The smoky, salty porkiness of a ham, paired with the sweetness of a good glaze is the sensory definition of a holiday feast. The sight and smell of a glazed holiday ham exudes celebration.
Preheat oven to 375F. Lay a large piece of aluminum foil on a work surface. Lay a large sheet of foil across to form a cross. Place the ham in the center and cover with the glaze of your choice. I usually do a simple mix of brown sugar and bourbon, but I’ve seen recipes using crushed pineapple, pepper jelly, cider, and countless other sticky, spicy combinations.
Gather up the foil so the ham is completely encased and place the parcel in a roasting tin. Add about an inch of liquid (anything from water to pork stock to bourbon to Dr. Pepper or 7Up). Roast for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the ham is hot all the way through. Tear away the foil and roast for another 20 minutes or until the glaze has formed a bubbly, sticky crust.
Place slices of ham on a platter and serve with the pan juices on the side.
Rack of Lamb:
There are so many ways to cook a rack of lamb, though most recipes advise a scorching, hot sear followed by a little jaunt in a hot oven. I disagree. If I can’t grill my rack of lamb, and in Chicago, grilling in winter can be a challenge, I like to roast them slowly with herbs, garlic and a healthy amount of butter.
Leg of Lamb:
Leg of lamb is an amazing roast with tons of flavor that is far less intimidating to cook than people think. It has a reputation for being ‘gamey’ or ‘funky,’ but a lamb roast from a great farm won’t have those characteristics. Lamb lends itself to strong flavors, so be aggressive and creative when seasoning. I love the classic combination of garlic, rosemary, black pepper, and lemon (and anchovies mashed to a paste if you really want to go for it) or for something more exotic, a Moroccan spice blend like Ras el Hanout mixed with orange zest or preserved lemon and sea salt, though an aggressive rub with just sea salt and pepper will result in a wonderful roast that really shows off the quality of good lamb.
The night before your party, rub the lamb all over with extra virgin olive oil. Season aggressively with salt and whatever else you choose. Place on a rack in a roasting tin, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat your oven to 450F. Roast the lamb for 15–20 minutes or until it is starting to get nicely browned. Reduce the heat to 375. If you are roasting a tied, boneless roast, continue to cook for another hour (add an additional 20–30 minutes if you chose a bone in roast) or until an instant read thermometer reads 130F in the thickest part of the roast. This will yield a pink, juicy roast. If you prefer your roast a bit more done, cook to 135. Remove roast to a carving board and rest for 10–15 minutes. I prefer the drama and excitement of carving a bone in roast at the table, but pink slices of beautifully roasted lamb arranged on a platter will make a stunning centerpiece.
If you are brining your turkey, do so the day before roasting, but not longer than that. You don’t want your turkey tasting like ham…
Preheat your oven to 500 F.
Pat your turkey dry and rub with a few drops of olive oil. If you didn’t brine your turkey (That’s ok. I rarely brine my thanksgiving turkey, and I’m the butcher…) sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. You can grind some pepper over the bird as well, but just salt is fine. I like to mix softened butter with herbs and sea salt and stuff it under the skin of the bird, but that too is optional.
Place the bird on a rack, or on some sliced onions and celery ribs. I usually add a few thyme branches as well. Place a probe thermometer in the meaty part between the thigh and breast and roast at 500 F for about 25 minutes or until the breast starts to blush a light golden brown. Turn the oven down to 325 and continue to roast until the thermometer registers 158 F. An average sized turkey (14–16 lbs will take about 2 ½ — 3 hours). Remove the turkey from the pan and let rest for at least 20 minutes on a carving board.
Note: I like to cook my turkey very early in the day and let it rest until it is room temperature. After my guests oooh and aaahhh at the beautiful bird, I remove the breasts whole and slice them and remove the leg quarters and separate the drumsticks from the thighs. After all my other food is hot and ready, I put the carved pieces back in the oven to reheat (Turn the oven back to 425 and the turkey should be piping hot and still moist and juicy in about 8–10 minutes). Arrange the slices and leg pieces artfully on a platter and serve.
A whole roasted duck is a sight. Burnished, amber skin, crispy fat and earthy, pink meat that pair so well with any combination of sweet, sour and salty you can think of. My favorite memory of eating duck is of one roasted whole on a spit and served with potatoes and squash roasted in the drippings with herbs and orange zest and little figs stuffed with gorgonzola that were warmed just enough to make the filling oozy and the figs supple. I can still smell this meal and it will forever be the aroma of winter.
Duck is such a generous animal. It offers a luxurious meal for 4–6 people, but yields plenty of decadent fat for meals to come.
Preheat oven to 350F. Ask your butcher to trim the excess fat and skin from the cavity and neck area and to lightly score the skin all over. If you choose to do this yourself, use a thin, razor-sharp knife and do not cut all the way down to the meat.
Season the duck all over with salt and place on a roasting rack breast side down. Place the rack in a roasting pan with a about an inch of water on the bottom. Roast the ducks until they reach 135F, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from the oven. While the ducks are resting, Turn your oven up to 450. Pour off the rendered fat from the roasting pan and reserve. Put the ducks back in and roast for 10–15 minutes. Flip the duck breast side up and roast another 10 minutes or until all the skin is a deep amber color. Remove from the oven and rest about 10 minutes.
Standing Rib Roast / Boneless Rib Roast:
The day before, season the roast all over with a lot of salt- an uncomfortable amount of salt, really- and set the roast on a rack in a roasting tin. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. If you can’t do this the day before, season the roast as far in advance of cooking as possible, though if your only option is right before cooking, don’t worry- it’ll still be an amazing piece of meat.
Preheat oven to 450F. Wrap a little piece of aluminum foil around the frenched tips of the ribs to prevent scorching in the oven. Scatter a few rosemary and thyme branches around the roast along with a few peeled whole shallots (optional, but a nice touch) and place in the oven. After 25–30 minutes, the roast should be nicely browned and very aromatic. Turn the oven down to 275 and continue to roast for another 1–1½ hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted registers 120 F (for medium rare, cook to 130 for medium) and remove from the oven. Transfer roast to a platter or carving board and let rest for about 10 minutes with the ribs pointing up. Remove foil and carve down along the bones to remove the meat. Slice thin and arrange festively on a platter. Or- slice between the bones for massive, dramatic steaks to share. Season the cut side of the meat with some fancy sea salt and a few twists of black pepper.
*Note: For a Boneless Roast, do everything exactly the same. It will just take a little less time to cook. Plan on 45 minutes to 1 hour after the oven sear depending on how done you like your meat.
Beef Tenderloin Roast:
Few things say luxury like a platter of ruby-red slices of beef tenderloin. Because it is so velvety-tender, it doesn’t have the explosively beef flavor of a standing rib, but it carries other flavors well, so invest some time in a fragrant rub replete with herbs and spices. I like to mix salt with chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley, lots of coarsely ground black pepper, coriander seed, garlic powder and chili flakes, though a quality sea salt and fresh ground black pepper will work great on a great piece of beef.
Preheat oven to 375F. Rub a thin layer of olive oil all over the tenderloin. Season liberally with salt and pepper or the seasoning mix of your choice and place on a rack in a roasting tin. Place in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. The roast should have a nice brown color. Turn and continue to roast so the other side browns, about another 15–20 minutes. For a rare roast, cook until an instant read thermometer reads 120F in the thickest part. Cook to 125 for medium rare and 130 for medium. Remove the roast to a carving board and let rest for about 10 minutes. Carve thin slices and arrange onto a platter. Season the slices with sea salt or more of your seasoning mix.
Pork Rib Roast:
A pork rib roast is an impressive centerpiece, but the true wonder of pork is its balance of robust, porky savory-ness and its ability to absorb and showoff other flavors. A delicious blank canvass. I like to mix salt, ground fennel seed (or fennel pollen if you can find it), ground black pepper, chopped thyme and rosemary, and the zest of a couple of oranges. Quantities can vary according to taste, but I like a ratio of 1 part salt, ¼ part pepper and ½ part everything else. If you are, however, a purist, just good, quality sea salt will be delicious.
If you’ve opted to leave the skin on your roast, score it in an attractive cross-hatch pattern just through the skin, but not too deep into the fat. If you didn’t want the skin on your roast, I’d still suggest scoring the layer of fat if, for no other reason than aesthetics. It looks fancy and this is, after all, the holidays.
The day before your holiday soirée, rub the roast all over with seasoning mix. Place on a rack in a roasting tin and cover with plastic. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 275F. Roast for about 1 ½ — 2 hours or until an instant read thermometer reads 125F in the thickest part of the roast. This will result in a roast with a blush of pink in the middle. If you like your pork cooked more, cook to 135F.At this point, the skin (if intact) should be very soft and the fat should be wobbly and soft. Turn the heat to 450 and continue to roast until the skin is crackly-crispy and/or the fat is a deep golden-brown. Remove roast to a carving board and rest for about 10 minutes. Carve down along the bones to remove the meat. Slice thin and arrange festively on a platter. Or, for a more dramatic presentation, slice between the bones for dramatic looking chops. Season the cut side of the meat with some fancy sea salt or more of your seasoning mix.
*Note: If roasting a boneless pork roast, proceed as above but shorten the cook time to 45 minutes- 1 1/4 hours.