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food is good

January 9, 2009

I haven’t sewn anything in a while—I’m waiting on a new order of fabric to finally make myself a rockin’ tote bag—so I don’t have any new crafty things to post about.

But I do have food to post about.

I decided to branch out from my usual weeknight cooking this week, and bought some beef short ribs. Why? Well, they’re pretty cheap, but they have lots of nice marbling and generally look like they’d be yummy. So I bought some, looked up some recipes, and gave it a whirl. Verdict: Not Fail. In fact, Mr. Angst said that they were the kind of thing he’d expect to eat in a fancy restaurant—and they were so easy to make!

First, you can either do bone-in or boneless short ribs. If you do bone in, be forewarned that you’ll want to cut the bone off about halfway through cooking lest your braising liquid get unbelievably fatty and greasy. Cooks’ Illustrated says to go boneless and use a little gelatin to give the final sauce the right mouthfeel; I say, cutting the bone off halfway through was not that big a deal, so I’d probably just keep doing that. Either way, you need something—either the bones for part of the cooking, or the gelatin—to give the final sauce that finish. (It’s basically the same stuff, since gelatin is generally made from animal collagen. If that grosses you out, sorry. I think it’s important to know where and what your food comes from.)

So, OK. Procure a bottle of robust wine. I used a relatively inexpensive cabernet (not too inexpensive, though!) and I’d recommend something similar. Don’t use a pinot or a really delicate shiraz; you want something with some body and flavor.

Now, take your short ribs—about 3 lbs. if bone-in, and 2 lbs. if boneless—and brown them really well over medium-high heat, in an ovenproof pan/pot for at least 5 minutes on each side. They need to be really browned up. I used my Le Creuset dutch oven, and I think that’s a good pot to use. Nothing too shallow, and it needs a tight-fitting lid.

Once the ribs are well-browned, remove them to a bowl. Add one onion, cut pole-to-pole and then thinly sliced, to the pot and cook, stirring regularly to keep them from burning. You want them to get very soft and just browned. If they are browning too quickly, you can add a couple tablespoons of water. Once the onions are soft, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly (or it’ll burn) until the paste has started to brown on the sides and bottom of the pot. Add three peeled cloves of garlic and cook till aromatic (about 30 seconds), and then pour in a cup of your red wine. (Drink a glass while you cook—then you’ll know if it’s worth cooking with.) Cook the mix until the wine has reduced by about half. Then add a half-cup-to-a-cup of beef broth, a bay leaf, and whatever herbs you love—I used some dried thyme, but I wish I’d added the fresh rosemary I had instead. Also add some carrots if you want, cut into 2-inch pieces. Next time I make this, I’ll try sauteing some mushrooms in with the onions—think creatively like that. Yummy flavors that have some umami to them will be good in this.

Bring the liquids up to a simmer, add the ribs back to the pot, cover and place in a 300° oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. At the one hour mark, turn the ribs. If your ribs are bone-in, cut the bone off at this point. Turn the ribs one more time before the end of cooking. When you can slip a fork easily into the meat, it’s done. When it’s done, pull the meat and carrots out of the pot and place them on a serving platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve or strainer into a fat separator (or a bowl if you don’t have one), pressing on the solids. If you used boneless ribs, sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin over 1/4 cup water and let stand at least 5 minutes, while letting the cooking liquid stand so the fat will rise to the top.

Pour the strained liquid back into the pot and cook until reduced by about half, or until it has a nice, thick texture. Add the gelatin mixture at this point if you’re using it. Season as needed and then pour over the ribs.

I served this over mashed potatoes, and it was SUPERB. Highly recommend. I will make this again and again, and I will experiment with various alterations, because this is pretty much how I like my braised meat—very tender, very flavorful, and with a very rich saucy sauce.

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Categories: food
  1. January 10, 2009 at 1:41 am

    easy to make was not my thought while reading this. i had to look up what umami meant. 🙂

  1. January 19, 2009 at 11:23 pm
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