Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Cut a Long Story Short

I am totally remiss in not linking my cousin's cooking blog in my blogroll on the right of this post. Bad me.

I am also fully aware I've never made anything Laura has posted. Sometimes she is more adventuresome than my tastes and she is a way way way better cook than I can ever pretend to be. I might go as far as to say her recipes sometimes intimidate me.

Either way, both items have been corrected. She's on the blogroll - and I did one of her recipes for short ribs.

Full disclosure, her short rib recipe (one of them) is from Bobby Mark Bittman in the New York Times. I'm calling it hers, because, no matter how many times I read the NYT, I somehow never ever ever see his articles, though I get his recipes from other sources.

I get that a fourth anniversary isn't much to celebrate - though it probably is the half-way point for most marriages. But as I've said, it's our fourth as a married couple, but we're about to hit the three decade mark in two months.

And it has been crappy weather, so I made a plan to make dinner and not go out. But I didn't want the normal fare I usually cook. I wanted something that sounded and tasted a little more special. In my mind, I went to short ribs.

Not that I've ever attempted short ribs, mind you.

I've seen many a cooking show make them, most recently being America's Test Kitchen. And while I like their stuff, if seemed a little bit fussy. Laura's site pointed me in another direction - two in fact. And Robert Frost notwithstanding, I am guessing I chose the one more traveled.

First stop: the West Side Market.

I thought I'd go to a better butcher for a better cut of meat. I went for 4 large short ribs as opposed to eight small ones. It's all about size least with guys. As it turns out - unbeknownst to me - I did not get what I'm assuming were great cuts. It pays to know exactly what you're looking for. I did not.

(oh, I also picked up some cupcakes too..........because I wasn't going to bake a dessert.)

Then it was home to prepare.

While heating a tablespoon of oil in the dutch oven, I chopped a large yellow onion, three cloves of garlic and one dried chipotle chili and one pasilla chili (stem and seeds removed - and there are a lot of seeds!)

Once the oil was heated, I browned the meat on all sides. I lightly floured each piece and used salt and pepper as seasoning.

I then removed the meat from the dutch oven. Turn down the heat and let it cool a little before adding the onions, peppers and garlic. 

Let the onions soften for about 15 minutes. Then add a cup of strong coffee and a cup of red wine. With the heat on high, I reduced the liquid by about half. 

....and place the meat back in the liquid. 

Put the lid on and place in a pre-heated oven at 300F for a minimum of two hours and up to four, turning the meat over every hour or so to help absorb the liquids. 

A little coarse salt and chopped parsley on top and you're good to go. 

Kind of. 

The meat looked and smelled great. I figured for as long as it cooked it would fall off the bone and with the first attempt made, that seem to be true. 

Alas, it was not meant to be. 

While it cooked for two and one half hours, the meat itself was still sinewy. The fatty connective tissues still remained and I'm not sure any more amount of cooking would have  ever rendered away. What looked like good marbling - from a novice's point of view - was just fat laden. 

It took a lot of work to extract what meat there was from the rest of the leftover. But what meat there was, tasted great. I need to befriend a butcher when I do these things. Or at least do more research. 

Next time, I might leave some of the seeds for additional heat. The chilies gave nice flavour, but I might also consider adding one additional of the chipotle and pasilla. 

Yes, the meal did not come out as planned, but it would not stop me from trying again. This was what I might call the test-run. Or a crash test-run. 

710 really thought the ambition and effort were great. He thought, as an anniversary dinner, I went all out for at least the attempt. There was no hiding that it was not a home run. Even he couldn't pull off that whopper of a lie. But he liked that I was really enjoying the craft of making the meal. 

The short ribs were not horrid, but they weren't great. I have some take aways for my next time. And hell, maybe next time I'll make the Korean ones. They seemed more up my alley, but a little more labour intensive (i.e. a lot more ingredients) than my first time out with this dish. 

....and for the record, those cupcakes were just ok. 

I should have learned long ago, that the cupcake trade is like chasing a white whale. I keep trying and they keep failing me. It's a great business model and they keep pulling me in, but by the time I've plunked down $2.50 - $3.00 for one, I find out they are only fair at best. But by the time I figure that out, they have my money and I only have regret. 

Is it sad that I like homemade Duncan Hines cupcakes more than these things? 

Song by: Spandau Ballet


Anonymous said...

..I don't know if this would help but, we sometimes cook a beef brisket, seasoned with sliced onion, chopped garlic, "liquid hickory smoke"(yea, I know) and a little Worcestershire sauce, covered tightly at 250 degrees for 11 or 12 hours, yea, hours...start testing for tenderness at about 10 hours, it'll come apart with a fork when it's done....get one with a lot of fat, untrimmed...13 lbs is about average, slice and freeze, to reheat, let slices thaw in fridge and then, broil, the tender fat gets crispy and serve.

Anonymous said...

heh, point being, the brisket it tough as shoe leather until about the 11th hour....low heat and longer cook time might hep the ribs to be tender too...just sayin'

Fearsome Beard said...

Happy fourth wedding anniversary.