Thursday, June 3, 2010

One Last Braise Before the Heat....

The short rib is one of my favorite cuts of meat. They're short but thick (hmm...maybe a little like me) and have beautiful marbling that runs through them. On a cold wintery day, or even on a rainy spring day, a braised short rib can be perfect for what ails you.
My parents were coming up to spend the night since the next morning was my graduation from the MPA program at Baruch College. Loving to impress my father (which isn't always easily done) I pulled the short ribs out of the freezer. I flipped through cookbooks and searched the Internet looking for a recipe that wouldn't require me to turn on the oven but would result in a stove top braise that would have the tender meat falling off the bone. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything that impressed me. So I improvised.

I started with about 4 lbs of short ribs, sprinkled them liberally with salt and pepper and gave them a light dredge in flour. Then browned the meat in a little vegetable oil on all sides and set it aside. I poured most of the fat out of the pan leaving about one tablespoon. In that fat, I sauteed 2 large carrots and 2 stalks of celery (about 1/4 inch dice) and one large vidalia onion. When that had started to soften I added 3 cloves of sliced garlic and let the mixture sweat a bit until all the vegetables were softened and the onions were just beginning to brown.

To enrich the flavor I added almost an entire can of tomato paste and let that cook with the vegetables a bit. The ribs and any juices went back into the pan along with some fresh thyme and two bay leaves. For the liquid - I wanted something different than a standard red wine braise. I used a bottle of Brooklyn Lager, and a mix of chicken and beef broth just to cover the meat. I brought it up to a simmer and then covered the pot and let it bubble away for about two hours.

After two hours the kitchen, the whole apartment and most of the floor of my building smelled of this beautiful rich meaty saucy scent (apologies to any vegetarians that may live within sniffing distance). I took the lid off, gave the pot a quick stir and then let it bubble for nearly another hour uncovered so that the gravy would reduce down and become thick and rich.
I served the short ribs over a bed of simple white rice (buttered egg noodles or potatoes would work really well here too). The results were exactly what I was looking for. Tender meat that fell off the bone in a rich gravy. Just look at Dad's face here to see what he thought :-)

Between the 3 of us we finished off most of the ribs but there was a lot of that beautiful gravy leftover. Not wanting to waste it, I used it to dress a simple pasta supper later in the week. I had a little bit of meat left and shredded it into the gravy and poured it over rotelle pasta with lots of fresh grated pecorino romano and black pepper.

As I sit here typing this I can feel the humidity rising and I can't help but feel a little sad that the season for these heart and house warming meals is definitely at an end. As the temperature rises, I will spend my time making cold soups and salads and avoiding any reason to turn on either my oven or my stove. Baking will come to almost a screeching halt unless I'm visiting my parents and making the most of their central air conditioning. But the bounty of summer veggies and trips to the farmers markets will increase and soon I'll be immersed in the joys of warm weather foods, picnics and grilling whenever the opportunity arises.
So fare thee well cold weather and welcome summer. Happy Eating!

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