Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food October 2009: Part 3 - Braisied Short Ribs

This is a family favorite believe it or not. My daughter who has a hard time chewing burgers or steak loves this version of beef that melts in your mouth and leaves a lingering sweetness. Its great for a dinner party because you can not only cook it the morning of but even better, the day before, and reheat to serve. It is even easier than a stew, and in terms of actual time at the stove top, its less than 15 minutes to make. Just make sure to make in advance so that you can refrigerate, let the fat congeal, skim the fat and reheat.

Two things that you have to get right on this one - first is owning a braising pan. Look for a medium low pan that is wide and flat on the bottom, that has a tight fitting lid. Check out this beauty at Williams-Sonoma, but if you can't afford it, just check out the picture. Braising pans are a big seller at yard sales,, and COSTCO because many people register for them and simply have no idea what to use them for! Second, when you go to the butcher or meat counter, ask for boneless short ribs. If they don't have them, ask them to cut a chuck roast into strip-like rib cuts. This recipe serves 6-8 people.

Braised Balsamic Short Ribs

3 lbs. beef short ribs (or roughly 6-8)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt
1 and 1/2 glasses red wine
2 cups beef stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 shallot diced finely

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Clean, dry and lightly salt (pinch) the ribs. Dice the shallots. Put the braising pan over high heat with oil and butter. Here is where you need five minutes of dedicated time. Brown each of the 4 side of the ribs on high heat, rotating when necessary to achieve a nice brown crust on each side - keep kids away - the oil will splatter. (5 minutes total if pan is hot enough) Take off and place on a clean plate. Reduce the heat to low, and add shallots stirring for one minute. Put the heat up to medium-high and add wine, deglazing the bottom of the pan and boiling down for about 5 minute until the wine is halved. Add the broth, spice, and vinegar. Let it reach a boil, then turn off the heat, and add the ribs back into the liquid. Make sure the liquid comes about 3/4 way up the ribs but not over - adjust with beef broth if necessary. Place in the oven on 300 degrees for one hour, moving the heat back down to 275 for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a total of 3 1/2 to 4 hours cooking time. You can flip the ribs before turning the heat down, but its not necessary.

Take off heat. Wait for pan to reach room temp and then place in the fridge for 2-3 hours until the fat congeals. Skim off fat and reheat to serve. If I am in a pinch, the freezer works well - either way -just be sure your fridge shelves are tempered glass and place a towel or hot plate down on the refrigerator shelf before putting the pan on top.

Serving options:
The great thing about the recipe is its versatility. After reheating, I serve it family style in the braising pan on the table and just spoon the sauce over mashed potatoes and the ribs with a side salad or green beans. When serving at a dinner party, I will reheat the ribs in the broth, them remove them to a plate and cover with tin foil while I boil down the brother into more of a demi-glaze. I then a spoonful of mashed potato, a chunk of lightly steamed kale or spinach and the rib on top and slightly off to the side and top off with the demi-glaze all around the bottom of the plate. You can serve with polenta as well and if you are feeling really ambitious it tastes great with a Parmesan risotto.

Variations: You can add some yummy veggies - like carrots - when you reduce the heat. Try this same recipe with Lamb Shanks, Rosemary and Garlic (taking out the ribs, thyme, and shallots respectively). As always, you can experiment with IPA, or Guiness in place of the red wine. If you are in the mood to really jazz it up - try different wines and an aged vinegar.

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