Monday, September 21, 2015

In the Heat of the Moment - Slow Braised Short Ribs

Crock Pot Braised Short Ribs with Chive and Yogurt Studded Baked Potato

I've been staying home a lot lately, hitting the reset button on my seemingly ongoing midlife crisis and feeding the need to be grounded and secure.  For me, there's no better way to do that then to spend some serious time in the kitchen.  Yesterday, with temperatures reaching beyond 90 degrees, I had the hankering for short ribs!  Yes, slow-braised, cook all-day, are they done yet? short ribs.  Usually a fall or winter item,  I was determined for that fall-off-the-bone-stick-to-your-ribs goodness despite the weather, and took it as a sign when my friend snapped up a barely used $3, 3-quart Crock Pot at our local thrift shop that very morning.  She had no idea my plans of using mine that day and that my next stop would be Whole Foods for some grass fed local beef, carrots, onions and stock (unemployment aside, factory farmed isn't an option).  Short rib recipes nearly always call for a slow braise, covered with foil in the oven for 4 hours sort of treatment.  For the past several years I've been making them in the crock pot/slow cooker - great for leaving all day to come home to a delicious smelling house and a dinner ready to go - not to mention in this heat it's probably not the best idea to have my oven on!
3 Quart Old-School Version

Easy to prepare and hard to wait for (stew meat is supposed to stew for Chrissake!) - here's a recipe for that rainy Sunday watching Netflix (or, as the case may be, hot as hell Saturday).  Better yet, try this mid-week before you leave for work and you will save yourself from a day of salivating and wondering "are they done yet?"  Feel free to experiment with different broths, wine, some brandy, more wine, less broth.  Anything braised for 5-8 hours is going to turn out tender and savory...

A note about the crock pot high and low settings for this recipe:  If you plan to stick around and want your ribs to be done in 5 or so hours, start your cooker out on high - about an hour in,  the mixture will begin to simmer, then turn down to low.  If you are leaving for the day, simply set the temperature to low and go on your merry way.   New crock pots come with instructions and a recipe book - neither of which I have - so feel free to just wing it like I always do!

Crock Pot Braised Short Ribs 
(feeds 3-4)
(this recipe is designed for the smaller, 3 Quart, crockpot)

6 - 8 Beef Short Ribs
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 - 4 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 stalks celery (optional), chopped
1 T each dried thyme, oregano, rosemary, dried onion, dried garlic - amended with some fresh herbs if you have them
1 Bay leaf
1 T salt
1 t black pepper
4 T all purpose flour
1 quart vegetable, chicken or beef broth
1 cup red wine (if it's been sitting around that's okay), brandy, more broth, water...
Olive Oil for browning

It's always best to leave meat out at room temp for a half an hour or so before beginning to cook.  Liberally salt and pepper all sides of meat and dust with a nice coating of flour.  Add about a tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat to medium.
 Brown shortribs on all sides until they have a nice  golden crust.  Remove from pan and place into crock pot.
most everything you'll need

Add herbs to hot pan and saute for about 30 seconds.  Add onions and carrots for about 3-4 minutes.  Add broth to vegetable and herb mixture to help loosen all of the browned bits.  At this point you can taste the broth and adjust the salt level (I usually don't add additional pepper until serving time, as black pepper tends to get bitter with long cooking).   The broth should be slightly on the salty side.  Pour mixture into crock pot over the short ribs and turn it to high or low (depending on your schedule).  Add wine and/or other liquid to cover.
ready to braise, for hours and hours...
 Place lid on and wait... and wait.... and wait...  it's good to have some ridiculous binge watching scheduled so you don't notice how long you are waiting, and waiting...  Can you tell I'm a bit impatient???  Just to reiterate, if you place it on high you have to stick around so you can turn it down to low when it starts to simmer (i.e. don't go out shopping, go to your kids' soccer game or take a prolonged nap).  If you start high and turn to low, the ribs will be done in about 5 hours (this is a slow cooker, remember).  If you start low and stay low, give yourself about 6-7 hours.  If you have a larger, 7 quart, crockpot, feel free to double everything and then have lots of delicious leftovers for freezing, making hash, chopping into stew or beef pot pie, mincing into ravioli filling...

To serve, fish rib meat out of liquid and place on bed of mashed potatoes, egg noodles, rice or whatever makes you happy- the meat  will have fallen off bone by now.
bubbling cauldron of goodness
  Spoon out some carrots and gravy.  Give it a healthy dose of fresh cracked pepper and dive in.  By the way,  toss one of those rib bones to the dog that has been wimpering at your feet for hours (my sister's dog was doing this and we had no idea what the problem was until we realized the smell of meat was absolutely driving the poor pup crazy!)

A traditional topping for short ribs is  Gremolata -  an Italian inspired aromatic citrus and herbaceous mixture commonly called for to brighten the flavor of all cuts of braised meat.   Easy to make, it is simply a mixture of minced lemon zest, parsley and garlic sprinkled over the top.  I personally like to lighten up on the garlic and add in salt and fresh grated horseradish.  Enjoy!

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