Thursday, June 24, 2010

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus

Short ribs are a delicious new discovery for me.  They first caught my attention at a sinfully decadent feast at one of my favorite restaurants, where they were served alongside seared scallops.  Both meat and fish were tasty in-and-of themselves, but didn't make for the best pairing.  The meat was removed from the bone, cut into anonymous little slivers, and served in a tiny mound next to each scallop.  What followed was one of those experiences I seem to have frequently when dining in "fine" restaurants.  Without the help of the menu to refresh our memories, it was difficult for myself and my companions to identify those little piles of meat, and truly appreciate what we were eating.  The dish left me with a nagging itch for more short ribs; prepared in such a way they could be enjoyed for the richly delectable little morsels they are.

So, what's so special about the short rib?  They are like tiny, juicy, little pot roasts, except better.  A small piece of meat, attached to a smaller piece of bone, with layers of marbled fat holding it all together like the wrapping on a present.  When cooked, the meat is so tender, it absolutely melts.  If you like pot roast, you will find the experience of eating short ribs sublime.  If you're not a fan of pot roast, because you think it's dry, boring etc..., try short ribs.  I believe you would be pleasantly surprised by their exceptionally tender texture, and rich flavor.

To compliment the short ribs, and take advantage of the copious amount of gravy produced by this recipe, I served them with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.  Yukon Golds are my absolute favorite, would eat them on my deathbed, potato.  They are rich, buttery, and are my first choice when making mashed potatoes.  Their flavor is so much richer, and less floury, than russets.  If you've never made mashed potatoes with Yukon Golds before, you are missing out.

Finally, to add some balance to a dinner that was leaning toward the heavy side, the second vegetable I served was steamed asparagus.  This is a favorite of the husband,  he puts up with a lot, so I do what I can.  Steamed asparagus is also a nice, green contrast to the meaty, buttery, richness of the rest of the meal.  Steamed broccoli or green beans would also be great.

For the first step, we brown the short ribs.  Dry ribs thoroughly using paper towels.  Add enough oil to cover the bottom of your pot, and heat until the smoking point.  Brown the ribs 2 minutes per side, on all sides, then set aside.  Do them in batches so that you don't crowd the pot.
Once all the ribs are browned, set them aside to rest.  Then add the onion, carrot and celery to the pot.  Cook for a couple minutes while scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.  
After cooking for a few minutes, add the tomatoes, garlic, red wine or vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and pepper.
Cook for a couple minutes and stir.  Then add the short ribs back to the pot.
Just look at that and make grunting, carnivorous noises with me.  Once that's out of your system, add beef broth to just cover the short ribs.
You can see the bones there, just rising above the surface.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  When the meat is falling off the bone, remove the short ribs from the pot.  Strain the cooking liquid, reserving 1 cup of it for the cornstarch, and return the rest to the pot.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Mix 2 T of cornstarch with the reserved liquid and stir until there are no lumps.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pot, and whisk together until smooth and thick.  Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

Yukon Gold mashed potatoes are a snap.  Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks.  Put in a pot, and add enough water to cover by an inch or so.  I like to add about a teaspoon of chicken base to the water, it enhances the flavor of the potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Drain potatoes and let sit in the pot for a couple minutes to evaporate extra water.   Add 1 stick of butter cut into chunks, and about 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Blend with hand mixer until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Steam the asparagus until tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Put it all on a plate, and drizzle some gravy over the meat and potatoes.
And there you have it; substance over style, identifiable and delicious.  Meltingly tender short ribs, buttery mashed potatoes and gravy, slow-cooked vegetables, and bright, green steamed asparagus.  It was a perfect dinner last week when it was cold and rainy, and is the very definition of "stick to your ribs" food.  Enjoy!

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus by Bonzo Bean
3-4 T of vegetable oil, enough to coat the pot
3 lbs short ribs
Salt and pepper to cover ribs
1 lg. white onion, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped 
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, or red wine
2 T Worcestershire sauce
3 bay leaves
2 t black pepper
1 32 oz container beef broth
2-3 T cornstarch for gravy

Heat oil in dutch oven or large pot until smoking.  Brown short ribs 2 minutes per side, on all sides, until brown and crusty.  Brown the ribs in batches so you don't crowd the pot, and set aside on a plate when done.  Add onions, celery and carrot to pot and cook for a couple minutes, while scraping up browned bits from the bottom.  Add tomatoes, garlic, vinegar or wine, Worcestershire, bay leaves and pepper.    Cook for a couple minutes more, then return ribs to pot and add beef broth to just cover them.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  When meat is very tender, remove from pot to a plate, and cover with foil to keep warm.  Strain liquid from pot,  set cooking vegetables aside to keep warm, reserve 1 c of liquid.  Return strained liquid to pot and bring to a boil.  Add cornstarch to reserved liquid and whisk with fork until smooth.  Add cornstarch slurry to pot, and whisk constantly until gravy is smooth and thick. Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

6-7 medium to large Yukon Gold potatoes
1 t chicken base
1 stick butter, cut into 1" pats
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into 1-2 inch chunks.  Put in pot and add enough water to cover by about 2 inches.  Add 1 t of chicken base and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain water and then let potatoes rest in the pot on low heat for a couple minutes to evaporate extra moisture.  Add the butter and cream, and blend with hand-mixer on medium-high until very smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

1 lb asparagus spears

Snap ends off asparagus and place in steamer pot or basket
Steam over high heat for 5-7 minutes, depending on your tastes, and the thickness of your asparagus.  Dress with salt and pepper.

This meal serves 2 with leftovers, or 4 for a sit-down meal.