Photo by Ruta Smith

Prime Time

My wife Bethany and I have always had an obsession with prime rib. Ever since we met, we have been searching for a restaurant with the perfect prime rib with au jus. One of our favorite places to eat is Bobby’s Restaurant and Lounge in Vero Beach, Florida, where I grew up. From the thick-cut prime rib plate with au jus to the fat, thinly-shaved french dip au jus sandwich with a chopped Caesar — Bobby’s is timeless. Bobby’s is the epitome of an American restaurant and major inspiration for Vern’s: comfortable, not fussy, taken seriously, but fun.

We both were raised in meat and potatoes families. Bethany grew up in Dublin, Ohio, where the weather is usually overcast and chilly, and I grew up in Vero Beach, Florida, where there is sun all year round. The closest we came to prime rib in my family was pot roast cooked for several hours in beef stock with carrots and served with twice baked potatoes, so the first time I had true prime rib at Bobby’s, I was hooked.

At Vern’s, we’re always looking to source the best products as close to home as possible. Recently, we were introduced to Black Hawk Farms, which produces Kentucky-raised Wagyu Beef. The marbling in the meat is unreal. This beef is the best we have sourced in the Southeast, and we’re excited to explore other cuts with them.

When we prepare prime rib, we cook it to medium rare, so when cutting into the beef, it is pink from top to bottom. In order to achieve this, we discovered cooking the beef as slowly as possible is key. We season and temper the meat one to two hours before hitting the oven; this allows the meat to cook evenly. We crust our prime rib with dijon mustard and Montreal steak seasoning, creating a salty crust that helps to season the center of the cut. Au jus is key for extra depth and seasoning. We use a high-quality bone broth and add caramelized onions, garlic, trim from the prime rib and fresh thyme, and infuse the broth by simmering the stock until reduced by half. Finish with salt, black pepper, tamari and Worcestershire.

Once that first break in humidity hits Charleston, and the air feels slightly crisp, the prime rib craving kicks in. Bethany is a fan of drinking seasonally. For fall in Charleston, lighter reds with a hint of warm spice and plush fruit are perfect with a little chill. Prime rib and Gamay is a match made in heaven. She recommends finding a natural style like the La Souteronne from Herve Souhaut or anything from Jules Metras or Jean-Louis Dutraive. If you want to keep it Americana, I highly recommend anything from Mendocino producer Martha Stoumen. Her Nero d’Avola is spicy, soft, layered — a truly exceptional wine.

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