Sunday, October 21, 2007

Beer Braising, Short Ribs and a Lots of Patience!

I love one pot dishes. I love the notion that I will just do a quick chop and dump everything into a pot. Bring things to a boil and then reduce the heat and leave things alone on top of the stove or in the oven for a few hours, after which time I will have a mouth-watering, fall off the bone tender stew.

So why is it that the prep in my house ends up taking an hour and the one pot scenario ends up with a sink full of pots and dishes?

The thing is, if you make a meat stew the most important step is to sear the meat before doing anything else. I used to rush this...throw all the meat in a hot pot. Turn it too many times, and too soon to boot to just get it done before throwing everything else in and walking away from the stove.

So let me set the record straight....making a fantastic braised stew takes some effort and patience, but you will forget all about the excessive splatter, the wall to wall pots, bowls and utensils that need washing once you sit down to dig in.

I was flipping through the latest Canadian Living Magazinewith the promise of one-pot dinners, fabulous aromas wafting through the house while I relax with a new cookbook to flip through while watching a movie...oops, sorry I was just daydreaming for a moment. Anyway, I found a lovely looking braised short rib recipe. I love short ribs and this one had some interesting spices to go along with a good dark lager - the star anise particularly intriqued me .

The "one pot" dinner - translate in my mind to quick prep, took me 2 days. Well, okay it didn't take 48 hours, but I started it one day (the messy day) and then let it sit overnight in the fridge so that it would be easy to remove the fat, which has congealed and formed a lovely hard "crust" over the sauce, before the final cooking. The magazine doesn't take this route, but I really recommend it.

I've spelled out the searing process in my version of the recipe, but I really want to stress, that taking the time to sear the meat properly is critical to tender, juicy meat. So here are a few tips:

1. Use a heavy bottomed large Dutch oven or roasting pan that can handle high heat on top of the stove.

2. Don't crowd the pan...or the meat will just stew;

3. Have the temperature set to medium high heat so that a dark "crust" quickly forms on the outside of each side of the meat to seal in the juices; If it takes longer than 4 minutes per side, raise the heat to high. Just remember - you want a dark crust, but you don't want char!

4. Don't use a non-stick want to incorporate the sticky bits into the sauce;

5. Use tongs to turn the meat and DON'T, I repeat DON'T turn anything until it stops sticking to the bottom of the pan. I promise it will release by itself when it's ready;

6. Make sure you sear ALL exposed sides of the meat. Searing acts as a seal for the long slow cooking that breaks down the muscle;

7. You might want to consider having windows open or a vent working on high during the searing. It's a pretty smokey job.

So's the recipe and I promise, it was worth the wait and the mess!

Beer Braised Short Rib Stew

I'm cross-posting with AskRuth - where I answer pesky kitchen questions.

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