A prime holiday

The festive holiday table calls for a once-a-year splurge that throws both calorie-count and cost out the window.

For many Americans, that will mean tucking into a standing rib roast elevated by its traditional companion, Yorkshire pudding. Fattening? Yes. Ludicrously expensive? Of course. But worth every decadent bite.

And, if you're gifted in the kitchen like meat guru Bruce Aidells of Healdsburg, you could also add a porcini-spinach stuffing, then gild the lily with a toasted peppercorn and whiskey sauce.

"Whiskey sauce is my play on steak au poivre (pepper steak)," he said. "But I use Irish whiskey and red wine (instead of Cognac). It's definitely a rich sauce. It's not a dieter's meal."

This year, Aidells published "The Great Meat Cookbook," a comprehensive guide to buying and cooking all kinds of meat, from bison to spareribs. The hefty tome boasts an impressive, 15-pound standing rib roast on its cover, a kingly feast fit for 8 to 12 guests.

With the price of beef soaring to $15 a pound or higher, Aidells estimates that that size roast would now run about $225.

"The price of beef is up 20 or 30 percent," he said. "We've had two years of massive drought."

Since the meal requires a sizable investment of time and money, Aidells also offered a few tips to make sure your holiday roast comes out flavorful, rosy-pink and perfectly cooked.

First, he advised, buy the best slab of beef you can afford. That's actually a bit more complicated than it sounds.

For the uninitiated, the standing rib roast is a cut of beef from the rib, one of eight primal cuts of beef. It is located between the chuck (shoulder) and the short loin, and comprises ribs 6 through 12 along the back of the animal.

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