Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Braised Short Ribs!

As I do in managing investments, I do in the kitchen. That is to say, I eat my own cooking. No better time to write this recipe than as I finish my last bit of sauce and glass of red wine. Generally when writing recipes I try not to overwhelm with details. In this instance I do want to convey the essential tips that will make your rendition of this dish as delicious as mine. This recipe is longer than normal and I’ve included more photos to give you an idea of what it looks like as the dish progresses. 
I am really happy some one asked for the recipe (thanks Stacy!!!) Whenever I get around to writing a cookbook, this recipe is a must to include.
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My mom’s rendition was simpler, and I still can’t make the noodles quite like I remember them…probably because mom used to roll the dough by hand. I like my pasta machine.

Here are the most critical steps…make sure to season the meat the day before. Then after cooking, let the meat cool (in the broth) over night, or at least long enough for the fat to harden on the top (I like to scrape most of it off, but not all!) Reheating and final seasoning make the dish really sing. Don’t skip any of those steps!!

Ingredients                                    Serves 3-4 people
2.5-3 lbs. beef short ribs (look for meaty ones!)
1 T. canola or light olive oil
2.5-3 C. chicken stock (if purchased-unsalted)
1 small onion, diced
6 oz. red wine
½ tsp. dried thyme
3-4 large pieces of dried porcini mushrooms (about a tablespoon) 
Finishing Ingredients                          
2-3 large sprigs fresh thyme and/or tarragon
1 T. red wine
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher or coarse sea salt
For a slightly thicker sauce:
2 T. flour
½ C. cold water

The Day Before Cooking
If the short ribs are long, i.e., 5-6 inches, ask the butcher to cut them in half. Season generously with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and dried thyme. Place in the refrigerator over night (it is not necessary to cover them.) Since you are preparing in advance, you might as well make your chicken stock on this day as well.

Add one tablespoon of oil to a large sauté pan and heat to medium. Add the meat, being mindful not to crowd the pieces. Start with 3-4 ribs at a time and add as the meat begins to shrink. The objective is patient and careful browning of the meat. If the pan begins to smoke the heat is too high. Reduce heat. Brown on at least 3 sides and then transfer to a large saucepan or baking dish until all the ribs are nicely browned. The ribs will render fat and it will be necessary to drain off the excess, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.

When meat is browned, drain fat from the pan, adding back about 2 T. Add the diced onion and cook slowly until they are nicely brown. Braising is a long and slow process. Each step adds to the end result. Careful browning of the meat and onions contributes to enhancing the color of the stock. With the onions browned, add the red wine and boil for a few minutes, scraping all the brown bits from the pan (see pic at right.) Add the wine and onions to the saucepan.

Add the chicken stock and dried mushrooms. Bring to a boil. The level of liquid should be just below the top of the meat. Try to have the meat in one layer in the pan, so as to minimize the amount of cooking liquid. Cover, or loosely cover the pan to prevent evaporation of the broth.

If you prefer you can put the meat in a covered baking dish and cook in the oven (325 degrees.) Try to use the recommended amount of liquid and no more. It will dilute the final result. Simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. Check with a toothpick at 90 minutes. If toothpick pierces meat easily, it is done. If not give them another half hour. The meat should pull away from the rib bones.

Remove the meat and bones from the broth. When meat cools enough to handle you may want to cut large pieces in two. If you have finicky kids (or guests) you can trim away excess fat or connective tissue. I am not fussy when it comes to this dish because it is supposed to be rustic in my mind, i.e., shouldn’t require too much fussing!

Strain the broth and pour it over the meat. Allow the ribs to sit overnight in the cooking liquid. It really does enhance the flavor and texture of your ribs. If you want to serve the same day as you cook, allow time to cool the mixture enough to remove the fat that rises to the top.

The following day, remove most (but not all) the fat that has hardened on top of the ribs. Preparing to finish, place the mixture back into a saucepan and gently heat to a simmer. Add the fresh herbs and 1T. of red wine. This ‘freshens’ the sauce. Correct for salt and pepper content.

You can go a couple different directions at this point. I love to serve these with fresh homemade noodles, lots of ‘em! Place your buttered noodles in a large bowl and pour the meat and broth over them. Bring tongs to the table for the noodles and a spoon to serve the broth.

If you prefer something more saucy, or gravy-like, add the ½ C. cold water and 2 T. of flour. Place both the ingredients into a jar and shake vigorously to remove lumps of flour. Add gradually to the pan, stirring with a whisk. Add about half the mixture to start, simmering for 2-3 minutes to see if the broth thickens sufficiently. If not, add the remaining flour and water. Now you can add boiled carrots and potatoes, or any other favorite veggies. Here’s my recent version…as above, add the wine, herbs and check the seasoning before serving. Serve with a hearty red wine. Enjoy!
For a PDF version of the recipe, click here.

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