Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brilliant Braising

Braising is brilliant!  Why?  Because with very little effort you can take an inexpensive cut of meat and end up with something beautifully rich, tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  The technique is simple; a bit of searing on the stove top and then into the oven, low and slow for a couple of hours.   Just set it and forget it!

tr.v. braised, brais·ing, brais·es
To cook (meat or vegetables) by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container.
Brilliantly Braised Short Ribs

Serves 6 to 8
6 to 8 bone-in beef short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
12 ounces tomato paste
2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
2 to 3 cups beef stock
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves

Season each short rib generously with salt and pepper.  Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven or large stock pot with olive oil and set over high heat.  When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the short ribs to the pan and sear on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes each side.   Do not overcrowd pan.  Cook in batches, if necessary.

Meanwhile, purée the vegetables and garlic in the food processor into a coarse paste.   When the short ribs are seared on all sides, remove them from the pan.  Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh olive oil and add the puréed vegetables.   Season the vegetables generously with salt and pepper and brown until they start to darken and a crust has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.   Scrape the crust and let it reform.  Scrape the crust again and add the tomato paste.  Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes, being careful not to burn.   Add the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture by half.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add enough beef stock to just about cover the meat.  Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves.  Cover the pan and place in the oven for 3 hours. Check periodically and adding more beef stock, if needed.  Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let the short ribs get deeper brown and let the sauce reduce.  When done, the meat should be incredibly tender but not falling apart.   Serve over mashed potatoes with the braising liquid.

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