In need of comfort after my hopes for television stardom were crushed, I turned to comfort food. I wanted something more rustic and less refined than all of the boeuf bourguignon I had been cooking as of late, but something just as satisfying. It was time to make short ribs again.
Astute long-time readers of this blog will recall that I have written about short ribs before, using an Anne Burrell recipe. That was before I read Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home, where I found the recipe I used for this meal. His method duplicates techniques he outlined in the Bouchon recipe I had borrowed from for my signature dish, so I had an opportunity to try it without the competitive pressure.
I started with six meaty short ribs purchased at Costco. (Yes, I confess to not always going to my preferred butcher for cuts that will have long coking times. Besides, they were right there next to the 50-gallon drums of Clamato juice I was restocking for the family.) Keller calls for boneless chuck short ribs because they’re neater looking, but had no problem with uneven ribs and a bit of extra collagen. (That’s why I have such bitchin’ hair and nails: it’s all the collagen I ingest.)
I seasoned the ribs with salt and pepper, lightly dredged them in flour, then browned the meat in on all sides in a sauté pan filmed with oil.
While the beef browned, I started a red wine reduction by adding a cup each of sliced onions, leeks, mushrooms, and carrots to a Dutch oven. I combined the vegetables with three thyme sprigs, six parsley sprigs, two bay leaves, three smashed garlic cloves, a half teaspoon of peppercorns, and an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon. I brought the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for an hour, until it had reduced to a glaze.
While the glaze simmered, I made a quick beef stock from the beef trimmings I had saved from bourguignons v1.0 and v2.0, an onion, a carrot, and six cups of water. I boosted the stock with some veal demi-glace I had in the pantry (you have some, don’t you?). I also diced another cup of onion, two-thirds of a cup of carrots, and a cup and a half of leek, which I added to the red wine reduction, along with two more garlic cloves, three thyme sprigs, and two bay leaves. I stirred the new vegetables until they were coated with the glaze.
I cut a piece of cheesecloth lager than the pot diameter, moistened it and wrung it dry, then layered it over the vegetables. I placed the ribs on the cheesecloth, then added the stock to just come to the top of the ribs.
I cut a parchment lid (cheesecloth, parchment – it’s a craft project as well as a meal!) and placed it over the meat.
I covered the pot, transferred it to a 350° F oven, then lowered the heat to 325° F and let the ribs cook for two hours.I had a pot of tender beef that wasn’t quite falling apart.
I slid the bones out and transferred the ribs to a new pot. I strained the braising liquid twice through a chinois, then let it sit in a fat separator until I could pour off most of the fat. I returned the strained, de-fatted liquid to the pot with the beef, and let it all sit overnight in the fridge.
To finish the dish, I moved the ribs back to a sauté pan and added about a quarter inch of the braising liquid. I brought the pan to a simmer and basted with the liquid until the ribs were moist.
I transferred the pan to a 400° F oven for fifteen minutes, basting occasionally. I turned the ribs over, basted some more, and returned them t the oven for an additional five minutes. While the ribs reheated, I reduced the rest of the braising liquid in a saucepan to create a sauce.
To plate, I sliced the ribs against the grain, stacked the slices on some mashed potatoes, added sauce, and finished with Maldon sea salt and chopped parsley. I served a side of buttered haricots verts.
I noticed during the cooking that the recipe didn’t call for any salt to be added. I understood that it might not get added until the end, because the braising and reducing processes would concentrate any salt added at the start, but none was required for the reduced sauce. The key is the salt added as a garnish. As long as you use a salt that will not melt immediately — a Maldon, sel gris, or fleur de sel — not only will the final dish be salted correctly, but you’ll get the added crunch from the crystals.
The beef was still slightly pink and had a bit of bite, a welcome change from ribs that crumble as soon as you eat them. The reduction added just a hint of depth and wine flavors to the sauce, not nearly as pronounced as a traditional bourguignon, and not in need of my usual trick of adding a brightening splash of the cooking wine at the end.
I see in Ad Hoc at Home that these ribs are the first component for beef stroganoff and Catalan beef stew. I think I know what other dishes this winter will bring…