Monday, June 21, 2010

Braised Short Ribs

We have had the strangest spring and early summer this year in Northern California. It didn’t get warm until a couple of weeks ago and that didn’t last long. Each time I’d get ready to pull the cover off the grill, mother nature would blow in some cold weather to thwart my ambitions to make some summery, smoky barbeque baby back ribs. Since I couldn’t get the weather to cooperate I decided to make a dish I normally reserve for winter—rich, savory, slow-cooked beef short ribs. I was also looking for an excuse to use my beautiful new Creuset Dutch oven Jeff gave me for my birthday.

This braised short ribs recipe is an amalgamation of many recipes I’ve used over the years. Braised anything can be bland if you’re not careful. Even though it’s only 1 tablespoon, the vinegar is an important ingredient, and don’t shy away from the red pepper flakes, you won’t even taste them, but they add just a little bit of punch to the dish. The sauce that comes from the ribs and vegetables co-mingling in a low-heat oven for so many hours is decadent. As Jeff likes to joke, meat is just a vessel for sauce for me.
Braised Short Ribs
Ingredients
Serves 4
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tbls. olive oil
6 short ribs, bone in, trimmed of excess fat
Freshly ground pepper and salt
Flour, for dredging
10 cloves garlic, peeled
8 large shallots, peeled, trimmed, cut into quarters
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into1-inch lengths
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped
6 sprigs Italian parsley
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbls. tomato paste
1 tbls. red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 quarts unsalted beef stock or chicken stock
       
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Pour the wine into a large saucepan set over medium heat and boil until it cooks down by 1/2. Remove from the heat.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large casserole, large enough to hold 6 ribs, over medium-high heat. Season the ribs all over with salt and the crushed pepper. Coat the ribs lightly with the flour and then when the oil is hot, sear the ribs for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until well browned.
Transfer the browned ribs to a plate. Lower the heat to medium, and toss in the vegetables. Brown the vegetables lightly, 5 to 7 minutes, then stir in the vinegar, tomato paste, and herbs and cook for 1 minute to blend.
Add the reduced wine, browned ribs, and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil; cover the pot tightly and slide it into the oven to braise for 4 hours.
Carefully transfer the meat to a large plate and cover with aluminum foil. Boil the pan liquid until it reduces to approximately 1 quart, about a half hour. Season with salt and pepper and pass through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the solids.

Tips and Tidbits
If you prefer a thicker sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water and add to the sauce over medium heat. Cook for several minutes until thicker.
Don’t have the butcher split the ribs, that they way they’ll stay in tack for a nice presentation.
These ribs go great with just about any side starch. I served ours with twice-baked potatoes I made with Parmesan cheese; nice tangy counterpoint to the rich meatiness of the ribs. They also go great with Mac n’ Cheese, any kind of mashed potatoes (try horseradish to mix things up a bit) or just plain old butter noodles smothered in that fabulous sauce!

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