When I plan dinner parties, I rarely cook for more than eight, not just because I have only eight dining room chairs and eight place settings, but because I feel comfortable preparing food for that many people; any more and I start to get stressed. I make exceptions for the holidays, when I tend to invite "orphans" - friends who have nowhere else to go to celebrate. Sometimes these friends ask if they can bring other friends, which means that on occasion, the number has grown so large that I have contemplated asking guests to BYOC (bring your own chair) or BYOP (bring your own plate) - although I've never actually had to do so. The table may be crowded, with cutlery and plates that don't match, but we have a great time with plenty of delicious food and drink.
Slow-cooked bone-in beef rib-eye roast
A whole rib-eye roast has seven ribs and weighs about 10kg. When you get it, you should check it fits into your oven; if it doesn't, you'll need to cut it into pieces of three ribs and four ribs (if placed just right in a large oven pan, both roasts can be cooked at the same time). A 10kg roast feeds about 25, but if you're cooking for fewer, cut the roast into the amount you'll need and freeze the rest.
The second thing you should do when you get your beef is to salt it; with a hunk of meat this big, the seasoning needs at least a couple of days (four is better) to penetrate deep into the meat, rather than just staying on the surface. I usually use 50 grams of salt for every kilo of boneless meat; because this roast has bones, I'd decrease the amount to 35 grams per kilo. It sounds like a lot, but the meat won't taste salty as long as you salt it far enough in advance. If you're very sensitive to salt, use less (25 grams per kilo) and also use less if you're salting it fewer than two days before cooking it.
Other advice: use a leave-in programmable meat thermometer that you can insert into the roast before putting it into the oven, and which has an alarm that goes off when it's reached the right temperature.
I learned the technique of cooking the meat long and slow from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt on Serious Eats (seriouseats. com). Cooking a 10kg roast at 90 degrees Celsius will probably take four to five hours. It also needs about an hour to rest, so plan accordingly.
1 bone-in beef rib-eye roast, about 10kg
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Horseradish, for serving
For the gravy:
Plain (all-purpose) flour
Butter, if needed
About 1 litre chicken or beef stock, preferably home-made
If you like, "French" the roast by trimming and scraping the meat from the tips of the bones, cleaning them about 3cm down from the top. If you do this, reserve the scraps of beef to make the stock, simmering them for about an hour with one litre of water.
Weigh the roast then multiply the weight by .035 or .025 to get the appropriate amount of salt. Sprinkle the salt over the beef, using a larger amount on the fleshy parts and less on the bones. Massage the salt into the meat, wrap it tightly in at least two layers of cling-film, then refrigerate it for two days or longer.
Take the roast from the fridge two hours before cooking it; unwrap it and put it fatty side-up in the roasting pan. Fifteen minutes before cooking it, pre-heat the oven to 90 degrees. Insert a probe-type, leave-in meat thermometer into the centre of the meat, making sure it's not touching the bone, and programme it to go off when the temperature reaches 49 degrees for medium-rare, or 57 degrees for medium. If you've cut the roast into two pieces, insert the thermometer into the smaller piece of meat, cook it to temperature and remove it from the oven, then transfer the probe to the larger roast and cook that one until done. When the meat is ready, cover it loosely with aluminium foil and leave it at room temperature for an hour (or a little longer, if necessary). While the meat is resting, turn the oven heat to 250 degrees and finish cooking the roast potatoes (see recipe below).
To make the gravy, scrape about 80 grams of beef fat (or more, if you're cooking for gravy lovers) from the roasting pan and put it into a skillet set over a medium flame. (If there's not enough beef fat, make up the amount with butter.) When the fat is hot, add 80 grams of flour and stir constantly for about a minute. Add the chicken or beef stock about 60ml at a time, whisking constantly to smooth out any lumps. After adding the stock, season the gravy with salt and pepper, then turn off the heat. Reheat the gravy just before serving it, and thin it out, if needed, by adding water.
Just before it's time to serve dinner, grind black pepper over the roast, then put it back in the oven and cook at 250 degrees until the exterior is well browned (about 15 minutes). Put the roast on a large carving board. Remove the bones in one piece and cut them between the ribs, then slice the meat and serve with horseradish, gravy, roast potatoes and whatever other side dishes you want.
I count on one large potato (about 300 grams) per person, then add several more, to make sure there's enough. It looks like a lot, but you'll be surprised at how much they shrink.
Potatoes, about 300 grams each
Fat, preferably goose fat or duck fat, or use olive oil
Fine sea salt
Peel the potatoes then cut them into 2.5cm chunks. Put the potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water and cook for five minutes. Drain the potatoes and put them in a large roasting pan. Add a sufficient amount of fat - at least five grams per potato, or more, if needed. Stir to coat the potatoes with the fat, and add more if they look dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
When the beef is at least an hour away from being done, put the pan of potatoes in the oven and cook them, stirring about every 30 minutes, and adding more fat if they look dry. After the beef has reached the correct temperature, remove it from the oven and turn the heat to 250 degrees. Continue to cook the potatoes for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, so they become brown and crusty. Serve them hot.
For more recipes, go to scmp.com/topics/recipes