A Warrior’s Meal March 15, 2011Posted by Toy Lady in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Food, random stuff.
Tags: a warrior's drink, braising, cooking with worf, fruity goodness, short ribs, star trek
I’m not going to try to hide it. I’m a bit of a nerd sometimes. Like how, right after we met, Peeps got me hooked on Star Trek.
And I’ll admit – I do love prune juice, too – so much so that I don’t dare keep it in the house. A glass of prune juice is fine – a warrior’s drink, indeed – but drinking a whole bottle over the course of a day or two?
Not a great idea.
Moving on. (Heh!)
So Peeps mentioned a while back that one of our local butcher shops had had a decent sale on boneless short ribs – essentially, the price was about the same as what we’d normally pay for bone-in ribs. Without, obviously, paying for the bone.
(We could discuss the merits of bone-in versus boneless meat, but we’re not going to. Right now.)
We started with about 3 pounds of boneless short ribs, and that is a LOT. (As in, we’ll have leftovers – yay!) Whenever you’re going to be browning meat, it’s always good to pat it dry first, season it, then brown it in batches. If you put wet meat in your pan, or if you crowd your pan, what you basically end up with is gray, steamed beef.
When you pat it dry and sear it in batches – each piece NOT touching the others – you get a beautiful, well-browned crust on your meat which not only looks nicer, it tastes nicer.
Remove the beef as it’s browned – be sure to cook on both sides, over a reasonably high flame. Then reduce the heat and add a big pile of sliced onions – about 4 cups of onions that you sliced while the meat was browning.
Well, you have to do something while you’re searing (and not moving) all that beef, right? cook, stirring gently, until the onions soften and begin to brown – about 15 minutes.
When you have a pot full of limp, golden onions, you’ll want to stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste and stir constantly until it’s browned. Tomato paste adds, believe it or not, a more beefy flavor.
Once the tomato paste has started to brown, and it will, we add a couple (six) cloves of garlic, cook that for half a minute, then increase the heat and add a cup of Guinness draught.
Your husband can drink the rest of the bottle. Mine did.
Also, add a cup of beef broth, 1/3 cup of prunes, a bunch of carrots (I’m going to say about a pound, cut into 2-inch pieces, or even a pound of baby-cut carrots would do), and some thyme. And a bay leaf.
You didn’t think the whole prune thing was just an aside, did you? Of course not – there’s prunes in them thar ribs!
We then return the meat, along with any accumulated meat juices, to the pot and bring the whole thing to a simmer.
I’m going to be honest here (what, again?) and admit – I bring it up to a boil and turn it down to a simmer. It’s just easier that way.
We have the liquid at a simmer, and we cover it and shove into a 300-degree oven.
Low and slow will give us rich, fork-tender ribs. Well, it will in about 2 and a half hours, anyway. Hence the “slow” part. (Turn the meat once about an hour in.)
And obviously the carrots will be done.
And at this point, we account for the lack of bones in our boneless short ribs – dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of powdered gelatin (unflavored) (of course – we’re not using grape Jell-o here!) sprinkle the gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water and let it stand 5 minutes.
Then we take the meat and the carrots, remove them from the braising liquid, and strain the liquid into a fat separator. Strain off the fat and return the liquid, sans fat, to the Dutch oven and cook until reduced to about 1 cup – maybe 10-15 minutes. Stir in the gelatin mixture, and – bazinga! – it’s almost like you cooked it with the bones!
And if you were planning ahead, you even mashed some potatoes so you could soak up that lovely gravy, and you’ve prepared some freezer containers so you can enjoy a couple of quick lunches later on.
The Guinness and the prunes add a richness to the dish that you just can’t get with the beef alone – even the beautifully seared, slow-roasted beef. Plus, you’ve got most of a carton of prunes – if they last long enough, I hear they’re great baked with chocolate . . .