Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Weekend Eats

The last couple years, Elizabeth has gone back to New York to visit her sisters at Christmas. Again this year she left on Christmas Eve (in the morning) and we went out to dinner with my parents and brother the night before. Last year we went to Gale's, two years ago we went to Tani. But neither dinner was particularly fun; places are crowded on that night. Why not go somewhere less formal (and cheaper), I reasoned, since it's probably not going to be a special dinner. We all decided on Robin's BBQ.

And indeed it was crowded. At first they tried to cram all five of us into a semi-circle booth. At the identical booth right next to it there were four people, two adults and two little girls, and that booth was too small for them. I looked at the waiter to see if he was joking. I'm 6'2"... and both my dad and brother are taller than I am. There was no possible way all five of us were sitting here.

So we got a table in the back corner of the restaurant, and service was terrible for the whole dinner. Whatever.

We started with an order of potato skins with tri tip, cheddar, and spicy barbecue sauce. They were outstanding, by far the best thing any of us ate that evening. It's always disappointing when the appetizer is the best dish to hit the table, but these were definitely delicious.

My mom got an appetizer of rib tips and some cole slaw. They were okay but not as good as usual.

Elizabeth got the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. She did not complain about it but I took a bite and thought it was lousy: tough, flavorless steak.

My brother was very disappointed in the lack of tenderness in his full rack of baby back ribs. I did not try any.

My dad and I both got pulled pork sandwiches. They were good, but not great - they were on the dry side and I had to cover mine in sauce. (Thankfully, I like all of the sauces that Robin's uses.) Robin's pulled pork has been very good over the last couple years, but this was not a good example of that.

This was my least favorite visit to Robin's in a long time. They were very busy, so perhaps they weren't paying attention to service and quality like they should have been... but that is a reason, never an excuse. Next year I might just make dinner at home for everyone on December 23rd - it never seems to go well when we go out.

On Christmas Eve, after taking Elizabeth to the airport, I had an idea for the leftover ribs. I cut the meat off a couple bones and mixed it with two different sauces: a South Carolina-style mustard sauce and an Eastern Carolina-style vinegar sauce. I then put some of each onto a couple of slider buns. The pork was much better this way.

I reheated the half of the cheesesteak sandwich that Elizabeth had left from the night before. It still was not very good and I could not think of anything to do with it.

My parents got what was perhaps the largest prime rib roast I have ever seen: 7 bones, 17 pounds. From Taylor's in Sierra Madre, of course. It was gorgeous.
The rib was too big to fit in the pan, so I cut off an end piece and decided that would be all mine. I mixed up a paste of Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and - why not? - Zankou garlic sauce. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.

While the prime rib was roasting in the oven I put a holiday classic in the DVD player, perhaps the best Christmas movie ever made and one that warms the hearts of my family every year:

Die Hard.

My cousins Ed and June and my friend Carla came over to my parents' house to join my parents, brother and me for dinner. My dad decided to open wines from 1970, figuring they probably were too old by this point. For the most part he was correct, however the Haut-Brion was outstanding and one of the Lafittes was okay. But the Chateau Margaux and the rest of the Lafittes were bad.

I made a simple appetizer of burrata, proscuitto, roasted red pepper and basil. Just something to snack on with the wine while we waited for dinner to be ready.

The roast when it was pulled out of the oven. We let it rest for half an hour.

My piece crusted with the cheese and Zankou sauce.

My brother likes the action shots so he took one of me preparing to slice it.

Not too bad, eh?

There were green beans with mushrooms. Good, not great.

My cousin, Ed, made his Caesar salad. Sometimes it is the best Caesar I have ever had. This wasn't quite there - Ed admitted that himself - but it was still delicious.
I quartered new potatoes and roasted them with olive oil, fresh rosemary and chopped garlic. They were tasty, just as the other sides were, but nothing was as good as the meat.

There was a dessert but it had far too much fruit on it for my liking - I mean, that almost makes it healthy - so I took the fruit off a slice and my brother caramelized some sugar on top of it with my kitchen torch. It was much better that way.

A 17-pound prime rib split among seven people yields lots of leftovers. Christmas morning I added some prime rib to a breakfast burrito of eggs, cheese, cilantro, and Taco Lita hot sauce.

For lunch I carved some meat and put it on slider buns with cheese and barbecue sauce. They were a tasty meal.

For a mid-day snack I did the same thing with some jack cheese laced with dill and a couple dollops of Tiger sauce. Also tasty.

I slow-cooked some meatballs all day on Christmas Day and tried to decide what to do with them. I made myself a sandwich on a hot dog bun with fries, cheese, and chopped green onions. This was a wonderful sandwich. I don't put fried potatoes in enough sandwiches.

I rolled one meatball in Parmesan cheese and parsley. It was also great.

Perhaps I got a little pretentious here. I put some meatballs on a plate with Parmesan and parsley and drizzled it with a sweet chili sauce. 

It was definitely a good weekend for eating.


Banana Wonder said...

Oh wow, meaty merry christmas to you! That's crazy about the vintage wines. Did you check online to see what they were valued at?

Diana said...

This whole post was totally worth waiting a week for. Except for the bloody meat. Oh mannnnn I don't know how people eat meat any way less than well done (I know, I'm blasphemous and would be thrown out of a real steakhouse).

ben wideman said...

Happy New Year, Justin. I can't believe I still haven't been to Robins. Maybe that should be my New Year Resolution.

Best line of this post...

"I don't put fried potatoes in enough sandwiches."

JustinM said...

Anna: Nah, I think wine is for enjoying on nights like this. Any price tag placed on it would be completely arbitrary to me.

Diana: I wouldn't go so far as to call it blasphemous, but you're eating a dead animal either way; isn't taste more important than appearance? I don't know how people pay a lot for a USDA Prime piece of meat (and this was the most expensive cut of meat I have ever eaten by far) and then cook the flavor out of it. Why not just buy "Select" ground chuck if that's what you're going to do?

Ben: Happy New Year to you, too. May the Blue Jays finally win the AL East again. When Robin's is good, it is great, but when it's not, it's really frustrating. That's my opinion of the place.

Anonymous said...

your bro making you take action shots, FTW!!

diana: im a well done dude myself as well.

Liz said...

Wow, you did have a lot of meat while I was away.

I'm a well-done kind of girl too. However, when out to eat at a nice place I will order it medium or medium-well.

JustinM said...

Anon: I just had to look up what FTW means. Damn I'm getting old.

Actually, my dad griped about the rareness of the meat, something about "restoring the animal's body temperature" so I took his piece and cooked it longer in a pan for him. I wasn't happy about doing it, but he is my dad, not to mention he paid for the roast...

Liz: I was lonely. Meat was my friend.

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

That prime rib is utterly amazing. With the garlic sauce and parm...DUDE that looked AMAZING! And i love it cooked just shy of moo-ing, so it was perfect. I may be using that prime rib shot as the background for my computer...

Cafe Pasadena said...

Sounds like these meals were just a lots of swings & misses with a couple of singles thrown in.

Good to see you out eating again!

Nosh Gnostic said...

Robin's - agreed. Inconsistent, but worth going back for hopes of landing on a good day.

As usual, your leftover ideas are cooler than the main day dish. BTW, how was that Zankou crusted slab?

JustinM said...

Gilding the lily. Of course the crust tasted good but it added nothing to an already great piece of prime rib.

Unknown said...

That Prime Rib looks amazing. I'm in the rare-medium rare camp btw.

Die Hard and Home Alone are my Christmas movies. Something about getting attacked on Christmas I guess lol. Can't forget Christmas Story though.