Hi everyone! I missed last week, even though I had all the ingredients. It was the Grading Monster’s fault: we were in an epic battle and I only won last Tuesday. Unfortunately, we’ll begin battle again tomorrow, though it’ll be more of a skirmish this time.
Anyway, on to the Short Ribs! This is the second time I’ve made short ribs. The first time I made them they were really good, and I got the recipe from another excellent cookbook, Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks by Linda Carucci. For that recipe, I used bone in short ribs and it was all very nice. But, I’ve been (ahem) eating a bit too much since the holidays and I was wondering about using boneless short ribs, particularly since they sell them at Costco. Lo and behold, Cooks Illustrated had already done their magic experiments and found that using boneless short ribs only had about 1/6 of the fat (comparison based upon how much they skimmed after it had cooled) AND the lack of bone marrow, et al did not create any appreciable loss in flavor. What they did notice was a different texture, so they suggested adding 1/2 tsp of unflavored gelatin to the sauce, while the meat is resting separately, if need be. Needless to say, I was sold.
How I Changed the Recipe, Which Was Kind of a Lot
- Change #1: boneless short ribs. I basically already said it, but instead of the 5,000 lbs of bone-in short ribs, I used those three suckers up there. They amounted to nearly 3 lbs and I pan browned them instead of using the broiler (Yes, I still hate my oven’s broiler and will until the magic money fairy comes along and gives me the couple thousand dollars to buy a new one). I did not notice any difference in pan-browning versus broiling.
- Change #2 (sort of) for the rest of the ingredients: I had to deal with the ratio of meat to liquid and veggies, so I broke out my math skills and did some ratio comparisons between AmFT and Cook’s. This is what I came up with. As always, I’m not listing the recipe because you should buy the book:
- same amount of veggies, ginger, and garlic
- 1/2 bottle of red wine (about 1.5 cups). On a somewhat side note, I am NOT one of those who subscribes to the whole “if you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t cook with it” hooey. That’s right, I said hooey. I think there are dishes that require a good bottle of wine–like my zinfandel cranberry sauce I serve at Thanksgiving–but these kinds of recipes, in which the liquid is basically simmered for 2 hours? Forget it. Anyone who tells you they can taste the difference has psyched themselves out. I used some $6 Syrah I found at TJ’s.
- 3/4 c. port
- 3 cups broth, just enough to cover the ribs.
- Change #3: strain the what? The concept of straining the sauce made me sad. Also, because I didn’t use bone-in short ribs, I had barely any fat to skim! But back to the straining thing. I didn’t want to get rid of all that infused veggie goodness. So, I didn’t. I must admit, I finally bought myself an immersion blender and wanted to use it. Before blending it, I did remove the ribs and pick out the bay leaves and any weird looking, overly simmered herb things. After blending, I also put the sauce back on the burner and reduced it so that it had a bit more thickness to the texture. Once I did that, I found I didn’t need the gelatin after all and the flavors were slightly more intensified. Mmmmm…
- Tip #1: how to store short ribs overnight in the fridge. This comes from the Linda Carucci cookbook I mentioned above, and it’s a valuable piece of advice. When storing the dish overnight in the refrigerator, don’t just put the top on and shove ’em on a shelf. They have the massive potential to dry out. Carucci recommends to place a piece of wax paper directly on the ribs so they don’t dry out, then cover the pot and refrigerate. The next day, remove the wax and the congealed fat off the top. I used that tip the first time I made short ribs, likely because I was using her recipe, and it was great. I forgot to use it for this one and I did notice some drying out…which then reminded me of this tip. Sigh.
The Side Dish and the Accoutrement SHOWDOWN
As per usual, I cannot pass up an opportunity to compare and contrast something that I cook. It’s also probably why I love wine tasting so much–having all of those glasses in front of me, where I can smell one after the other all the different aromas. Ahhhh.
Anyway, back to the task at hand!
The Side Dish: These Ain’t Your Grandma’s Mashed Potatoes
I made mashed potatoes. Oh yes, I did. But, I made Yukon Gold Horseradish Mashed Potatoes (the recipe is from that Linda Carucci book, which is out of print. Yet you can still find it for super cheap on Amazon, etc.).
I will say this: we were having some people over for dinner and it was me, my husband, and one of the other husbands in the kitchen when I finished the potatoes. I tasted them for seasoning. I then did something I rarely do. I grabbed two more spoons from the drawer and interrupted the guys to say, “You’ve got to try this.” They both said that they were possibly the best mashed potatoes they had ever eaten (though I do wonder if they had added a bit of that special sauce, hunger, to make the potatoes taste that way).
The Accoutrement SHOWDOWN: Leeks vs Gremolata
I made the gremolata per AmFT. I also made frizzled leeks per Carucci’s book (or CSSfRWC). The frizzled leeks were basically matchsticked leeks rolled around in some seasoned flour, which were then fried in peanut oil for a minute or so.
I placed both on the serving table and instructed everyone to try both and let me know which they liked better. For me, the gremolata was lovely with its touch of citrus. But the leeks were better because they added some really nice crunchy texture to the dish. And I think that is often what I miss with these kinds of slow-cooked stew-y recipes: the lack of texture variation. Usually, I want to serve them with something like green beans or barely-cooked young asparagus so that we can get some sort of toothiness on the plate. The leeks did that, and of course the flavor was great, too.
Our guests said that they thought . . . BOTH were the best. I can see that. I really can.
The Overall Verdict:
You can tell by my title that this dish was fan-freaking-tastic. The horseradish potatoes subtly upped the flavor factor and the gremolata and frizzled leeks just perfected it. It was truly one of those times that I made a dish I felt was completely worthy of being on a menu at a nice restaurant, and that it would be worth paying $25 for the dish. I don’t say that often. At all.
This kind of dish calls for a Bordeaux varietal. The five major ones are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Usually we only see Cab and Merlot as a monocépage (that is, not in a blend), but lately Malbec has been popping up, particularly those from South America. Cab Franc is also a nice wine if you’ve never tried it: the skins are thinner, so you get a full-bodied and fruity, though less tannic than Cab Sauv, wine. Mmmm…. We provided a Merlot from Bien Nacido (vineyards and now also a wine producer) for our guests, and don’t listen to that darned Sideways crap about Merlot being terrible. Anyway, it did work well with the dish. Merlot is similar to Cab Sauv, but has more herbal qualities and fewer tannins. The lack of tannins together with its lower acidity, again as compared to Cab Sauv, can create a wine with a really nice, lush mouthfeel. That is, when it is done well. And that one, it was done well.
In Other News….
I’m having some girls over tonight and I’ll be making the Chicken in a Pot (with horseradish mashed potatoes, natch) and the Gateau Basque. I’m super-excited about the latter because I finally got my incredibly expensive Basque cherry jam, which is made from cherries that are only grown in this one small town.
Also, I did a little catching up over Valentine’s Day, and I made the Hachis Parmentier for my Valentine. Shepherd’s Pie is his favorite dish, so I surprised him with it. I used cube steak and hot Italian sausage for the filling; I also left in the veggies because I don’t like having just meat and potatoes in a dish.
Since this is a relatively picture-less post (and with my camera skills lately–I swear I’ve taken photography classes and I’ve taken some nice photos in my life–that might not be a bad thing), I will include the photos I took.
The filling all ready to go:
And the dish just before eating:
I was deemed the best wife ever. And I also made mashed potatoes twice in the space of one week. When it rains it pours, I guess. He also brought the leftovers to work, and actually shared this time (!) though he didn’t have to, and he further spread the word about this awesome cookbook.