Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Just Ask Rosie" And My Friend Ange In WI Did.

  Hello, Ange in WI.
This one is for you.

I have a "Just Ask Rosie" feature in my blog
in which I encourage my readers to ask culinary questions
or ask me to show them how to prepare a particular dish.

My friend, Ange, is a longtime reader
who irregularly challenges me to make something
off the cuff.
I recently received a note from her
asking for my take on braised short ribs.
Ange, I am happy to oblige
and I thank you,
because this meal was most excellent.

First, let's have a chat about short ribs.

 Beef Short Ribs can be cut from three different sections of beef. The most common short rib cut is the Back Rib (NAMP 124) which comes from the thick side of the prime rib. A second source, called Plate Short Ribs (NAMP 123 series), is found in the plate primal, which is found in the animal's forequarter right below the rib primal. The last are called Chuck Short Ribs (NAMP 130) which come from right under the chuck from the first to the fifth rib, and can also go by the name Flanken Ribs. NAMP is the National Association of Meat Purveyors and the number refers to a specific cut of the cow. NAMP numbers are the same as the IMPS numbers (Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications) which can be found in this Meat-Buyers Guide.

For clarification, here's a poster showing beef cuts.
For more information,
please check out chefs-resources
a wonderfully informative site,

As I said, the NAMP number refers to a specific cut of meat.
A chef would be able to specify to his vendor
which particular cut he wants by referring to the number.
In the supermarket, it's a whole different ball game.
Usually, you just don't know which of the
three different short ribs you're getting,
since the section of the beef from which
the short ribs are cut 
is rarely identified on supermarket labels.
This can be frustrating
since the three types of short ribs have
markedly different properties.
The back short ribs, NAMP 124,
don't have as much muscle tissue to them
as the plate short ribs, NAMP 123,
but they are more tender.
Short ribs from the plate primal have
lots of meat in addition to a lot of fat.
The chuck short ribs are tougher and less fatty.
But I can make them pull-apart tender.

I'm doing boneless chuck short ribs - NAMP 130.
It's the only type I could find at the Teeter
and it actually said "chuck" on the label.
 The chest area, where this cut comes from, gets a workout,
making these muscles full of connective tissue and sinew.
The meat needs to be prepared properly
so it won't be tough.

There are four basic preparations
to make this tough cut tender and delicious.
It can be barbecued.
Roasting low and slow with dry heat
and wood smoke gives you a dark brown exterior
and flavorful, tender meat.
You can cut the meat thinly, marinate it,
then grill it hot as in Korean Kalbi.
You can tenderize the meat,
sprinkling meat tenderizer over top,
then piercing the flesh with a meat tenderizer
Or you can braise the meat,
simmering it low and slow, covered, in a flavorful broth.
Braising breaks down the tough, chewy, connective tissue 
that holds the meat to the bone.
The hot liquid embracing the meat
encourages the metamorphosis of collagen tissue into gelatin,
adding flavor and moisture to the meat.

Wait a minute, make that five ways.
I forgot about sous-vide.
You could sous-vide your tough cuts
for up to 72 hours.
And that's probably why
I forgot about sous-vide.
I want to eat the same day.

My preferred method of short ribs is braising.
And I'm serving this pull-apart, fork-tender meat
with some vibrant vegetable flavors -
all on a creamy, cheesy, buttery bed of polenta.

Rosie's Braised Beef Short Ribs
8 boneless short ribs
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 turnips
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic

2 - 14.5 ounce cans of low-sodium beef broth
or, preferably, your own homemade beef consomme
16 ounces cabernet sauvignon

1 bundle fresh herbs, tied - several sprigs of thyme and rosemary, about 5 fresh bay leaves
If you're using dried, only use maybe 2 bay leaves.

freshly ground salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare veggies: finely dice carrots, celery, turnip, onion.  Mince garlic.

Salt and pepper meat.  Dredge meat through flour, shaking off excess.

Cook the pancetta in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  When golden, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Reserve for later.

Turn heat to medium high, adding more oil if you think necessary.  I used an additional tablespoon of peanut oil.  Place short ribs in hot oil one at a time. Sear each side.

Add in prepared vegetables and stir for a couple of minutes.
Pour in 2 cans of beef broth, scraping up any goodie bits on the bottom of the pan.  This is where the flavor is. Pour in the wine.

Add the tied bundle of herbs, cover, and place in oven.
After 2 1/2 hours, add the reserved pancetta to the pan.
Return to oven for 30 minutes. 

In this last thirty minutes, prepare the polenta.  Recipe forthcoming.

 A few notes on searing: 

You want a large enough pan so you do not crowd the pan.  Too much food in the pan dissipates the heat, causing the food to steam, rather than saute or sear.  When you add the meat, leave it alone.  Do not fuss over it.  Resist the temptation to poke, push, and/or turn. Do not move the meat.  The meat will let you know when it's ready.  If you try and move the meat before the side has been properly seared, it will stick and you'll tear the meat if you force it. Wait and shake the pan.  If the meat releases, it's ready to be turned. Sear short ribs on all sides. You have six sides to these cubes.  Don't miss one. 

In  the case of meat, dry-heat cooking, whether roasting with dry air in the oven or with heat conducted directly from a hot pan, results in the formation of a flavorful crust on the surface of the meat.  Browning and flavor development are the result of a chemical process called the Maillard reaction.  This culinary phenomenon occurs when proteins in meats are heated to temperatures above 310 degrees, causing them to brown.  This is similar to the process of caramelization, where carbohydrates, like sugar, turn brown when heated. Searing creates an attractive brown crust on the surface of the meat, that enhances both appearance and flavor.  

Searing, or browning, is the prelude to braising.  Moist-heat cooking methods, such as simmering or braising can't generate as much heat to form this crust, since water boils at 212 degrees.  That's why we sear the meat first - to brown it and to develop the Maillard flavors.  

Now we want to braise it, to cook and tenderize it and let the flavors develop even more.

My aromatics.
Onion, celery, carrots, turnips, garlic.

I like a fine dice on my veggies.

  When picking out your short ribs,
you want meat with nice marbling in it.
Marbling is streaks of fat found within the muscle
and has a beneficial effect on juiciness, flavor, and tenderness.

Lightly season the meat with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Go out to your herb garden
and pick a few sprigs of thyme,
some rosemary, and bay leaves.

Tie it in a nice little bundle
so it can be easily fished out after cooking.

Fry up the diced pancetta.

I used pancetta instead of bacon
because pancetta has a milder flavor.
You get the pork flavor, without bacon's smokiness.
Most American bacon is smoked.
Pancetta is unsmoked pork belly that is cured 
in salt and spices, then dried.

Drain on paper towels,
reserving the grease.
Set aside for later use.

Dredge short ribs in flour.
Shake off excess.

Sear on all six sides.

Pour in diced vegetables.
Cook a couple of minutes, stirring.

Why, yes.
Sometimes I use canned broth.
I am not a food snob.

Add in a nice cabernet sauvignon.
And yes.
Sometimes I drink wine from a box.
I prefer "wine from a box"
rather than "wine from a bladder."

More wine.

Add in the fresh herb bundle.

Cook at 350 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.

Edited to add:  NotMuchOfACook caught me here.
(See her comment in the comments section.)
I cooked the short ribs in the Dutch oven
for the 2 1/2 hours,
then, since the liquid had reduced so much,
I transferred everything to a baking dish
for the last 30 minutes.

You won't believe how good my house smells right now.
Stir in pancetta.
Cook 30 minutes more.

And start on the polenta.
Rosie's Polenta
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 cups turkey consomme
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup goat cheese
2 TB butter

Bring turkey consomme to a boil.
Add in cream and bring to a boil.
Add in salt.
Remove from heat and whisk in cornmeal
slowly so no clumps form.
Return to low heat and cook,
whisking every few minutes,
until thickened, about 30 minutes.
Stir in butter and cheeses.

I thawed out two cups of my turkey consomme
and saved the remaining two cups for moreovers.

You could use canned chicken broth
or even water.
I prefer the extra flavor provided by a good stock.
Melty melty.

I brought the stock to a boil
then added the cream
and brought it to a boil.
I don't know why.
You could bring both to a boil at the same time.

Slowly whisk in cornmeal.

Constant whisking is required 
while adding the cornmeal.

No clumps.
Cook over low heat,
whisking every now and then
until thickened.
About 30 minutes.

Stir in butter.

Parmesan in.

Goat cheese in.

Stir until melted.

Remove short ribs from oven.

And serve over the polenta.

Oh my.

The richness and tenderness of the meat,
the concentrated, aromatic flavors of the reduced wine sauce,
 the creaminess of the polenta -
all combine to create a synergy of complexity.
The total is greater than the sum of its parts.

In other words,
dems sum good eats.

  It's cold and gray and rainy and nor'easterly outside.
There's a fire in the fireplace.
This is dinner.
And it's perfect.

I think you're gonna like this.

I know we did.

And I'm already thinking about short rib moreovers.


Anonymous said...

My favorite dinner of all--short ribs over polenta. It looks fabulous.

Anonymous said...

I have a question: why don't you finish your short ribs in the oven in your dutch oven? And, do you cover your short ribs during their time in the oven?

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Oh, thanks NMOAC. I'll have to go back in and explain that. I did finish everything in the Dutch oven. The liquid had cooked down and reduced, so I transferred everything to a smaller baking dish for serving and storage in fridge.

SweetPhyl said...

Did you COVER the dutch oven while braising? Seems you wouldn't have as much reduction that way, or is that what you wanted? Inquiring minds...

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Yes, SweetPhyl, it was covered. And that reduction was delicious.

SweetPhyl said...

I bet it was and I daresay you could bottle it and sell it as cologne. Men would go WILD! and women, too, for that matter!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

SweetPhyl, I love cooking with red wine. It smells wonderful. Sometimes I actually pour it on the food.

Marilyn said...

I make my short ribs in the slow cooker. It's the perfect vessel for this cut of beef. After cooking all day, the short ribs are falling off the bone good.

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much. Our recipes are almost identical. I served mine over my creamy mashed taters instead of polenta - but that's only because I didn't feel like going to the store to get polenta! LOL.

Awesome job and I'm so glad you enjoyed my challenge.

xoxo Ange in WI

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Ange, all you need for polenta is cornmeal.

Thanks, and I'm always up for a challenge.