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The Consuming Passion: Cooking [Apr. 5th, 2011|02:13 pm]
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When you look in the freezer and find that a package of meat has a torn corner, there's only one thing to do--pull it out and start it on its way to the table.   That happened to me yesterday, with a package of beef short ribs.   This beef, like all our beef is ranch-raised, range-fed, which means it's lean, full-flavored, and firm in texture.  Until the past year, I'd never been that good at cooking beef ribs, but a recipe in a Williams-Sonoma catalog gave me the right cooking technique for these ribs.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find that catalog (I should cut the recipes out, I know, but I don't.)   I did remember where to start, though.   Given the time of day of the discovery, and the other things going on,  these ribs weren't done for supper last night, and the recipe turned into Overnight Beef Ribs, which we had for lunch today.

Approximately 2 pounds (maybe 2.5) of beef short ribs. 
1 28 oz can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes & green chilis
1 onion (strong) coarse-diced or sliced
bay leaves (2-3, depending on size)
2-3 cloves garlic
coarse-ground black pepper
red wine (merlot and pinot noir both do well with this)
[next  day] 2 carrots, sliced into thinnish rounds.

Large (large enough to lay pieces of short ribs flat for browning) heavy cooking pot with tight cover.  Enameled cast-iron is perfect; I used a 5 `1/2 quart Le Creuset round pot.

Brown short rib pieces on all sides in oil or bacon fat in the cooking pot.   Add the Ro-Tel, the onion, bay leaves, garlic, pepper and 1-2 cups of red wine.  Cover, and place in pre-heated 300F degree oven for several hours.  At that point, check that all the meat pieces are covered or nearly covered by sauce.  Add a little wine, beef stock or  broth, or water to reach that point if they're not, but don't add more than needed.  Cover again, reduce oven to 200F and replace in oven.  Now let it alone for 6 hours or so.   Check: bones should be releasing from meat, any connective tissue should be soft, meat should be fork-tender. Bring to stovetop, put on low burner, and add carrots.  Simmer until carrots are tender. 

The rib meat will be falling apart, still flavorful; the sauce will be rich.   Serve with a dipping bread (sourdough's good for this) and a fresh green salad.   (If you have hungry teenagers, you can also add potatoes as a side dish.  But ours has grown up and moved out, home only on weekends.)

If you started this in the morning, it would be ready by supper, probably.   But if you've found your torn package of ribs in mid-afternoon or later, it works very well slow-cooked overnight, as I did it, and then it's ready for lunch. 

[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-04-05 09:53 pm (UTC)
Could this sort of thing work with something other than wine? Stock, maybe?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-05 10:49 pm (UTC)
The flavor would be different but the principle of long, slow, moist cooking should work anyway. You might try two cups of beef stock or broth, instead of the wine, and a spoonful or so of beef demi-glace. (A friend introduced me to it by bringing me a jar. I was stymied. What was this brown stuff? It's magic, is what it is, for gravies, soups, stews, etc.) I think if I weren't using wine, I'd definitely use mustard. (I add it by tempering it with a little of the hot juice of whatever I'm cooking--blend it in with a fork or whisk, add a little more liquid, etc, until it's really dissolved in the liquid from whatever it is, and then put it in and stir.) And suddenly I'm wondering if you could use a little grape juice concentrate...what I find wine does is kind of bloom the flavor of the other vegetable ingredients--the tomatoes, peppers, carrots, etc.--and maybe the grape would do that too. Dunno. Experiment. Tell me what happens...(G)

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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-04-07 09:41 pm (UTC)
Could be scary. I've never cooked beef, except hamburger and one failed attempt at Ropa Vieja.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-08 01:27 am (UTC)
Well, start slow. Get a tough piece of meat for long slow moist methods (that's why range feed older animals are ideal, but even young stock has tough bits, some muscle the critter uses frequently. This could be, for instance, a chuck roast. Don't go for prime beef--go for the lower grades (less fat, more muscle.) For ease in handling, cut into chunks no larger than 4 inches by two inches by two inches. You can certainly go smaller. If the meat has a bone in it (a bone-in roast or short ribs) by all means leave the bone in until the meat falls off the bone. Brown its outside in some fat or other. That browning is just to add flavor. Add, at minimum, onion, diced tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, pepper; you can also add diced sauteed celery and carrot, or you can withhold these until the last phase if you don't want them to "melt" to nothing. On the store-bought side, I've read and heard from people that commercial chicken stock is better than commercial beef stock (esp. at the low-sodium end.) And you can use chicken stock or vegetable stock with beef (again, it changes the flavor a little, but not hugely.)

The liquids (in the canned diced tomatoes, chilis, and the stock) should just cover or not quite cover the meat, and the low temperature and liquid help tenderize the meat. So does wine if you use it.
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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-04-08 01:40 am (UTC)
Hm, I'll bet I could do this. I have made good pulled pork.
Yeah, I've tried both low-sodium store-bought stocks, and the beef tasted "tinny." I like my homemade vegetable stock best, but I just used up the last of it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-08 02:01 am (UTC)
If you've made good pulled pork, you're home free. Same basic principle, but beef may take longer.

The advantage of the demi-glace (expensive--but you need only a spoonful or less for each use and it keeps years in the fridge...my jar, now finally nearing the bottom, is years old) is that it gives you a good beef-stock flavor.

Another thing--you can always add a sprinkle of mixed herbs (Italian seasoning goes well) or put in your favorites. But I'm much more impressed now with bay leaf than I used to be and have started using it in more beef dishes as well as in all the stock I make.
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[User Picture]From: delicious_irony
2011-04-06 02:32 am (UTC)

It might (fingers crossed) actually start to cool down weather-wise in the next week or so, and this really sounds wonderful...

I wonder if I can substitute something else for the Ro-tel, which isn't available here?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-06 03:40 am (UTC)
Canned diced tomatoes and a small can of diced or sliced green chilis...that would work. Do you have a Mexican grocery anywhere nearby? Or a supermarket with aisles of ethnic foods? (Or can you put a headlock on your grocery store and say "You need to carry Ro-tel...it's a basic food group!")

Some of the major tomato brands are now putting out diced tomatoes with chilis, but (just my opinion) they don't get the ratio right. Then again, you might like them. Hunt's, I think, has something like that.
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[User Picture]From: delicious_irony
2011-04-08 05:04 am (UTC)
Would you say, maybe one fresh sliced jalapeno to a standard small can (14oz or so) of diced tomatoes? Or less? Or more?

Waaaaant beefribstew...
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-08 02:13 pm (UTC)
Australia--you've got a good variety of peppers available. I think the ratio of peppers/tomatoes would be lower than that...you might want to experiment, starting small (you can always add more later in the cooking--the old "easy to add, impossible to remove" thing.) Ro-Tel uses a different pepper than jalapeno (I'm guessing something like ancho or poblano, but it's only a guess), but if you like the flavor of jalapenos that should work.

The way I've described is really more "ribs with sauce" than "rib stew" but you could of course increase the liquid and add potatoes or beans to it.
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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-04-08 01:41 am (UTC)
If you live anywhere near a Hannaford or Price Chopper, I've seen it at least one of those.
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[User Picture]From: delicious_irony
2011-04-08 04:56 am (UTC)
Sadly, I'm in Australia. No Hannaford or Price Choppers.

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[User Picture]From: harvey_rrit
2011-04-06 05:36 pm (UTC)
If you or your friends are horribly, agonizingly allergic to pepper, try cinnamon. Same amount.

It actually works, at least in barbecue sauce.

Never had the nerve to use it in tacos.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-08 01:15 am (UTC)
Um...none of us are allergic to pepper. Pepper is a basic food group where I come from. Cinnamon is a minor food group (and yes, it's good in barbecue sauce, but that doesn't mean the pepper's being left out.)
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From: nancynew
2011-04-10 01:56 pm (UTC)

Variations on a culinary theme

This sounds very like what we do with venison or pronghorn ribs. Many hunters don't fool with 'em, but they're foolish not to--best ribs I've ever had--no fat at all, and they cook up rich, flavorful, and tender.

We frequently lay the ribs across a bed of chopped up apple, onion, carrots, turnips (whatever vegetables are in the crisper. Jalapenos are a given, and usually I've got frozen chopped red peppers, too, to add.

I also recently discovered that my beloved rice cooker does a wonderful job cooking beans--making adding real, honest to god baked beans almost as simple as opening a can. So corn bread and a cast iron pot of baked beans are standard with the ribs.

Aldi has cans of diced tomatos with peppers, very like Ro-Tel, AND small cans of corn with Mexican-food additions--I add that to the cornbread and a can of the tomatoes to the baked beans (along with the essential onions and jalapeno).

By the way, I hesitate to provide someone I WANT to be working on the next Paks novel something to distracting, but there's a cooking blog site called "Smitten Kitchen" that is a true delight. The recipe in the link to is for Paks.

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