A chilly early spring afternoon and a nice cut of beef inspired a wintry dinner -- probably one of the last we'll be doing here until fall.

I picked up a good-looking, small (1 1/2 pound) rolled rib roast at the grocery, and prepared it very simply using a high-low heat procedure: Preheated the oven as hot as I could get it (550F on the dial), then popped in the beef in a small, shallow roasting pan. Let it sear at high heat for 5 or 10 minutes or until the smoke detectors go off , then reduce to 325 and continue roasting for a total of 25 minutes per pound -- about 40 minutes for this small piece, checking toward the end with a meat thermometer for 140F at the center, medium rare.

Take it out and place on a warm plate for at least 20 to 30 minutes before serving; this seems to make for a much more flavorful and juicy slice of beef than serving it promptly while it's still very hot.

I used the waiting time to make this traditional accompaniment:

Beat two eggs (I used one egg and an equivalent amount of Egg Beater) in a small bowl until frothy. Stir in 1 cup milk, then gradually beat in 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. If there's time (I did this before starting the beef), set it aside to rest for an hour, then beat again.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the beef drippings into a shallow 9x13 pan and pop it into the oven until it's sizzling. Pour in the batter and pop into a 450F oven. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then reduce to 350 and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so until it's dark brown and crunchy. Cut into squares and serve.

Bowing slightly to health with a bowl of fresh steamed spinach with lots of garlic, this made a filling meal indeed, a fine match with a dry Languedoc red.