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Monday, June 4, 2012

Braised Short Ribs

Beef short ribs have an awesome, earthy, beefy, rich meatiness to them, but are generally considered a poor cut of meat, and so are often very tough.

This is why they are typically roasted, braised, or otherwise 'slow-cooked', in order to tenderize them.

When done correctly, however, these little babies pack a flavour wallop.

The trick is to sear the beef for a few minutes at really high heat, before putting them in for the long haul on low heat.  Kinda like you would with stewing meat.

I've seen some slow-cooker recipes for short ribs, but I'm going to pull out my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven for this.

She's perfect for this sort of thing.  Nice and solid, with excellent heat-retentive quality.

So, other than searing the ribs, the prep for this baby is going to consist of making the base.  

Shallot, garlic, white and green onion, chopped finely and pureed in a mixer.

This is one dish where I'm going to recommend you puree this root veggie base for more reasons than just personal taste.  In this, the base is going to form the sauce later on, once we're finished braising, deglazing, and reducing; it is therefore going to be benefited from having a smooth, yet thick, consistency, rather than a goopy, chunky texture which - no matter how you do it - is going to end up slimy and soggy.  So... by pureeing the contents of this base, it's going to be very smooth and yummy once we finish reducing it.  Just trust me.

So, leave that aside for a second.

Now's a good time to pre-heat your oven (to 350°).

Pull out your ribs.

We were lucky to nab a couple of really gorgeous looking beef short ribs from a dude at the farmers' market last weekend.


So, if you want to, you are certainly welcome to chop these up a bit.  Especially if you were feeding more than two people - 2 ribs/2 people = :) :) - you could slice them up.  You can see (from these photos) that I could have split these into as many as 8 individual ribs, but they'd be little guys.

That said, I'd much rather suggest that you just pick up more ribs.  It's a good portion for one person, and it's going to look much better in terms of presentation (as you'll see later!)

So, get your dutch oven going on high heat (well... gas mark 6 or 7 or so). 

Throw in a generous splash of oil.  Any kind of oil with a high smoke point will work (so not butter, for example) so most types of vegetable oil.

Diligently, and patiently, brown all four sides of each rib.  If you don't have enough space to brown them without crowding them, do them in batches.

Once all sides of the ribs are nicely browned - remove them.  Just set them on a plate for a few minutes for now.

I could almost eat that now... (if I wanted to contract a foodborne illness...)

Now you've got all this gorgeous greasy flavour sitting in your pan, what are you going to do with it?  Throw it away... if you're a panty-waste...  

NO!  Get your veggie puree in there as soon as your feeble arms can manage it, and start swishing it about.  Make sure to get it all coated in that loveliness.

After only a couple of minutes, dump in your liquid base.

Now... there are a bunch of options here... as with most cooking of this type.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Beer (probably a dark, malty one like guiness)
  • Port (oh man oh man oh man... done this once... delicious)
  • Beef Broth / Consomme
  • Liqueur (probably not an overly-sweet one though)
  • Red Wine (my recommendation)
Of course, any kind of liquid would work, for the most part.  However, alcohol is a great choice, and is often recommended for this, as it reduces very cleanly and what you're left with is some nice concentrated flavour.

So, I'm going with a cheap bottle of red here tonight.  It's good to have at least one bottle of super cheap wine (both red and white) in your rack / cellar for use in cooking.  This bottle was an Argentinian cab/merlot blend.  And I don't think it was even over $8.

In it goes.  I poured in about half first.

And then added some bay leaves.  About a half-dozen.

You can see that the root vegetables are almost completely incorporated into the liquid, rather than being floaties.  The bay leaves, are of course, floaties... but they're going to be removed before eating anyway.

While that is simmering, rub a simple mix of spices into your seared-but-resting ribs.

I chose an unassuming blend of freshly ground oregano, sel gris, and black peppercorns.

Make sure you rub this in really good, and into all the nooks and crannies.  Most of this is going to come off and get absorbed into the sauce, but you'd be surprised how much flavour you can force into the meat by rubbing it in.

Once rubbed-well, put the ribs back into the pot, and bring the whole thing up to a boil.

Once it gets boiling, put on your heavy lid (or cover tightly with foil, if you don't have a lid) and throw it in the middle of your oven.

Now for the slow cook...

<plays elevator music>

It should only take a couple hours really.

Plenty of time to mix up your other dishes for the meal, set the table, and clean up the dishes.  Not to mention crack open another bottle of red (or beer, if you chose that for your ribs) and get an early start.

Myself, I wanted to serve this on a bed of mashed potatoes.  I've seen this before in restaurants, and I have to say (after having tried it) it really is quite delightful.  They mingle exquisitely.

Anyway... after two hours, I cracked the seal, and went in for a peek.


Completely cooked, and totally tender - in fact I had to exercise great caution when removing these from the pan to rest on a plate.  They were so tender they were literally falling apart when touched.

So, let these babies rest on a plate for now, and cover them with foil.

While those are acclimatizing, it's time to get to work on deglazing that awesomeness that you've let accumulate in your pan.

Just LOOK at all the gunk lining the sides of this puppy:

And look how it all just comes off with judicious application of a wire whisk:

Keep the temperature relatively constant at about medium... maybe medium-low if you're busy and/or not going to stand over it whisking regularly.

It will gradually thicken substantially, as the remaining liquid reduces.

Aren't you glad you chose to puree the veggies now, rather than have them be ugly, discoloured slime blighting this otherwise gorgeous beefy gravy?  They've almost completely disintegrated, in fact, and have just given over all their sustenance and flavour to the greater good.

Once it reaches your desired thickness, take it off the heat, and carefully pour it over your ribs.  

Preferably after they've already been plated.

So, I put them on the mashed potatoes first, and then smothered the whole thing in this sauce.

Oh man oh man oh ma..

Sorry, that was the sound of my drool hitting the keyboard and shorting it out.

Seriously, though, doesn't this make you want to try braising some ribs right now?