Food For Thought 11/5/2021

By Deborah Lee Walker

Contributing Writer

(Nov. 5, 2021) Does an expensive cut of meat automatically mean it has more flavor? Do high prices ensure tender bites? And should “prime” be your only consideration?

I think most of us would agree that there is nothing more pleasurable than biting into a thick, succulent juicy piece of meat that is cooked to perfection. But no matter how you cut it, one will pay dearly for the bite of deliciousness.   

However, if one understands the process of braising, you can achieve a luscious, mouthwatering dish at an affordable price.

Usually, braising recipes begin by browning the meat in olive oil. Contrary to popular belief, browning or searing the surface does not seal in the meat’s juices. It does, on the other hand, produce new and complex flavor compounds as the sugars and proteins in the meat react under high temperatures and the surface color deepens. 

Liquid, such as wine, beer, stock, or broth, is also essential for braising because the less tender meats have greater amounts of collagen than tender ones. 

Collagen, a connective tissue, helps hold the muscle fibers together. When cooked at low temperatures with moisture, collagen dissolves into gelatin, which allows the meat fibers to separate more easily. The end result is unbelievable tenderness. 

Braised beef short ribs in a decadent wine sauce over mashed potatoes are a fabulous dish for the fall. Following is a step-by-step guide for further comprehension.

One might be thinking if the meat is going to be cooked for a long time, why bother searing it? As stated above, the natural caramelization creates a ton of flavor. The little browned bits of goodness are considered the caviar of taste.

After searing, the meat is removed and set aside. Garlic, onions, celery, carrots and sun-dried tomatoes are sauteed until softened. You want to get a jump on extracting as much flavor as possible.

Many chefs choose red wine as the foundation for this dish. Red wine adds depth of flavor but it also has a very pronounced essence to it. Adding equals amounts of dry white wine will soften the tannins in the red wine and yields a better tasting sauce.

Beef bouillon or beef stock is a classic ingredient for braised beef short ribs. But the addition of chicken stock yields a richness that one cannot get with just beef broth.

In addition, a couple of tablespoons of concentrated veal demi-glace takes this dish to another level. Veal demi-glace is pricy and this step is optional. If one wants to purchase it, Williams Sonoma carries an excellent veal demi-glace.

Dried herbs are highly suggested. Fresh herbs are added at the end of the cooking period for a “pop” of flavor. But for longer cooking times, you want to use dried herbs. Rosemary, thyme and bay leaves are the preferred herbs. 

When one is using bay leaves, always count how many you are using. You will want to remove them before serving the dish; this way you know exactly how many to remove. There is nothing worse than biting down on a dried bay leaf.

Place all of the ingredients into a Dutch oven and cook at 350 degrees for three hours. When the meat is falling off the bones, literally, remove the pot from the oven. 

Most recipes call for one to remove the cooked veggies. I take a different approach. I remove the meat and any bones that have fallen off during the cooking phase, and using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the vegetables into the broth. 

This acts as a natural thickener and it gives the sauce a boost of flavor. A slurry of the pureed sauce and cornstarch is the final thickening agent. Make sure all lumps are dissolved.

Braised beef short ribs and a luscious wine sauce served over mashed potatoes are absolutely delicious. Menus should be updated during the change of seasons and braised beef short ribs are a must. Enjoy!

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Ingredients

6 pounds beef short ribs

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive

8 large cloves garlic, minced

2 yellow onions, chopped

3 carrots, ends removed, peeled, and chopped

2 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped

4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

2 cups dry red wine

2 cups dry white wine

6 cups beef bouillon

4 cups chicken bouillon

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons concentrated veal demi-glace (optional)

2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary

2 teaspoons dried thyme

3 bay leaves

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

3 teaspoons cornstarch

favorite mashed potatoes

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Season ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the ribs until a good sear is achieved. Overcrowding will hinder the searing stage. Remove the ribs and set aside.

3.  Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot and sauté until vegetables are soft. Scrape the bottom to release any browned bits.

4.  Return the short ribs to the pot. Pour the wines, bouillons and Worcestershire sauce into the pot. Add the demi-glace, dried herbs, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer pot to the oven.

5.  Cook until the ribs are very tender, about 3 hours. Remove the meat and cover with tin foil. Skim any fat from the surface of the broth.

6.  Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the cooked vegetables with the broth.

7.  Make a slurry using the cornstarch and the broth, 3 teaspoons corn starch and 3 teaspoons broth. Turn heat to medium-high on the stovetop. Place the Dutch oven on the stovetop and gradually add the slurry, stirring constantly.

8.  Place mashed potatoes on the plate. Add braised beef ribs and spoon thickened sauce over ribs and mashed potatoes.

Secret Ingredient -Experiment. “The true method of knowledge is experiment.”

 – William Blake 

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