July 26, 2017

Dear friends,
Two days before Tony became an American citizen, he plopped a 3-pound, long-bone prime rib in our grocery cart at Sam’s Club and announced, “This is what I want for my citizenship dinner,” then added, “can you cook it?”

“Are you kidding?” I scoffed. “It will be so delicious you’ll weep.”

I went about planning the dinner the next two days, ignoring Tony’s references to the meat as “my steak.” I realized he wasn’t kidding when, a couple of hours before the meal, Tony assured me he would share a bit of it with me. A bit?

By this time Tony had arranged the caveman-like hunk of meat on the kitchen counter in front of his naturalization certificate, with a little American flag stuck in the meat. He was photographing it when he made the offer to share his “steak.”

“That’s not your steak,” I finally snapped. “It’s a 3-pound rib roast!”

I was sorry to disappoint him on one of the happiest days of our marriage, but the guy was insane if he thought I’d sit on the sidelines while he ate an entire prime rib. I had my eye on that baby, too. It would be a luxe finale to a difficult process that began in February at the International Institute of Akron.

For four months, three evenings a week, Tony attended citizenship classes in preparation for an exam at the Immigration and Naturalization Services offices in Cleveland. For four months he also studied every day at home learning such arcane facts as the date the Constitution was written (1837) and the purpose of the Federalist Papers (to sell the Constitution to the colonies). For four months I drilled him with flash cards and tried to answer questions about how our current Congress works (or doesn’t work.)

Tony passed the test in late June and took his oath Friday at the Federal Court House in Cleveland. We were both so proud. In the hallway outside the judge’s chamber he signed up to vote and we chatted with fellow Akron-area honoree Quinn Lee. It was a moving experience, but the glow didn’t last long. On the way home, all Tony could talk about was his “steak.”

I knew exactly how I would prepare it. After I removed it from the photo tableau, I patted it dry with paper towels and cut away a bit — not much — of extraneous fat. I seasoned it lightly, coated it with olive oil and plopped it on one side of the charcoal grill over a drip pan, the other side loaded with ashed-over coals.

While the meat roasted I made a simple horseradish sauce of mayo, lots of prepared horseradish, and some milk to thin it. Tony and I cut corn kernels from some of the first ears of summer (from Graf Growers) and I sautéed them in a skillet with butter and a handful of sliced green beans, with coarse sea salt at the end. Grape-sized new potatoes were boiled until tender, halved and tossed with a spoonful of basil vinaigrette left over from an earlier meal.

My way of cooking grill-smoked prime rib is elemental. Not much stands between the flavor of the meat and your tastebuds. I have seen more-complicated recipes and one day I may slather the meat with mustard, dust it with flour and coat it with olive oil before grilling.

Or maybe not. While Tony didn’t weep, he ran out of superlatives for the smoky, juicy, tender hunk of meat. He dug into it like a true American.

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GRILL-SMOKED PRIME RIB
WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE

 

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  • 1 beef rib roast, bone in, about 3 lbs.
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce
  • Milk to thin
  • Soaked wood chips (hickory or apple preferred)

Remove roast from wrapping and pat dry with paper towels. Trim away some of the surface fat, leaving enough to moisten and flavor the meat. In a custard cup, combine the salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub all over the meat. Rub the meat with olive oil to moisten and prevent it from sticking to the grill.

Place a foil pan on one side of a charcoal grill. Mound about 40 charcoal briquettes on the other side. Light the coals and let burn until completely ashed over. Scatter a handful of soaked wood chips over the coals. Place the roast on the grill grid over the foil pan. Close the grill lid, vents open fully.

Roast meat for 30 minutes without removing grill lid. Remove lid, add a few briquettes if necessary and a few more wood chips. Turn meat front to back and side to side so that the part that was closest to the coals is now farthest away. Cover and roast about 30 minutes more, checking after 20 minutes with an instant-read thermometer shoved into the thickest part of the meat. For rare, remove when thermometer registers 140 degrees. For medium rare, 150 degrees. The meat will continue to cook after it is removed from the grill.

Let meat rest for 20 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and horseradish to taste in a small bowl. Thin with milk to a desired consistency. The sauce should be thinner than mayonnaise but still cling to the meat.

Serves four amply.

GUT CHECK

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato sandwich at the Harp in Cleveland; crispy spring rolls with duck sauce and shrimp and chicken summer rolls with a weird peanut sauce at Taste of Bangkok in downtown Akron (eh).

What I cooked last week:
Ciabatta pizza with fresh-chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, mozzarella and prosciutto; scrambled egg and avocado on toast; grilled salmon Nicoise; grill-smoked prime rib with horseradish sauce, sautéed fresh corn off the cob and green beans, and baby potatoes with basil vinaigrette; salami and tomato sandwiches with basil leaves; cornbread, hot dogs and baked beans.

Note: We have been eating a lot of salami lately because Tony lugged home a 4-inch-round, foot-long dried salami.

THE MAILBAG

From Darren B.:
Thanks for being one of my links to Akron. I live in Chicago now and have on lived in Akron since 1994 but like to stay in touch with my hometown and you make this possible. My parents still live in Bath Township and my mother is always saving articles from the Beacon to send me but I still look forward to my weekly dose of Jane. Please know that I am spreading the word about sauerkraut balls here in Chicago and gaining loyal followers of this amazing NE Ohio hors d’oeuvre. Now if we could just get someone to give up the recipe for Yanko’s Beachcomber!

Dear Darren: Thank you for the kind words, and keep spreading the sauerkraut balls gospel. Has enough time passed that someone is finally wiling to share the Beachcomer recipe? Anyone?

 
From Betty C.:
We know now that most olive oils on the grocery shelves are fake. I want the “real” stuff that promises health benefits. What olive oil is authentic? Please help.

Dear Betty: The olive oils on grocery shelves are not all fake, although some advertised as “extra virgin” may not be, and some may be adulterated with other kinds of oil. Admittedly, it is a bit of a mess. A 2010 study by the University of California at Davis (and several subsequent studies) found that not all of the oils advertised as “extra virgin” meet the legal standard (historically, oil from the first cold pressing; legally, oil that passes a battery of chemical and sensory tests.)

Luckily, olive oil doesn’t have to be extra virgin to provide the health benefits of consuming monounsaturated fat. All consumable grades of olive oil may help ease hypertension and reduce the risk of heart disease.

But worse than the extra-virgin scandal, “60 Minutes” reported last year on a German study that found many olive oils were adulterated with seed oils such as sunflower and Canola oils. According to an article in Forbes, pure olive oil has historically been cut with less expensive oils, and it’s difficult to tell by taste, look or smell. The only way to be sure is to test it chemically, which the North American Olive Oil Association does.

If you care about getting what you pay for, check out the list of olive oil brands certified for authenticity by the North American Olive Oil Association atwww.aboutoliveoil.org/qualityseal.html.

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