How To Braise Short Ribs

November 22, 2010 · Posted in Recipes · Comments Off on How To Braise Short Ribs 

Braise (n) : to cook meat or vegetables by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container.

– American Heritage Dictionary

Braising is easily one of the most satisfying and rewarding ways to cook a meal for yourself and guests.  The technique at its core is easy, you use cheaper cuts of meat, and it makes your house smell amazing for hours.  It will also impress everyone, and make them think you’re a much better cook than you actually are.  You don’t have to tell them you were really playing Call of Duty for the three hours these short ribs sat in the oven, slowly soaking in that amazing flavor.

In a sentence, you brown your cut of meat, saute the aromatics (vegetables), create your braising liquid, and then simmer this mixture for a few hours, depending on your cut of meat.  We’re going to go over short ribs so for our purposes it will be about 2 hours in total.

Braising is probably my favorite way to cook, even over grilling.  You can constantly experiment with your recipes, your techniques, and results are almost always spectacular.  This is a fairly straightforward base you can use with short ribs, brisket, or any other tougher, cheaper cut of beef.

Ingredients

Two bottles of a heavier red wine

4 lbs short ribs, bone-in or boneless, whatever you can get.

3 to 4 tablespoons butter or oil. (Really, you should use butter)

One medium onion, chopped
One medium carrot, chopped
Two to three stalks celery, chopped
Two cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sugar
Two cups chicken broth
One spring each rosemary, thyme, oregano. (ok to substitute dried herbs if you need)

Again, this is a basic blueprint.  We’ll give you some advanced tips at the end.

How To:

Pre: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, chop everything, maybe throw on the soundtrack to Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

1) Open both bottles of wine.  Immediately pour glasses for yourself and guests.  (This is a how to PROPERLY braise short ribs, not just some recipe.  Also, you aren’t really cooking short ribs for yourself, are you?  Are you???)

2) In a heavy, cast iron pan heat two tablespoons butter over medium high heat.  Take turns browning the short ribs on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Do this in multiple batches if need be.  Scrap up any burned bits from the pan when done.

Short ribs loving them some butter

"Fired up, ready to go!"

3) Once the short ribs are all browned, and back outside the pot (like in the picture above) it’s time to create the base for the liquid.  Melt the remaining butter over medium high heat, and saute the onion, celery, and carrot until they start to soften.

4) When the vegetables begin to brown, add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Then add the second bottle of wine, stock or broth, sugar, and herbs.  Stir to combine.

5) Add the meat back to the pan, cover, and put into the oven.  Cook for about two hours, until the meat falls apart with a fork.  The great thing about braising is that it’s very difficult to overcook the meat.  Check it maybe twice during cooking, to make sure the sauce isn’t boiling but other than that just let it be.

6) When the meat is ready, remove the pan from the oven and spoon the meat out.  Place the pan over high heat and reduce the sauce down by 2/3 or more.  The more you reduce the sauce, the more concentrated the flavor gets.  Season with salt and pepper if you need to.  You can also add butter or flour as a thickening agent at this point.

Braising liquid reducing.

7) To serve – plate some mashed potatoes, a parsnip and celery root puree, polenta, etc.  (You didn’t make any?  Well maybe if you weren’t playing Call of Duty you would have had time to!  Not my problem.)  Spoon one to two short ribs on the plate, and top with sauce.  It should look like this.

You don't have to go to Jared if you can do this.

How to Take This to the Next Level

Okay, a few tips on really making this thing incredible.

1 – Marinate marinate marinate.  Take the short ribs and place them in the bottle of wine for 24 hours before you start this process.  Well, maybe take the wine out of the bottle and put it into a baking dish first.  Getting short ribs into a bottle of wine would be pretty amazing.  Something the guys at Alinea probably do for fun.  To the wine, add your herbs, whole peppercorns, maybe garlic?  Lots of options here.

2 – Cook this whole thing a day before.  Prepare through step 5, and then let it cool and refrigerate until tomorrow.  Then reheat, reduce, and relax.  If you combine 1 and 2 here, you all of a sudden have short ribs that took three days to get to plate, but trust me it’s worth it.

3 – Purists may insist you strain the sauce before reducing, taking out all meat and veggies.  This is fine, but I don’t have a dishwasher and don’t like making unnecessary work for myself.  So I reduce everything together.  But you can get a thicker sauce if you strain everything.  But keep the veggies – they taste awesome.  Again, to the sauce you can add butter, salt, spices, flour, anything to spice it up.

4 – Replace some of the red wine with port.

5 – Use bacon fat instead of butter.  Add the reserved bacon to the sauce a few minutes before the reduction is done and serve like that.

That’s a pretty solid braising recipe.  Check out Molly Steven’s book “All About Braising” for some great recipes, utilizing every kind of meat around.

Check back soon – we’ll be deep frying turkeys on Thanksgiving!

Happy Braising!

P.S. – Guys, this is a can’t-lose recipe for that special someone in your life.  When you say you’re going to “take meat, add wine, and make it tender over a copule hours of low and slow heat” she doesn’t think you’re just talking about the short ribs.  Trust me on this one.

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Excuse me Sir, is that a beef shank you’re holding?

November 9, 2010 · Posted in Restaurants · 1 Comment 

On Wednesday, October 20th, several Green City Market “cheerleaders” as we were called were invited to Mado by Rob Levitt to eat an entire beef shank.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, it would be one of the last feasts held at this location by these chefs.  Rob and Allie have since left Mado to open their own butcher shop, and we eagerly await their new project.  What follows is, to the best of the author’s memory, a retelling of what was served at this banquet that would have made a Roman aristocrat blush.

Every year, the Green City Market hosts a Harvest Celebration to promote the market, showcase top chefs, and raise money.  Rob was one of the featured chefs, and was talking about ribeyes that he had gotten in and subsequently sold out of it almost immediately.  Some of the aforementioned GCM (Green City Market) “cheerleaders” were upset that these ribeyes were no longer available, so Rob proposed an entire beef shank.  From what I could tell though, these pieces were actually cut from two different animals.  During our feast, one of the ribeyes was brought out to another table, and I would not be surprised to learn Rob had located an ancient herd of mastodons, and was actually sourcing his steaks from there.  It was easily 60, maybe 70 pounds.

But that’s neither here nor there.  After inviting myself along to round out the group, Lauren Golanty, Kyle Schott, Dave & Sarah Rand, Abby Csanda, Brad Boman and Sara Gasbarra seated ourselves right in the middle of the restaurant and waited for Rob & Allie to wow us with their culinary prowess and maybe clog our arteries a bit too.

It started as expected, with their homemade charcuterie plate, which consists of chicken liver pate, smoked sausage, and pork rillettes.  The pictures are a bit dark, because it’s rude to use your flash in a restaurant, in case that hasn’t been brought up before.

Charcuterie Plate

Next came an assortment of antipasti, which includes one of my Mado favorites, the grilled cornbread with smoked paprika butter and fried farm egg.  Paprika butter!  So simple, yet they thought of it and I didn’t.  That’s why they cook and I eat.

There's paprika butter under there somewhere!

They rounded out our antipasti with:

– Roasted carrots with ras el hanout goat cheese, pistachios, and cumin honey

– Citrus cured lake perch with fingerling potatoes and pepperonata

– Sunchokes with preserved lemon and parsley

The carrots and sunchokes were amazing, both in separate ways.  The carrots, while sourced fresh and local, were an incredible melange of flavors, the spicy and nutty pairing nicely with the sweet in the honey and goat cheese.  The sunchokes, on the other hand, relied almost strictly on their freshness for the pop of flavor as you crunched down.  For those paying attention, you’ll ask how something can rely on freshness for its flavor when it uses preserved lemon.  Quite right, I’d respond, and say “well except for that part.”  The preserved lemon helped add a light airiness to the bite, and the dish contrasted quite nicely with the richer, deeper flavors in the carrots.

I'll take one of everything, please!

Next up was a three course shot that included a challenge for Rob and Allie.  You see, Sara and my’s friendship relies primarily on the fact that we are crazy Italians who spend the majority of our time at the Green City market discussing Rome and spaghetti carbonara.  And they were going to bring out penne with ragu bianco.  A bold move, I might say!

I should have known better than to doubt.  It was incredible.  The ragu was so flavorful, I almost forgot there was pasta.  I’m pretty sure I tried to drink the remains of the broth.

They also brought out a salad, mainly because I think their lawyer advised them to for liability sake, should anyone need resuscitation, they could say they offered greens at the least!

They finished off the…I guess this was the primi, if we’re going with the Italian theme…with pan-fried morcilla with braised greens and migas.  Blood sausage, in other words.  Topped with bread crumbs that had been…wait for it…deep fried.  Yes please.

Mado was BYOB, and we had definitely brought.  However we also drank, and right around this time figured out we were going to run out very quickly.  What happened next was both awesome and frightening, depending on how you look at it.  Brad makes one phone call, and ten minutes later four bottles of wine get delivered to the front door of the restaurant.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a wine delivery service willing to bring wine to whatever BYOB I happen to be at.  I’m not sure who this Brad character is, but in my opinion best not to cross his path!  He’s obviously got people.

After our thirst was satiated it was time for the main course.  The beef shank, in all its glory.  The restaurant literally stopped and watched in awe as Rob carried this massive steaming hunk of meat out to our table.  After David Hasselhoff was seated…

When pressed, Rob said that he had just done a “normal braise” to the beef, which means a mire poix and a red-wine based sauce more or less.  However, he must have braised it for more than 8 hours at a really low temperature (200-225?). I’ve made legs of lamb that are about 7 or 8 pounds, and they braise for at least 8 hours.  This was much much bigger.  Alongside he served it with toasted bread, and a marrow reduction.  I’m pretty sure I saw Lauren try and put the leftover reduction in her purse, until she realized there were no leftovers, and the little drops were liquid.  If you stared at the meat too long, it slipped off the bone without even the assistance of a fork.  The outside was perfectly crispy and browned, while the inside was incredibly tender.  There are almost no words to describe – so here’s the one picture we took with flash that night.

Yes, that IS a beef shank you're holding!

Not a bad way to go out, Rob and Allie.  Not a bad way at all.  I’ll be in line when The Butcher and Larder opens.

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Bears Tailgate Part 1

October 22, 2010 · Posted in Recipes · 1 Comment 

A few weeks back, ESPN Radio was walking around with a video camera (unclear as to why radio needs video cameras) and these shenanigans ensued.  Wait till the end.

Whenever anyone asks me why I wanted to learn how to cook, this is why.

http://espn.go.com/chicago/video/clip?id=5650224&categoryid=3775716

Go Bears!

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