I hope that everyone had a lovely, meaningful Rosh Hashana.
We spent the 3 day yom tov (holiday), either in shul, eating, or sleeping. That’s what happens when you go to a Yeshiva that finishes davening at 3! But I’m not complaining. The davening was beautiful, as were the speeches. And it’s always a tremendous pleasure spending time with some old friends that come in for the holiday.
I always over-estimate the amount of food needed for a three day-er, especially when we’re having lots of company. I tend to forget that even by the second night, most people are pretty much sick of food. I mean, if what we do on the day of the new year is supposed to set the tone for the rest of it, then it looks like we’re all gonna be pretty fat. But at least those who ate with me will be getting fat on some pretty good food.
These braised short ribs (more on that in a second), from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, is a favorite of mine for yom tov. It’s meat prepared in a simple way, but with tremendously robust and layered flavor. And the ribs are great with a whole variety of sides, from mashed potatoes to polenta to celery root puree to pasta. Really, a great centerpiece to a hearty meal.
Here’s how we start.
For this dish, about five cups of beef stock are needed. DON’T USE ANYTHING STORE BOUGHT! For one thing, I don’t think you can actually find ready made beef STOCK. At most you’ll find beef broth, which, terrible as it is, doesn’t have any gelatin left from reducing the meaty beef bones to give the final sauce its smooth richness. I know I can’t say this enough, so here it goes again. MAKE YOUR OWN STOCKS, PEOPLE! As Michael Ruhlman writes in Twenty, one major reason that restaurant food tastes better than food cooked at home (in most cases, at least), is because restaurants make their own stock. And therefore better sauces as well.
To make the stock (which was actually made far in advance–it’s always good to have some in the freezer), I roasted 5 lbs. of meaty beef bones, neck, I think, for 45 minutes at 450 degrees.
While that was going on, I took this half an onion-
and put it, cut side down, onto a dry pan, indirectly over medium heat for half an hour.
This later gets added to the stock, in order to deepen its color and taste.
Once the bones were good and browned, I placed them in a large stock-pot, along with the onion, and enough water to fill it close to the top. This was done right before I went to bed, so I could let it reduce until morning. I did strain out as much of the impurities that floated to the top as I could, before turning in for the night. Here’s what I woke up to.
You can see a sort of film over the surface of the stock. Those are all the impurities that I missed, while I was sleeping. Because it had reduced a little too much, I added some water to the stock, to reconstitute it, and some ice cubes. Why ice cubes? Because they make straining so much easier! Watch–
Sure looks gross, right? I agree, that’s why I didn’t want all that fat and junk in my final stock.
We’re almost done, don’t worry. For the final step, I took some roasted veggies– onion, leek, carrot and garlic–
and added them to the pot along with some thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf and parsley. I let this all cook for one more hour, then strained the stock a few times through my chinios. After straining and chilling in my fridge, the stock went from this–
You may not be able to tell, but the stock has now become beef-stock jello.
Ok. Done with the stock. Now on to the actual dish.
Technically, the short ribs used here aren’t actual short ribs, in that they don’t come from the rib primal of the cow, rather they come from the chuck. If you ask your local butcher for “boneless chuck short-rib”, and you live in Silver Spring, and shop at Kosher shops, then all you will receive is a blank stare. Instead just call up the knowledgable good folks at Wasserman and Lemberger, in Baltimore, and ask for either the aforementioned short-rib, or for “boneless cross-piece”. I won’t get into the technicalities of shopping for meat here, but if you follow my instructions, here’s the beautiful cut you’ll receive.
Braising meat, one of Ruhlman’s Twenty techniques, is one of my favorite ways to cook. It imparts a tremendous amount of flavor, while allowing you to transform tough, cheaper cuts of meat into things of beauty. All you need in order to do a proper braise, is a heavy bottomed, oven safe, wide pot with a tight fitting lid, a piece of meat like the one above, and a bit of flavorful liquid. So which liquid did I use? I made my own!
That’s one cup each chopped onion, leek, carrot, and mushroom, along with a tablespoon of peppercorns, five smashed garlic cloves, skin on, parsley, thyme and bay leaf. To all this, I added an entire bottle of Cabernet–
and brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer for 45 minutes, until the wine reduced to almost a glaze.
When the reduction was complete, I added more carrots, onions, leeks, mushrooms, thyme, parsley and bay leaf,
covered the top with a damp cheesecloth (so no veggies would stick to the meat), and topped it with the seared roast. (Did I forget to show you that part?)
On top of this, went five cups of the beef stock, and a lid made from parchment paper.
My Dutch oven went into my gas oven for roughly 1.5 hours at 350, until the meat was tender enough that I could easily separate the muscle fibers with a press of my finger. I removed the meat and strained half the liquid over it, and the other half into a small saucepan to reduce into a delicious sauce.
Clockwise from the top right:
Garlic, shallot and white wine reduction for the Barigoule vinaigrette from an upcoming post, the reducing short-rib sauce, and some garlic and olive oil for the same pasta from this previous post. My kitchen smelled mighty fine that night.
Braised foods actually improve after spending some time in the fridge. So, today, a few days after Rosh Hashana, I invited a friend to help me polish off the leftovers for lunch.
Now I know that picture isn’t the most beautiful, and it definitely doesn’t do the meat or the sauce any justice, whatsoever. The meat was so incredibly tender and the sauce smooth, robust, complex and superb. The beauty is, that the sauce compliments the meat so well, because it is nothing more than a distillation of all the concentrated flavors in which the meat cooked. Even if you think that I’m totally insane for thinking that this is an easy recipe to do, I hope you at least learn this one, crucial technique. Next time you make a brisket, or pot roast, or any type of braised meat product, do as I did. Strain out half the liquid, and reduce it, instead of just serving your meat in a watery mess most people call “gravy”.
If creating this blog could teach you folks one thing, let it be that. The power of a good sauce.
All the best,