For last month’s Daring Kitchen Cooks’ Challenge, Lis and Audax Artifex (whose parents must be congratulated for giving him the best name on the planet) gave us a very technical challenge and dared us to make patties.
This month, Carol from Newfoundland, Canada, has given us another technical challenge: braising.
When most people consider braising, they think of tougher cuts of meat that generally have a lot of muscle or connective tissue — think lamb shanks, oxtails, short ribs, or stew beef. Braising is a very easy way to cook these economical cuts of meat, transforming them into meals that are the embodiment of pure comfort and elemental nourishment.
Braising can also be used for certain kinds of vegetables — carrots, celery and parsnips, for example — that take a long time to cook to mouthwatering tenderness.
To attain braised perfection, you really only need three things:
1. Low and steady heat
In Carol’s challenge PDF, she gave us several recipes for ideas, including one for braised short ribs from Michael Ruhlman. Ruhlman’s recipe jazzes up short ribs with a snazzy gremolata. However, whenever I think of braised short ribs, I think of the traditional French bonne femme: pure, simple, and uncomplicated . . .
Reproduced in Food and Wine Magazine, this recipe from Keller and his brother Joseph is really quite simple. Though there seem to be like a lot of steps, they are all dead easy. The difficulty comes in just waiting to eat as your house fills with the wonderful smells of braised meat. The absolute most difficult thing is delaying gratification for a day, if you can, in order to be able to remove the fat rendered from the ribs and deepen the flavors of the braise.
I can only say that though it is hard, waiting is not impossible so long as you chant like a mantra, “It will be better tomorrow, it will be better tomorrow”!
And order a pizza
A big thank you to Carol for the great challenge! I encourage everyone to take a look at her challenge PDF. She includes so many more ideas for braising (fennel, duck, pork belly and oxtail), and it is a great way to learn more about braising!
The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.
2 large Zip-loc bags
(please do note though that if you do not have an enameled cast-iron pot, it is still possible to braise. Keller’s recipe calls for the short ribs to be braised in a either a large baking dish or roasting pan covered tightly with aluminum foil)
4 beef short ribs (about 2 pounds)
1 bottle of full-bodied red wine like a Côtes du Rhône, minus one glass (because I drank that)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large leek, white and tender green parts only, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour for dredging
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 cups of veal stock (or one 1.5 ounce package of demi-glace + 3 cups of water)
2 tablespoons of grainy Dijon mustard
1 bunch of baby carrots, peeled
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of butter
How to prepare:
1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring the wine to boil over medium-high heat. Remove the wine from the heat and add the vegetables, the parsley, the thyme and the bay leaf. Cover the saucepan and let the marinade cool completely.
2. When the marinade has cooled, season the short ribs with salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer in a large Zip-loc bag. You may want to double up the Zip-loc bags, just in case they leak. Pour the marinade over the ribs. Squeeze any air out of the bags and seal them. Let the ribs marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning the bag over every once in a while to make sure that the ribs marinate evenly.
3. Preheat the oven to 300°. Remove the short ribs from the marinade. Strain the marinade, and reserve the liquid and the vegetables in separate bowls. In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil until almost smoking. Dredge the ribs in flour, knocking off any excess, and add them to the skillet. Brown them over medium-high heat on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of a large Dutch oven.
4. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the strained vegetables and cook them until they begin to brown. Add them to the short ribs. Tip the reserved liquid to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Pour the hot liquid, along with the stock, over the ribs and the vegetables. Cover the pot with its lid and bake the ribs for about 3 hours. The meat should be very tender and almost falling off the bone.
If proceeding to step 5a, leave the oven on. Turn the oven off if proceeding to step 5b.
5a. Transfer the meat to a large bowl. Skim off as much fat as you can from the surface of the cooking juices. Bring the liquid to boil over medium-high heat until it has reduced to about two cups of sauce. Whisk in two tablespoons of grainy mustard. Adjust the seasoning. Return the meat to the pot, cover, and bake for another 30 minutes.
5b. Braised short ribs are notorious having a deep layer of rendered fat floating on top of the braising liquid. If you can delay gratification for one day, let the ribs cool in their braising liquid overnight in the refrigerator. Remove and discard the layer of solidified fat from the top before preparing the ribs to be reheated. The beauty of this is that it easily allows you to get rid of all that fat. Secondly, as with all stews and braises, flavors meld together and become richer the longer the stew or the braise has to sit.
So by waiting, not only will your braise not be swimming in grease, but it will have more depth of flavor. Good things come to those who wait!
After removing the top layer of solidified fat, let the short ribs return to almost room temperature before preheating your oven to 300°. Scoop out the short ribs and transfer them to a large bowl as you finish the sauce. Set the Dutch oven with the braising liquid over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid until you have about 2 cups of sauce. Whisk in two tablespoons of coarse mustard. Adjust the seasoning. Add the short ribs back to the sauce, cover the Dutch oven with its lid, and bake everything in the oven for about 30 minutes.
6. In the meanwhile, prepare your root vegetables. In a large deep-sided skillet, arrange the parsnips, the baby carrots and the turnips in an even layer. Add the chicken stock and the butter to the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and bring the liquid up to a lively simmer. Reduce the temperature to low and cover the skillet. Cook the vegetables until they are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the braising liquid with a slotted spoon.
Let the short ribs cool slightly before serving them with the braised vegetables.