You can’t screw up braised short ribs. You just can’t. I’d even go as far as saying braising is for dummies– extremely smart dummies. Because it’s the best cooking technique that requires no technique. No special skills. No innate knowledge. Heck you don’t even need special or particularly particular ingredients.
Braising combines liquid, low heat, and long cooking times to create flavorful fall-off-the-bone tender moist meat. Whenever wine or beer are involved– all the better. But you can’t choose bad combinations of flavor and you will never, ever be disappointed.
You can get exotic as in Korean kalbi jim– filling the pot with soy, sugar, sesame seeds, oil, garlic and ginger. You can keep it more “western” in the classic French sense with aromatic herbs, mirepoix and red wine, as I did with these Cabernet Braised Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Orecchiette. In either instance you can add as much or as little as you like, varying the ratios to suit your pantry. I promise you that the end result will be rich, flavorful and tender.
Braising is not difficult and the results will make you look like an accomplished chef (not that you aren’t…). I think braises are perfect for low stress dinner parties. You can braise these short ribs days in advance, then simply boil the pasta and wilt the greens before serving. You can’t really mess it up.
The concept behind braising is this: the main ingredient is seared, or browned in fat. It is then simmered in liquid on low-heat in a covered pot for a very long time. I like my Staub cast iron for this job because it has these little nubblies on the lid that allows the steam to rain back down into the pan in an all around even fashion. This is unlike the smooth lids of some other brands, which tend to accumulate the droplets then send them sliding down the edges of the pot. That is a very uneven distribution method in my opinion.
Cooking the meat slow, moist and covered over low heat for a lengthy time breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat. Through time, the moisture and heat build, and the collagen (which is what makes the meat “tough”) dissolves into gelatin. The gelatin moves into the sauce and works as a slight thickening agent making the sauce smooth and velvety.
The key to success is time. Because as soon as the meat cooks through, its fibers begin to expel moisture. Thereby causing the meat to become dry and less flavorful. If you were to pull the meat out of the pan at this point you would be disappointed with the results. But if you give the meat even more cooking time (2, 3 maybe even 4 hours), these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat as well as the flavorful broth. This is called osmosis. The long and short of this is that everything re-hydrates and becomes very tender with an amazing flavor! So come on, you can do this. Try it, I promise you. You won’t screw it up. GREG
- 6 meaty short ribs (about 4 pounds total)
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1/2 t freshly cracked black pepper
- 5 T olive oil, divided
- 1/2 c roughly chopped onion
- 1 c roughly chopped carrot
- 1 c roughly chopped celery
- 4 clv garlic peeled and minced, divided
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 (750ml) bottle cabernet sauvignon
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 fresh parsley sprigs
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 pieces of orange peel (each about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide)
- 1 c chicken stock, or more if needed
- 1 lb dried orecchiette pasta
- 1 c finely chopped onion
- 1 bn swiss chard ribs removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices, well-rinsed and drained – about 6 loosely packed cups
- 1/2 c freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese (plus more for topping)
For the short ribs: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trim the thick layers of external fat from the short ribs. Don’t overdo it; small amounts of fat will create flavor and most of the fat will be removed when the recipe is degreased toward the end. Season all sides of the short ribs with the salt and pepper.
In a heavy pot such as a 5-quart stock pot or Dutch oven that has a tight-fitting lid, warm the 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add 3 of the short ribs, sear on all sides until brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. If there is a lot of exposed meat on the end, use tongs to stand ribs up to sear ends for about 2 minute per end. Remove the short ribs from the pot and place on a plate or shallow dish. Repeat with the remaining short ribs (you may need less time to brown sides, as oil will be really hot by now). Reserve until needed.
For the sauce: Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and add the roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery to the pan, scraping up any browned pieces of meat from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Saute, stirring often, until vegetables are a bit browned, about 8 minutes. Add half the the garlic, and stirring constantly, saute until just fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add tomato paste and, stirring continuously, saute until the tomato paste just begins to caramelize, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Raise the heat to high and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any browned juices from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-high and reduce the wine by half at a high simmer, 12 to 15 minutes.
Add the bay leaf, parsley, thyme and orange peel. Add the short ribs back to the pot. Add enough chicken stock to bring liquid halfway up the ribs. Bring the stock to a boil, place a piece of parchment paper on top of the pot, cover tightly and place in the oven. Cook at least 2.5 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
Remove the short ribs from pot and place on a platter. When cool enough to handle, shred meat from bones into bite-sized pieces, discarding any visible fat or gristle. Reserve warm until needed.
Strain the Cabernet sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing the back of a large spoon over the solids to extract maximum amount of sauce. Degrease the sauce either by: using a gravy separator; tilting the pan to one side and skimming the fat off with a large spoon; or making the dish up to this point the day before, refrigerating it and spooning off the layer of fat that congeals on the surface. Place the degreased sauce in a large skillet over medium-high heat and reduce sauce consistency (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon), 4 to 5 minutes if the sauce is warm. Reserve the sauce warm on low heat.
For the orecchiette and chard: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the orecchiette and cook according to package directions until al dente, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large soup or stockpot, warm the remaining olive oil for 1 minute over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and finely chopped onion and saute, stirring frequently, until very lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chard, toss well to coat with the olive oil and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6 minutes. This will seem like a lot of chard when you first put it in the pot, but it will wilt down considerably. Ladle a cup of the pasta cooking water over the chard and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes.
Drain the pasta and add to the chard mixture. Pour half of the Cabernet sauce over the pasta and chard and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add the cheese to pasta and stir well to combine. Place the pasta on a serving platter or divide into large pasta bowls. Place the shredded meat in the remaining Cabernet sauce and warm through over medium heat. Spoon the meat and sauce over pasta. Serve immediately with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Source: CIA Gretstone