It’s the malleability of Christmas dinner that can make it so challenging to plan. Which is to say, choice can be intimidating.
At Thanksgiving, it’s about the turkey. Valentine’s Day demands chocolate. Easter? Ham or lamb. And Fourth of July is all burgers and dogs all the time. But Christmas doesn’t enjoy a similar food association that presets the menu as happens with so many other holidays. (And Christmas goose doesn’t count because that only happens in Dickens’ novels.) All of which tends to leave us scrambling.
When I was a kid, my mother often did ham. Not because we loved it or it felt special, but because my mother is vegan and it was easy for her to cook. When I was a teenager, we switched to mountains of shrimp with butter. Also easy, and because why not? After I got married, we started eating Italian. Not because we’re Italian, but because pasta and meatballs is a quick and easy meal to assemble in the midst of the gifting and visiting chaos.
It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I finally settled on something that not only was easy, but also felt celebratory. A massive beef roast. Not earth shattering, of course. But for some reason it took nearly 40 years for me to reach this point. Tender and juicy, a roast feels indulgent. And when treated right, it can pack tons of flavor. But it also is utterly simple to prepare.
So I’m sharing my Christmas beef roast recipe, which gets intense savory flavors from a rub of fresh rosemary and cracked peppercorns. All you need to do is rub it on the meat, pop it in the oven, then head back to the festivities. This recipe even makes its own side dish — butter-roasted potatoes that bathe in the juices of the meat.
ROSEMARY-PEPPER ROAST BEEF WITH BUTTER POTATOES
Start to finish: 2 hours 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
2 pounds new or other small potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 tablespoons black or mixed peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
4- to 5-pound top sirloin roast (also called top butt or spoon roast), trimmed and tied
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat the oven to 400 F.
In a 9-by-14-inch metal (stovetop-safe) roasting pan, combine the potatoes and melted butter. Toss to coat, then arrange in a single layer. Set aside.
In a mini food processor or blender, combine the peppercorns, salt and rosemary. Process until well chopped, but not pureed. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Slather the mixture thickly over the entire roast. Set the roast over the potatoes, then cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting for another 45 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 F and roast for another 45 minutes, or until the meat reaches 120 F at the center.
Use tongs to transfer the roast to a serving platter. Cover with foil, then with several kitchen towels to stay warm.
Set the roasting pan with the potatoes over 1 or 2 burners on medium heat on the stovetop. Add the wine and cook, stirring gently, until any browned bits from the bottom of the pan are released and the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Slice the roast thinly, then serve with the potatoes. Spoon the pan sauce over the potatoes.
Nutrition information per serving: 440 calories; 170 calories from fat (39 percent of total calories); 19 g fat (7 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 150 mg cholesterol; 720 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 49 g protein.
AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is on Twitter and Instagram as @JM_Hirsch. Email him at [email protected]