roast. Dad gave me a look that let me know this was a matter to be kept between us.
With the roast delivered back to its home in the roasting pan, Dad poured the Yorkshire pudding batter into the pan, around the roast and returned it to the oven. It puffed up beautifully, and everyone oohed and ahhed as the finished product was brought into the dining room for all to see. No one was any the wiser, but I made sure to get a slice from the center of the roast.
My parents are gone now, but I still carry on the tradition of roasting a beautiful hunk of meat and preparing the finicky pudding, but I use muffin tins and cook the roast separately. Here are two of the recipes from our Christmas feast.
Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding
1 6-pound rib roast (with bone)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch parsley
1 stick butter, melted
Allow meat to come to room temperature. Peel garlic and rub thoroughly onto entire roast. Rub salt and pepper onto all sides of the roast with at least half going on the top layer of fat. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.
Prepare the pudding. Finely chop green onions and parsley. Melt butter in a large measuring cup. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and add the flour, salt and baking soda. Whisk the flour, salt and soda into the eggs and slowly add the milk. Add one tablespoon of the parsley and one tablespoon of the green onions and whisk again. The mixture should be thick like pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours (overnight is best).
Place the roast on a rack in a deep roasting pan. Place in the center rack of the hot oven and cook for 12 minutes at 500 degrees. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue cooking for one hour and 15 minutes. Remove the roast from the oven and check the temperature by inserting a thermometer into its center. For medium-rare, the thermometer should read 130 degrees. If the roast is not up to temperature, stick it back in the oven for ten minutes or so and check again. You can keep doing this until the proper degree of doneness is reached.
Remove the roast and allow it to rest while you cook the Yorkshire pudding. Carefully drain the pan drippings into the large measuring cup with the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Leave the oven turned on and heated to 375 degrees.
Place a 12-muffin pan into the hot oven and allow it to heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pudding batter from the refrigerator and whisk it briefly to re-blend all of the ingredients. Open the oven and slide out the rack with the hot muffin tin. Spoon in about a tablespoon of the pan dripping/melted butter mixture and slide the rack back into the oven and heat for about five minutes or until it begins to smoke slightly. Open the oven and slide the rack out again. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling each cup about two-thirds of the way to the top. The batter should sizzle as it is added. Close the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the tops of the pudding are puffed and golden brown. They should rise out of the tins like popovers.
When the Yorkshire puddings are ready, carve the roast and serve with the hot puddings on a warmed plate. Garnish with the remaining parsley and green onions.