A Montana Christmas with Prime Rib

Here in the land of beef, at the center of many Christmas feasts sits one tasty delight where the name truly says it all — Prime Rib. In all corners of Montana, a prime rib roast will be the crown jewel of many a holiday table.

This cut of meat is the rib eye. It hails from the place on the cow, where we get New York strips. It’s prime real estate if you will. This great taste doesn’t come without a higher cost, but if you know how to prepare this flavorful meat, it is well worth the effort and expense.

To craft the best prime rib, make sure you have a good quality meat temperature gauge or a digital thermometer for an instant read. This takes the guesswork out of when it’s the right time to remove the roast from the oven. If you’re making the investment, you want to assure you’ll have just the right results.

For expert tips on preparing prime rib, we turn to David Maplethorpe, Executive Chef at The Rex. Certified Angus beef prime rib is one of the main dishes this downtown hot spot serves every night until it is gone. Some nights it is gone by 6:00 PM.

For the best possible flavor, The Rex ages their prime rib for several weeks, turning the meat every day so the juices flow back and forth through the meat. Aging meat for weeks is a luxury that many home cooks do not have. If you can, however, let your rib roast sit for a few days in the refrigerator and be sure to turn it each day.

When it comes time to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make sure to remove the roast from the fridge one to two hours before you cook it. You will want the meat to be at room temperature before it goes into the oven.

Before popping the prime rib in the oven, blot the meat with paper towel to remove the surface moisture. Maplethorpe seasons his prime rib with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, dry crushed basil and granulated garlic. The salt is used to penetrate the fat. The pepper and basil season the meat and the granulated garlic helps to adhere the basil. How much you use of each seasoning is up to you, but a good place to start with a 6-pound prime rib roast is roughly 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 2 teaspoons of pepper and dry basil and 1 teaspoon or so of granulated garlic. To season, spread the seasonings around and rub it in as you go.

To roast, place the meat in a shallow roasting pan with a rack in that preheated 350 degree oven. If you are using a meat thermometer, insert it now. Be sure to place the tip of the thermometer in the center of the roast but not in fat or against the bone. If your prime rib roast has a bone, place the roast on the bone in the shallow roaster and you can probably do without the rack.

Roast the meat at 350 degrees for an hour. Then, lower the oven to 250 degrees to finish the roasting, anywhere from an additional hour to two hours for a total cook time of three hours. After two hours of roast time, it is important to check the temperature. The ideal temp to remove the roast is 120 to 125 degrees. That’s what Maplethorpe calls medium rare, the ideal for prime rib.

Remove the roast, tent it with aluminum foil, and let it set for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. The roast will continue cooking while it sits, so it is a good idea to remove the meat when it reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees.

While the prime rib is resting, it’s the perfect time to prep the side dishes. Maplethorpe says mashed potatoes are always a fine accompaniment but one of his go-to pairings is risotto. For your vegetable, this Executive Chef suggests Brussel sprouts. He says, “We serve a lot of Brussel sprouts, plates come back clean.”

If prime rib seems a little daunting, there is a short-cut. Maplethorpe says many of The Rex customers call up during the holiday season and order their prime rib straight from the restaurant. The customer tells them how many people they are feeding and The Rex cuts the appropriate size piece of meat. They season it, include the au jus and horseradish if requested plus offer detailed instructions for roasting. The side dishes are up to the home cook.

”We take our cost of the prime rib and we add 20 percent. We are not trying to gouge people. We want them to have the dinner they want.”

So take the step and serve up prime rib, the king of beef, this holiday season. With this kind of meal prep, you’re sure to leave a lasting impression on your holiday guests.




10 to 12 ounces of meat per person

Use a meat or digital instant read thermometer

Remove prime rib from refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before roasting to bring to room temperature

Roast for 350 degrees the 1st hour, 250 degrees for each additional hour

When meat reaches 120 to 125 degrees, roast is medium rare, 130 to 140 degrees means roast is prepared to medium temperature.

Allow the meat to rest for 30 to 45 minutes to finish roasting


~Recipe from Kay Erickson

Risotto can be somewhat labor intensive but will give you rave reviews.

1 T. each of unsalted butter vegetable oil, plus 1 Tb butter
2 large green onions, finely  chopped
4 C low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 ½ C Arborio rice
½ C dry white wine
½ C grated Parmesan cheese
½ Tsp salt
¼ Tsp black pepper


Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Cover the pan to keep it hot over low heat. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute’ until softened but not brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter and oil mixture. Add the wine and simmer until the wine is almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup of hot broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of both to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender to the bite (al dente) and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese, the additional tablespoon of butter plus the salt and pepper. Spoon into a warmed dish and serve.


~Recipe from Kay Erickson

1 pound of Brussel sprouts
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the Brussel sprouts in half vertically. Steam in 1 inch of water in a pot with lid until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and toss with butter, season with salt and pepper and serve.

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