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Posts Tagged ‘beef short ribs’

It seems I’ll never learn to leave well enough alone. I essentially ruined a nice slab of beef short ribs this week, because I wanted to oven-roast them.
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Short ribs are wonderful for braising. Long, moist cooking makes them meltingly tender, the meat just falling off the bone. Why can’t I be content with that?

Well, I can truly say “the devil made me do it,” because the recipe that led me into temptation is called Deviled Short Ribs. I found it while browsing in the Beef and Veal volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series, where it’s credited to the American Cooking: Eastern Heartland volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. Both sets of books have given me many excellent recipes.

I had to start early in the afternoon to make a marinade for the ribs: mixing minced onions and garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper in a large bowl. That seemed a promising start.
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I cut my ribs into three pieces and turned them around in the marinade to coat thoroughly.
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I covered the bowl and left it on the kitchen counter for two hours, turning the ribs every 20 minutes to give all the surfaces good contact with the marinade. Then I transferred the ribs to a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
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The ribs were to roast at 400° oven for 20 minutes, then at 350° for another 1¼ hours, “or until the meat shows no resistance when pierced.” That was where my trouble began. Checking initially at one hour – just in case – I found the meat still very firm. After the next 15 minutes, it had softened only a bit. Another 15 minutes brought an improvement, but there was still resistance. The ribs were looking quite dark and somewhat shrunken. I was afraid they were drying out. A final, nervous 10 minutes, and out they came.
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The ribs were far from meltingly tender. Many outside bits were hard and dry. The thicker parts of the meat were chewable and even tasty, though the marinade hadn’t made any noticeable contribution to the flavor. And the abundant collagen layer that in short ribs holds the flesh to the bone – and that melts away in braises – remained as a tough skin that was hard to cut away from the meat.
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When we’d eaten what we could, there was much left to be discarded, alas. But, to look on the bright side, it all went into Tom’s soup scrap bag in the freezer, to ultimately join with other odds and ends of vegetables, meats, and bones in a big kettle of water and be cooked into excellent all-purpose broth.
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Maybe the devil likes his short ribs this way, but I won’t be inviting him to dinner any time soon. So I’ll just draw the curtain over this whole incident, listen to my better angel, and go back to braising for all the short ribs in my future.

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Some wine-professional friends from Italy were in town this week, so we invited them to dinner at our house. As a break from their usual steady diet here of Italian-style restaurants (with all the good and ill that that implies), they asked for an American meal. I rarely cook American for dinner parties, but the occasion justified some extra effort. Here’s the all-American menu I served – interpreting the term broadly enough to include Latin America:

Florida Rock Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Guacamole with Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips

Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Broiled Shad

Braised Short Ribs of Beef
Butter-braised Brussels Sprouts
Mashed Potatoes

Cheeses: Jasper Hill Winnemere, Meadow Creek Grayson, Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Apple Pie

For each course, Tom found an American wine that he hoped would go well with it. You can see his choices and their results as he reported them on his blog. Here are the recipes I used for the meal and the Italian guests’ reactions to them.

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Florida Rock Shrimp; Guacamole

My first choice for an appetizer had been Maine shrimp, which marvelously sweet-fleshed little beasties are just coming into season. Alas, thousands of other New Yorkers seem to have had the same idea, and six local fish stores didn’t have any left on the day of the dinner party. So I settled for small, deep-water rock  shrimp from Florida, which are supposed to taste like lobster. Briefly boiled, they weren’t very lobsterlike, but they were tasty enough with Tom’s spicy cocktail sauce. I also made my favorite, classic guacamole recipe from Diana Kennedy’s The Cuisines of Mexico. The Italians had never had guacamole before; they loved it.

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Caribbean Black Bean Soup

This recipe came from Heirloom Beans, the Rancho Gordo cookbook. I’ve praised this artisan California bean grower in previous posts, and this recipe reinforced my appreciation. The variety I used is Midnight, a delicious black-purple bean. You sauté onions, carrot, and jalapeño chile in lard; add cooked beans along with ground roasted cumin seed, oregano, cayenne, chicken broth, roasted garlic cloves, and roasted tomato; simmer until everything gets thoroughly acquainted; run some of the beans through a blender or food processor and stir them back into the pot. Serve, garnished with sour cream and cilantro. Very spicy, very nice, and very interesting to the Italian guests, who weren’t familiar with black beans.

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Broiled Shad

Shad has also just come into season here. These Atlantic-ocean fish don’t go into the Mediterranean, so I thought a small portion as an intermediate course would be an interesting new taste for our friends. And so it was: The distinctive, almost smoky taste of this late-winter specialty seemed to be a real treat for them. I used a very simple preparation from the American Cooking volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. Merely melt a lot of butter in a baking dish, add shad fillets, turn them in the butter a few times, and set the dish under a hot broiler for about six minutes. Salt, pepper, and serve with lemon wedges. It was simultaneously rich, lush, and delicate.

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Braised Short Ribs

This recipe is also from the Time-Life American Cooking volume. It produces wonderfully rich short ribs with only the most basic additional ingredients. The recipe starts with a very useful trick for browning a large quantity of meat: Flour the pieces lightly, set them on a rack on a large roasting pan, and put them in a 500° oven for 25 minutes. So much easier than hand-turning a few at a time in a pan with butter or oil! Since short ribs are well-marbled cuts, the excess fat simply drops down beneath the rack and keeps the meat from frying.

After that, the short ribs are added to a casserole in which you’ve sautéed carrot, onion, garlic, and thyme. A small amount of stock or broth is added, with a bay leaf, and the covered casserole is put into a 325° oven for about an hour. The liquid barely touches the short ribs (I’d really call this a casserole roast, not a braise), but it keeps the meat moist and succulent and emphasizes the meat’s natural beef sweetness. Very large ribs need a bit more time, as ours did. The strained cooking juices make a delicious gravy. Once the unusual-to-Italians cut was identified (manzo sufficed), it was eaten with gusto.

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Apple Pie

This is my mother’s apple pie. I learned to make it when I was very young, by watching her in the kitchen, and it’s the only dessert I ever make without a recipe. I start with a plain short pastry. I peel, core, and thinly slice about six apples; heap them in the bottom crust; pour on a cinnamon-sugar mixture (I couldn’t tell you how much; I do it by instinct) and a few dots of butter; lay on the top crust and seal the pie in my mother’s style – pressing the crusts together with the tines of a fork. I brush the top with a little cold water and a sprinkling of sugar, and bake it. Depending on how sweet the apples are in themselves and how free a hand I’ve used with the cinnamon-sugar, the pie may come out more or less sweet, but it’s always enjoyable.

Our Italian friends had never eaten an American apple pie before, and they found its appearance a bit puzzling. It’s like a torta di mele, I told them, and they nodded their heads happily and took another bite.

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