As night follows day, Christmas roast beef follows the Thanksgiving turkey at my holiday table. This grand cut of meat-like a present in itself-easily feeds eight or more for dinner, with ample leftovers. Potatoes sizzle in rich pan drippings, which also flavor the accompanying Yorkshire pudding. And no roast beef is complete without a tangy, spicy horseradish sauce to cut through its deep flavor.
Supporting players come together easily. Toasted pecans accentuate the earthiness of roasted brussels sprouts and parsnips. Peas and pearl onions with fresh mint brighten the palate. Chocolate Bundt cake, drizzled with glaze and paired with seasonal citrus, completes the meal.
For a setting befitting the holiday, add decoratively wrapped Christmas crackers, filled with trinkets, to each plate. Small ornaments scattered like jewels around the table also help create a celebratory backdrop for an uncomplicated yet spectacular gathering.
A light-bodied Pinot Noir from Burgundy is a foolproof pairing for a standing rib roast, although the nuanced flavors of a Pinot from any region can stand in at this rich meal with equal grace.
1 week ahead
Order rib roast from butcher.
Up to 1 day ahead
Make and refrigerate horseradish cream. Bake cake, but do not glaze; wrap tightly with plastic. Set table.
Early in the day
Boil potatoes, toss with olive oil, cover, and refrigerate. Blanch and peel pearl onions; cover, and refrigerate. Glaze cake; cover well.
3 hours ahead
Start roasting brussels sprouts and parsnips; remove before adding pecans. Start rib roast. Whisk batter for Yorkshire pudding; cover, and refrigerate.
1 1/2 hours ahead
Add potatoes to roast.
45 minutes ahead
Remove roast from oven, and let rest. Finish roasting brussels sprouts, parsnips, and pecans. Bake Yorkshire pudding. Cook peas and pearl onions, and keep warm over low heat.
1 rib roast (9 to 10 pounds) with 4 to 6 ribs 8 medium
Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 pounds)
1 piece fresh horseradish (or 1/3 cup prepared)
2 pounds brussels sprouts
6 medium parsnips
10 ounces red pearl onions
1 bunch fresh mint
8 to 10 tangerines
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen petite green peas
8 large eggs
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 containers (8 ounces each) sour cream
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Cognac or rum (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and fine salt
Freshly ground pepper
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Pure vanilla extract
Text by Lucinda Scala Quinn