Cold weather is settling in, so we turn our hymnals to those slow-cooked, warm-you-from-the-inside-out recipes that fuel us during the fall and winter. The type of recipe that you start at 1 or 2 p.m. and let roll until 5 or 6 p.m. The type of recipe that involves braising. The first thing I toss in the braising pan each fall are short ribs, simply because they are so good and so easy to make. Sear them, cook the veg, toss in some liquid and move to the oven for the afternoon.
The problem is that I like my short ribs with bones. The bone’s marrow adds a lot of flavor and richness to sauce and they are typically cheaper than the boneless variety. Yes, you spend more money to get the quantity of meat you want, but it’s worth it for the flavor. According to the moustached man in the Wegmans Fairmount meat department, they stopped getting short ribs with bones weeks ago. While grocers charge more for the boneless variety, Mr. Moustache told me that wholesalers can get more for the bone-in variety from restaurants, who like the bone for presentation purposes. So, instead of $7.49/lb., I was left with $9.99/lb. for meat that was once considered a throwaway cut of beef.
“I remember when we used to just grind short ribs for hamburger,” said Mr. Moustache. “Some joker went on TV, made them famous, and now we charge $10 a pound.”
If the world were a right and just place, I would have time to cook more food by braising. You draw out so much flavor from the meat when it cooks slowly for hours in a low heat oven. Fat melts into flavor. Marrow melts into sauce. It’s quite beautiful.
I like braising short ribs on a cold night. It has that hearty, comfort food feel that warms you from the inside. We’ve certainly had colder days this winter (hell, we’ve had colder days this week) than Saturday, but it would have to do. Short ribs are like ice cream: when I get it into my head that I want to eat them, it’s best to just appease me. Otherwise, I become a miserable and grumpy little bitch.
Friday evening’s dinner at Moro’s Table was highlighted by a world-class braised short rib. I love me some short ribs. I like the notion that I can just cook the hell out of something and have it turn out tender at the end. There are very few cuts of meat where that works and the short rib happens to be one of them. They certainly are not the most attractive cuts of beef, as there is usually a think layer or two of fat involved. But, that’s the point of braising — allowing the slow cooking and heat from the pan juices to melt the fat into the broth. The combination of the fat and pan juices will then work together and reduce, producing a highly-flavorful broth that tastes just as good out of the oven as it does left over.
A good braised short rib recipe needs a thick starch to offset it. For a recipe like this a good polenta works. There is enough vegetables in the pan to fit the bill, but if you wanted, a steamed swiss chard or escarole would serve as a good base before serving the entree over top.