Along with some of our other posts, this is more about a cooking technique than the actual recipe, although the recipe is clearly a winner. This recipe comes from our friends in Brooklyn, and for them it’s all about braising.
It’s my main reason for looking forward to winter and it produces my favorite comfort foods. Braising gives you the ability to take a tough, inexpensive cut of meat and turn it into something wonderful. It’s also great for dinner parties because you can make it in advance and then simply re-heat by popping it in the oven.
Braising is really hard to mess up as long as you follow a simple formula. The main ingredients are a meat, aromatics, cooking liquid, and patience, and the possibilities are infinite. For meat, it can be a shank, shoulder, stew meat, short ribs, etc; it can be veal, pork, chicken, boar, beef, rabbit, etc. The aromatics can anything from garlic, onion, celery, leeks, herbs, carrots, fennel, and all types of spices. The liquid can be any combination of wine, stock, water, and/or canned tomatoes. The last ingredient is patience, and it’s needed in two spots. First, you must be patient in browning the meat, which may have to be done in batches. When the meat is browned properly, you’re left with what the French call fond- the caramelized brown bits at the bottom off the pan. This is the base flavoring of the sauce. Then, like BBQ, braising should be done low and slow. I always do it in the oven as opposed to on the stove top.
Polenta, mashed potatoes, or a simple risotto are all great with braised meats; you want something that can absorb some of the delicious braising liquid. My favorite dish to serve with this is this simple, delicious celeriac puree. These short ribs are quite rich, so I find it necessary to cut it with a gremolata. This is best enjoyed on a cold, wintry Sunday evening. Enjoy!
3 Short ribs (about 1½ pounds)
1 Red onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
4-5 Stalks celery, diced
5 Cups beef stock
½ Bottle of dry red wine
1-2 Whole star anise (depending how much you like it)
2 Bay leaves
Garlic clove, whacked (depending on how much you like garlic)
Season short ribs well with salt and pepper. Sear in a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven until all sides are well browned- no shortcuts here. Remove to a plate.
Add celery, carrot, onion and sauté over medium heat 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and continue sautéing until soft, about 5-7 more minutes. Add the rest of the spices (bay, peppercorns, cloves, star anise) and the wine and cook until the wine is reduced by about half.
NOTE: If you are going to strain the sauce in the end, the garlic, thyme, and spices can just be tossed in. If not, you should chop the garlic and thyme and wrap the spices in cheesecloth so they can easily be fished out.
When wine in reduced by half, add short ribs and stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and put in preheated 350 degree oven for about 2½ hours.
At this point, you have the option of straining out the solids for a more refined sauce. Cool everything down and then refrigerate until ready, preferably overnight.
Skim the fat off of the top of the sauce and reheat until heated through in a 350 degree oven, about an hour.
1 Large celeriac (celery root), peeled and cubed
2-3 Small yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
Milk, enough to cover celeriac and potatoes
Add milk, celeriac and potatoes to a pot and cook until fork tender.
Remove vegetables from milk and puree in food processor until smooth, but do not over-puree. Season to taste with butter, salt, and pepper.
Inner, lightly colored leaves from celery
1 Clove garlic, minced
Zest and juice lemon. Mix in minced garlic and chopped parsley and celery leaves.
Serve the short ribs over the celeriac puree and top with the braising juice and gremolata.