I can’t tell you how much this book has changed the way I think about cooking.
I’m used to cook books that are nothing but recipes. Ruhlman’s Twenty has plenty of those, but they’re all wrapped around the 20 core cooking tools and techniques that Ruhlman has distilled from his years of being a chef and writing about food.
Before this book, to me an egg was just an ingredient. Now they are Technique #6, little oval kitchen workhorses – cooked gently they become a meal unto themselves, while egg whites leaven souffles by incorporating air, and egg yolks emulsify simple oil and acid into that amazing concoction we call mayonnaise.
Even the shallot (Technique #4) becomes a bit of a wonder in Ruhlman’s book. I always though of them as uppity onions, but mince them with some vinegar (Technique #5) and whirl them with some olive oil and you’ve got a quick vinaigrette (Technique #12) that works wonders when paired with cold veggies and beats anything that comes in a bottle.
Of course, being a grillmeister and all, I was most interested in his Technique #18, Grill: The Flavor of Fire. Having recently secured a very nice rib roast, I decided to try his grill/roast technique using a wet rub to season the roast.
1 4-6 pound rib roast
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Allegro Marinade or Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
Make the wet rub by putting the garlic, salt and peppercorns into a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the oil, vinegar, Allegro, rosemary, thyme and paprika and give them a whirl to combine.
You’ll need a flame-proof roasting pan (I use an old 9×13 baking pan) with a rack. Put the roast on a cutting board with the deckle (fat cap) on top. Score the fat by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals. Pour half of the wet rub over the roast and work it into the cuts. Turn the roast over and cover the bottom and sides of the roast with the remaining rub. Set aside and let rest while you set up the grill.
The heart of Ruhlman’s grill/roast technique is to sear the meat over a hot, direct fire, give it a rest, and then finish it over lower, even heat. The sear gets you that crispy, tasty crust. The resting time stops the heat from pushing too deeply into the meat, giving you an evenly-cooked roast with more lovely medium-well meat and less gray, over-cooked meat. It also lets you control when you serve the meat. Once the searing is done, you can finish it right away on the grill (or in the oven, if you must), or stash it in the fridge for up to a day before finishing it right before serving.
For the sear, set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (500°F). Get the cooking grate is nice and hot and sear the roast for 90 seconds on each side. When the roast is browned all over, move it to the rack (fat side up) set in the roasting pan.
If you are finishing it later, move the roast to the fridge until it is cool and then wrap with plastic wrap. If you’re serving it right away, tent loosely with aluminum foil and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes while you get the grill down to the roasting temperature.
Close the lid on the grill and adjust the vents to reduce the heat to 300°F. On the Big Green Egg, I shut the vents almost all the way down and added an inverted (legs up) plate setter to diffuse the heat. You could also use a flame-proof pizza stone, sheet pan, or trivet to give you indirect heat.
When the grill is down to roasting temps, put the roaster loaded with the meat back onto the grill. Add about a cup of water to the roasting pan to keep the juices from burning. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, or until it hits 130°F internal.
Move the roast to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.
I made this for my dear mother’s 82nd birthday dinner and everyone loved it. The roast had a nice, wide band of tender, rosy-red meat with a great crunchy char on it. Slicing the deckle let the bits of fat fry themselves into a kind of beefy bacon. Perfect.
As for Ruhlman’s Twenty, I find myself reaching for this more than any of my other cook books. I’m not always making recipes from the book, but I am always leveraging his techniques.
When you get to be 82, you get to quit counting calories.