Make A Perfect Holiday Roast

Stock the fridge with fresh herbs and vegetables, crack a bottle of local
vino to sip in the kitchen, and join us as we get our December roast on. Find this recipe and more holiday cheer in the December 2014 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Nothing says feasting season like a tawny rib roast or meltingly tender pork shoulder arcing its umami vapors into every corner of the house. Holiday jubilation and roasted meat are inextricable, and this season we’re moving beyond the canon of ham and fowl to sink our teeth into an alternate universe of savory celebration cuts. With a quick Rolodex of some of the North’s best independent butchers and a little savoir faire from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute’s meat sensei, Chef Bob Rodriguez, you can crown the Christmas table with perfect prime rib, slow-roasted Boston butt or herb-crusted leg of lamb. Chef Rodriguez recommends hitting the kitchen shop to arm yourself with a reliable meat thermometer, a razor sharp slicing knife and a heavy roasting pan.

Born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love, Chef Bob Rodriguez earned his kitchen chops training under European chefs and has spent the last 19 years as an instructor at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. We sit down with Chef Bob and four cuts of meat to learn essential roasting technique and to understand the anatomy of perfect pan gravy.

Three meats we should roast this month. Go.

Surprise, let’s start with pork. You want the shoulder, always the shoulder. This cut of the animal is 25 to 30 percent soft fats that melts and self-bastes during the roasting process. If you want a big beautiful loin cut from the cow, go with a bone-in standing rib roast cooked rare or medium rare; the bone is important as it releases a lot of flavor into the meat. My absolute favorite, maybe, is leg of lamb: deboned, rolled with mustard, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs and cooked medium rare.

What happens before the meat hits the oven?

With any of these cuts it’s best to season the meat with coarse salt, fresh cracked pepper and thyme or rosemary and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The salt flavors the meat and helps it retain moisture. Letting the meat come to room temperature before going in the oven allows for even cooking. I like to line the bottom of the pan with mirepoix: two parts onion to one part each carrot and celery, throw in some parsley stems, some crushed garlic and some sprigs of thyme; all of this builds flavor for the gravy.

Oven temp?

Start at 425 degrees or higher until the roast develops a nice brown crust and then reduce heat to 275 for the pork and 225 or 250 for the beef and lamb until you reach your desired internal temperature.

Pan gravy? Teach us.

Strain out the pan juices after the meat has rested, and separate the fat for making a roux. For the roux, you want to combine one tablespoon of fat or butter to one tablespoon of flour and whisk until it turns golden brown. Let the roux cool down and then whisk it into a pan with the drippings with one tablespoon of roux for every one cup of liquid. You can add some chicken or beef stock if needed and season to taste.

On the Hunt

We hit some of the North’s best
 butcher shops to supply your holiday roast.


  • Riverstreet Stockyard & Spirits, 401 River Street, Manistee, 231.887.4770
  • Deering’s, 10233 West Front Street, Empire, 231.326.5249
  • Pleva’s Meats, 8974 South Kasson Street, Cedar, 231.228.5000
  • Burritt’s Fresh Market, 509 West Front Street, Traverse City, 231.946.3300
  • Tannery Creek Market, 1210 US31 North, Petoskey, 231.439.3663
  • Maxbauer Specialty Meat Market, 407 S. Union, Traverse City, 231.947.7698
  • Plath’s Meats, 2200 East Mitchell Road, Petoskey, 231.348.8100