It’s the holidays, you have 20 people showing up in six hours, and you’re freaking out.
So stop making so much food.
That’s the main piece of holiday hosting advice from a chef who knows — Joe Raiola, the executive chef at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Downtown.
“I see it all the time — everyone wants a Thanksgiving dinner with the turkey and the five pounds of mashed potatoes and the five pounds of stuffing and the five pounds of vegetables, and the soup and the pie for each person. Enough!”
The first thing you have to remember, Raiola said, is that no one eats five pounds of anything, even on our day of national gluttony.
“The rule of thumb is that each person eats eight ounces of protein, eight ounces of a starch and up to six ounces of vegetables,” he said. “And that’s it. You’re not cooking for 50 people, you know.”
And turkey’s fine and all, but Raiola actually prefers a rib roast this time of year.
“It’s simple, it’s delicious, and when you pull it out of the oven, everyone goes crazy,” he said.
For that extra effect, Raiola trims the fat off the bones, so they come out clean, sending your guests’ eyes shooting right to the juicy red center.
Before taking the helm at Morton’s two years ago, the 37-year-old worked at the Palm, Lundy’s, Tavern on the Green, and Tribeca Grill, and also studied in France. Last month, he won an episode of the Food Network’s show, “Chopped,” with his no-nonsense approach.
That’s a pretty serious resume, but Raiola follows his own advice: keep it simple.
“That roast is just seasoned, roasted over rock salt, and cut — that’s it,” he said. “The other day, I made grilled cheese sandwiches for the family meal [a restaurant tradition of feeding the staff]. It was just American cheese and bread, but if you do it right, with butter and proper cooking techniques, people will go crazy.
“Grilled cheese! Who knew?”
Serves 10 to 12
1/2 cup seasoned salt
4-1/2 pounds rock salt
3/4 cup au jus
1 to 1-1/2 cups whipped horseradish (see recipe below)
A day before cooking the roast, season it on all sides with the seasoned salt. Transfer the roast to a pan. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the roast from the refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting and allow to come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Position the oven rack in the lowest position possible.
Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan with the rock salt to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Put the roast on top of the rock salt and roast for 2-1/2 to 3 hours for medium rare, or until the roast reaches the desired degree of doneness. The meat will be better done at the ends and rarer in the center.
Lift the roast from the pan and set it on a cutting board. Let the meat rest at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Loosely tent the roast with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
Remove the lip of the roast — the portion on top of the bones in from of the eye — and discard. Starting with the small end, carve the roast into thick pieces. To serve, spoon some au jus onto a plate, if desired. Put a slice of meat on top of the sauce. Repeat to make as many servings as needed. Serve the horseradish on the side.
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
3/4 tsp. Tabasco
Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth. Strain the horseradish for two to three minutes, or until reduced to 3/4 cup. Press on the horseradish with a spoon or squeeze the cheesecloth to extract all the liquid.
In a mixing bowl, whip the cream with a wire whisk until it thickens to the consistency of sour cream. You can do this in an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, but watch carefully so that the cream does not overwhip.
Add the horseradish, mustard, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Whisk until thickened using a wire whisk or electric mixer. The sauce should be moist and the consistency of whipped cream.
Refrigerate for at least one hour, then serve immediately or transfer to a covered storage container and refrigerate for up to one day.
Morton’s The Steakhouse [339 Adams St. between Willoughby and Tillary streets in Downtown, (718) 596-2700].