Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Port and Wine Braised Short Ribs

The above photo was taken at The Hunting Party, a pop-up restaurant I collaborated on with two chef friends, Deborah and  Kari.

For our main course we did this port and wine braised short rib (with a cauliflower steak drizzled with port sauce as our vegetarian substitution). Braises are great for entertaining because all of the cooking can be done ahead of time (even days ahead), and you just need to reheat and serve the dish the day of the party. In fact, you should consider making the dish the day before you intend to serve it. Braises only taste better the longer they hang out.

This recipe requires a lot of work and time, but the pay-off is big! It's also a pretty forgiving recipe, so don't worry about getting the exact spice and aromatic measurements correct. You can also swap in or out your favorite herbs and spices. This dish would be nice with star anise and cinnamon in lieu of rosemary and thyme.

This dish is rich, decadent, and delicious and perfect for cold autumn and winter nights. The simmered sauce, sweet from the Port and savory from the wine and stock, goes perfectly with the hearty meat. Enjoy!

Port and Wine Braised Short Ribs
Serves (8-10)

5 lbs. short ribs cut into 2-3 inch pieces (about 1/2 lb. to 1/3 lb. per person)
2 tablespoons ground pepper
2 tablespoons coriander
2 tablespoons garlic powder
olive oil
3 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
3 carrots, cut into large chunks
1 large onion, cut into large chunks
3 small shallots, halved
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups port
1 bottle decent red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir are good
2-3 cups beef or chicken stock, homemade if possible
2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme

Start by seasoning your short ribs 6-8 hours before braising, or overnight. Evenly coat the ribs with ground pepper, coriander and garlic powder. You can use any combination of spices you enjoy.

An hour before cooking, take the ribs out of the refrigerator and generously salt them. Let them come up to room temperature.

On high heat, heat a Dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pot until it is very hot. Drizzle a little oil into the pot, and  in small batches sear the short ribs on all sides (really, each and every side). This step is super important for flavor. You will need to do this in batches unless you have the biggest Dutch oven in history and are cooking over a large fire pit. You do not want to crowd the meat, otherwise the meat won't properly sear. It's properly seared when it's brown and crusty and looks almost like it's cooked from the outside, but is definitely rare inside. Flavor comes from brown crusty bits; they're gold. It takes time and can be tedious and makes your house smokey, but it is a critical step in the braising process.

After searing all of the ribs on all sides, set them aside. To the brown bits and drippings in the pot, add the carrots, celery, onion, and shallots. If the pot doesn't have that much oil in it, drizzle a little more olive oil into the pot. Cook the veggie mixture for 6-7 minutes or until they start to soften. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomato paste to the pot, and stir until the veggies are well-coated in the mixture. Add the flour to the pot, and stir for another minute. Add the port, wine, and stock to the pot in any order. When you first add a little liquid everything will sizzle, scrape the bottom of the pot while things are sizzling - this is called deglazing, and all those flavor-filled stuck brown bits will come up from the bottom and get incorporated into the final sauce. Add the bay, rosemary, and thyme to the liquid. Bring everything up to a simmer, and let the sauce reduce by a third so that it thickens. You still want to have enough sauce so that when you add the meat back to the pot, all of the meat is covered in the liquid (you can add the extra cup of  stock if you need more liquid). Add the meat back to the pot.

At this point, I let the mixture cool. I cover the pot, put it in the fridge, and I let the beef marinate in the sauce overnight (this was a tip that Deborah gave me). This makes the recipe a multi-day process. If you don't have that kind of time, you can skip the step of marinading the dish in your fridge over night. Instead, after putting the beef back in the pot, cover the pot and place the whole thing in a preheated oven.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the pot in the oven and let the short ribs cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until tender. At this point, check out your sauce. If it's thick enough and you don't mind veggies and herbs in the mix, let the meat rest and then serve big spoonfuls of it onto plates alongside mashed potatoes or something yummy.

If your sauce still looks thin once the meat is cooked and tender, carefully remove the ribs from the pot onto a platter, and cover them loosely with foil. If you don't want chunks of veg and herbs in your dish, you can strain the sauce at this point (just use a mesh strainer). If you like veg and herbs and don't care, you can absolutely leave them in the pot. To thicken your sauce (with or without veg) bring the liquid up to a simmer on the stove-top, and let the mixture simmer until the sauce has reduced to your desired consistency.

Before serving, taste the sauce. Season with salt, pepper, or even sugar if necessary or depending on your taste.

Ladle the hot sauce over the rested meat and serve.

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