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12 Days of Holiday Food Memories: Andrew Knowlton's Standing (and Then Sleeping) Rib Roast

Julia Bainbridge

We asked a dozen food world luminaries to help us count down the next 12 days with culinary nostalgia, and they gave us their favorite stories of supermarket eggnog, standing rib roasts, discounted candy, and lots of cheer. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

12 Days of Holiday Food Memories: Andrew Knowlton's Standing (and Then Sleeping) Rib Roast

Photo credit: Stock Food. Lettering: Brian Kaspr

Andrew Knowlton, Bon Appétit magazine’s restaurant and drinks editor, is largely known for throwing back beers with celebrities. Just kidding. He’s known for his monthly Foodist column in the magazine, he’s known for his annual list of best new restaurants in the country, and he’s known for having very close relationships with the best chefs in the world (and the cell phone contacts to prove it). Now, let him be known for his softer, 10-year-old side.

I always had a chip on my shoulder about being an only child. I always wanted a brother or sister, pretty much 364 days a year. The one day I didn’t want a brother was on Christmas, because it was all about me and the ridiculous number of gifts that an only child would get. So I kinda thought Christmas was The Andrew Knowlton Show.

Either the weekend or the week before Christmas, my parents would throw a big holiday party at our house. It was mostly my dad’s work friends, but it was the time I would get dressed up in a suit and my mother would tell me how cute I looked. Again, I was the center of attention, running around having fun.

My mom would make a standing rib roast, one of those pieces of meat you would see a 200 dollar price tag on. It was humongous. That was the only time Dad got involved, when the big piece of meat came around. And I have to give them credit: they were both from a small town in West Virginia, they lived in Atlanta, and that thing was medium rare—perfectly bloody.

Mom made this beautiful horseradish cream sauce, a classic with the prime rib, and it was actually an old Bon Appétit recipe from 1976, just two years after I was born. She still has that piece of paper, all crumpled up.

Then she’d make potatoes au gratin with a gross amount of cream and butter with thinly sliced potatoes. And I would help her layer them, then put in the cream and butter, and she would top it with Emmentaler cheese. We would watch it bubble in the oven.

There were usually about fifty people there, so it was mostly a cocktail party—like a standing rib roast for a standing crowd. My mother would make Parker House Rolls, too, and my favorite thing was to make little sliders with them: take the biscuits, a few slices of the prime rib, and spread with the sauce.

I would take coats. If my dad needed more ice I would go get ice. Then an hour in, I would get bored and walk upstairs and play with my stretchy, plastic Hulk. I was a big Hulk fan.

It went late, like 2 o’clock. I had stairs leading up to my room, so I’d end up sitting on the stairs, listening to the party, and falling asleep there. Then I’d wake up with my mom taking me up the stairs to bed.