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To braise, or not to braise, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to purchase expensive meat and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,-- or to fool your audience with inexpensive meat that melts in the mouth and is pure succulence.
I choose to fool, and with rave reviews.
Braising is the frugal gourmet’s trick on the audience: It turns tough meat tender. This is a process where one can throw everything-but-the-kitchen-sink into the pot, walk away, and return a few hours later to remove spectacular meat with little effort (I have discussed the process and various techniques more in depth in my first post of this New Year. I will also make the promise that more braising will be discussed this year, than last.) For tonight, it is beef short ribs.
As a child, I cannot remember ever eating authentic southern BBQ ribs. Steaks, BBQ chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs—those were all covered. I cannot recall once stepping foot into a BBQ joint until I was in high school. This moment was bliss and I often requested return trips.
My family did eat ribs though. There was only one location we ever consumed ribs: at New China Restaurant. We walked in, summoned by the larger-than-life giggling gilded Buddha that rested above the host stand, and soon sat at our regular table. I always thought we were so special sitting at this corner booth right near the bustling kitchen. Looking back, I am sure three young rowdy children are not a restaurant favorite. Regardless, their ribs were amazing, dripping with a soy-BBQ sauce that my family always had to order at least 2 plates of to satiate all.
But I have aged, and with age I have come to enjoy ribs beyond the comforts of the local Chinese restaurant. I still crave authentic southern BBQ. This is good since D is a southern boy: Tonight we summoned the southern kitchen.
On short ribs:
There are two kinds of beef short ribs. One is the shoulder (or chuck). These pieces are cut into individual rectangular slices, 2 to 3 inches long. They are thick, have layers of fat and connective tissue, and a thick bone running along them. The second kind of short rib is the short plate (underside of the chest). This is typically what you receive in a BBQ restaurant when you ask for “short ribs”. It usually consists of five connected ribs (numbers 6 to 10). This section is meaty but also contains a lot of connective tissue. Both cuts are tough and require long cooking (in this case braising) to soften them up.
When purchased in the supermarket, this cut of meat is a bargain. For tonight’s meal I purchased a package of chuck (loose) short ribs. They were large, meaty and marbled. They arrived in a package of 4, totaling just under $4. The rest of the ingredients are staples I generally have at home so with the broccoli rabe (about $2.50) this meal for two was about $7. I was happy with this math and returned home to braise. (Okay, the bourbon is not a staple, but leftover from a New Year party. This girl loves her hot toddies.)
Other notes on this recipe:
I combined and adapted this recipe from two I found online (one from starchefs, the other from epicurious). The pomegranate molasses can be substituted for regular molasses. I just happen to enjoy the sweeter pomegranate molasses. It is available in Middle Eastern markets (for about $1.50) or is now showing up in many general supermarkets (for about $3.00) in the Mediterranean food section. Whichever molasses you use, make sure to add it at the end of the cooking process. The pomegranate seeds in the braise process are also optional. I had some leftover seeds from a recent heavenly dessert and threw them in (as I said, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink.)
Bourbon-Molasses Beef Short Ribs w/ Broccoli Rabe
Makes 2 servings. Prep time= 20 min. Cook time= 2.5 hours
Bourbon-Molasses Beef Short Ribs
4 short ribs (Find ones with a good fat-meat ratio)
1 Tbl butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalepeño pepper, chopped (if a little spice is desired)
3 bay leaves
¼ tsp thyme
¼ cup bourbon
1 Tbl tomato paste
1-½ cups water
1 Tbl soy sauce
2 anchovy filets
seeds of ½ a pomegranate (optional)
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses (or regular molasses)
fresh ground pepper
1) Preheat oven to 350F. In an oven safe pot, or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Cover both sides of the short ribs with an ample amount of pepper and brown the ribs (about 3 minutes each side). In the braise process this initial quick heat process locks the juices inside the meat. Remove the ribs and place on a separate plate.
2) Add the garlic, carrot, celery, onion, jalepeño and anchovies. Sauté for 5 minutes.
3) Add bay leaves, thyme, bourbon, tomato paste, water, soy sauce and (optional) pomegranate seeds. Return ribs to pot, cover tightly and place in oven on center rack. Cook for 2.5 hours.
4) Once removed from the oven the sauce will have thickened and the aroma will be overwhelmingly delicious. Add pomegranate or regular molasses, stir and serve.
1 bunch broccoli rabe
2 Tbl butter
1) When there is 10 minutes left of the braising process above, warm a medium sized saucepot over medium heat with the butter. Add broccoli rabe, cover tightly and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir, cover again, and cook until leaves are wilted (about 4 more minutes). Remove and serve.
Check out this recipe featured on Chef Michele!
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