If turkey reigns supreme at Thanksgiving, then Christmas belongs to beef. An herb crusted beef roast cut into thick juicy slices with steaming popovers and a garlic spiked au jus conjures up images of a classic Christmas dinner. The best part about a beef roast at Christmas is that it takes very little effort to prepare yet the results are worthy of celebration.

This recipe for an herb rubbed beef roast has been my go-to special occasion dinner for years. Christmas, birthdays, or any time you want to pull out an easy-but-impressive dish for company- this roast beef is a winning choice. I have used the same method for a standing rib roast (bone-in prime rib), a boneless prime rib, and here for a New York strip loin.

The key to any good beef roast is to use the best meat you can find. Despite the fact that I live in the heart of beef country, all “prime” grade beef is immediately shipped off to the East Coast and is unavailable for direct purchase locally (plus it costs an arm and a leg!). My solution is to buy a beautiful “choice” grade roast and ask the butcher to dry age the meat. This takes a little planning, as your butcher will need a minimum of 2 weeks notice to dry age the meat properly, however the result is a tender, flavor packed roast that will knock your socks off.

Once the meat is dry aged, all that is required is a quick herb rub, which marinates overnight, and then a turn in the oven. As the aromatic beef rests, you then make a simple au jus with leftover pan juices and a few herbs. The finished roast is characterized by tender meat which packs a huge flavor. Subtle notes of herbs, pepper, and garlic accentuate the beef without stealing the show. When thick pink slices are drizzled with warm au jus, and accompanied by a creamy horseradish sauce, you will feel inspired to raise a toast to the roast and wish goodwill for all.

Herb Rubbed Roast Beef (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Serves 10

Note: The roast will marinate 8-24 hours before cooking.

(7- to 8-lb) prime rib roast (sometimes called standing rib roast; 4 or 5 ribs); or a 7- to 8- lb boneless beef roast
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves (not California)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil

Au Jus
2 cups beef broth
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
1 small fresh thyme sprig
1 garlic clove, smashed


Marinate the Roast

Trim the roast of excess fat, leaving only a thin layer. Place peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt into an electric coffee/spice grinder or a mini Cuisinart and grind the spices to a powder. Transfer the powdered spices to a mortar or cutting board. Add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and pound to a smooth paste with a pestle or using the side and edge of a large knife. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Rub the herb and spice paste all over the roast. Set the roast on a rack set inside a small flameproof roasting pan. Cover the roast, and let it marinate, chilled for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Cook the Roast

Remove the roast from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle of the oven.

Set the roast in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to roast the beef until a thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 115°F, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours more. Be sure to check the temperature in a few spots to properly gauge the temperature of the meat. When the meat has reached 115°F, remove the roast from the oven. Transfer the beef to a large platter and let it sit, loosely covered with foil, for 25 minutes. The roast will continue to cook outside of the oven, reaching a final internal temperature of about 130°F for medium-rare.

Make Au Jus

Skim off fat from the meat juices in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add beef broth, rosemary, thyme, and garlic into the roasting pan. Set the pan over a stove top turned to medium heat, and deglaze the pan by bringing the liquid to a simmer while stirring and scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, 2-3 minutes. Pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a small saucepan, and add any juices that may have collected on the meat platter. If necessary, add additional beef broth to bring the liquid to about 2 cups in volume. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and gently simmer the liquid for 10 minutes. Skim off any surface fat, and season the au jus with salt and pepper to taste.

Carve the Roast and Serve

Carve the roast into slices and serve with warm au jus on the side.

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