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A toast to the roast

As Dr. Seuss might say, no Christmas feast is complete without the roast beast. Photo courtesy of

What meat are you preparing for your main holiday meal this year?

That's a decision that's pretty easy for a lot of people. In fact, almost two-thirds of you already know the answer to that question.

A survey that I recently saw reported that's how many people plan on having ham or turkey in the starring role. (And believe it or not, almost 15 percent of Americans will celebrate with only sandwiches.)

But there are other tasty options available to the cook who wants to make something that will impress family and friends. A lot of people I've talked to have plans to make some kind of roast.

And that's what I just might do, too. In fact, I might cook two roasts together just like my Grandma Menard used to do when my mom was growing up.

Grandma would buy a pair of roasts -- veal and pork -- at Erickson's Meat Market in Crookston and cook them in tandem. One of the reasons was because the gravy made from the drippings was outstanding, at least in the opinion of my mom.

My choice of roasts probably would be pork and bison, the latter a bit leaner than the former, which will make for a less-fatty and more balanced presentation.

But the options for roasts are numerous.

Premium beef roasts such as rib-eye, rib and tenderloin are very popular during the holidays. For those who are concerned about the higher cost of these cuts, there are more economical roast choices, too, including round tip, top sirloin and eye round, which also are delicious, especially when enhanced with herbs and spices. There's also pork, venison and bison roasts, which aren't as costly.

Healthy choices

Nutritionally, all of the above roasts are fairly healthy -- their only drawback is they are high in cholesterol because of being of animal origin -- according to Jennifer Haugen, licensed registered clinical dietitian with Altru Health System.

"They all are low in sodium and are excellent sources of protein (important for growth and repair of tissue)," Haugen said.

The red meat roasts such as beef, bison and venison also are very good sources of B12, which plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells and the central nervous system, and zinc, important for immune function, wound healing and a number of other biological functions within the body.

Pork is a very good source of thiamin, which helps the body convert carbohydrates to energy and plays a key role in the function of muscle, heart and nervous system, she added.

Here are a few more healthy tips about roasts from Haugen:

• If you're shopping for a lean, low-fat roast, look for the words "loin" or "round."

• Using high-fat cooking methods can defeat the purpose of purchasing a lean roast. Try using more herbs and spices to season meat versus fat.

• A roast can be a great item to cook (on low) in a slow cooker when you are at work. It's a great option for on-the-go families

• Cook leaner cuts of meat at lower temperatures for a longer time and incorporate moisture to keep tender.

• Roasts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees or higher for three minutes to kill bacteria. It is important to use a food thermometer to ensure food is done rather than relying on color alone.

Perfect prime rib

One reason some people shy away from more expensive cuts such as the prime rib roast is that they are intimidated by the thought of ruining their meal. If asked, most butchers can tell you how to cook and carve these to avoid any disasters.

A friend, Lillian Elsinga, told me about her sure-fire way to fix prime rib, the centerpiece of her Christmas Day meal.

She likes to cook her prime rib -- seasoned with salt, pepper and some Old Bay Seasoning -- in a 550-degree oven for five minutes per pound for rare meat, six minutes for medium and seven minutes for well-done.

She then turns off the oven -- keeping it shut -- and lets the prime rib sit for two hours. The meat, Lillian says, is still warm when it's taken out of the oven and is very easy to slice, not to mention extremely delicious.

That sounds a whole lot better than a sandwich!

(Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at