Friday, February 25, 2011

FFwD: The Short Ribs Were So Good That I Can't Think of a Witty Title

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

The worst part of all of this is that I really didn't take that many photos.  I forgot to!  The one photo I did take was of the boneless short ribs.  So, here's your image of browned meat:

  • 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).  
             I have a small confession to make.  That was my first time making mashed potatoes.  I don't know why.  
Everyone else always makes them, and I prefer stuffing at Thanksgiving.  So there.

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.

The Wine:
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.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. You did a fabulous job with the challenge and I really love the fact you didn't rubber stamp the recipe. This is my first visit to your blog and I've spent some time browsing through your earlier entries. I really like the food and recipes you feature here and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

  2. You had a busy AMFT week! Glad everything turned out well for you!

  3. Wow. Cute post! Thank you for sharing your adjustments. I so miss my immersion blender - past time for a replacement, I think.

    You have been a busy one with all the FFwD recipes!

  4. VERY informative post but you will never talk me out of that gremolata for this. Ever. I see those packages of boneless ribs at Costco but never quite thought of what to do with them. I've bookmarked this post! (I think they'd be good popped into Dorie's daube recipe too.)

  5. I don't know how I'd choose between leeks and gremolata either. They both sound amazing!

  6. Very helpful post! I have never used boneless short ribs, but now I really want to try them! I will check them out at Costco.

  7. Enjoyed reading your post. I'll try your frizzled leeks sometime but I truly loved the gremolata for its freshness and zip!

  8. I love 1) that you used boneless short ribs, 2) that you did a topping showdown, and 3) that you helped us store ribs in the fridge.

  9. What a great post! I loved that you pureed the vegetables into the sauce. I did hate toss them, though I rationalized it by telling myself that, after hours of cooking, all the flavor had transferred to the sauce.

  10. Love the showdown and that you made the hacis parmenter. We loved that dish! Glad these turned out so well! :)

  11. Great post! I can't believe you've never made mashed potatoes...but now that you've done it twice in a wekk your husband is going to expect them much more often. Thanks for all the great the waxed paper idea!

  12. Wow - did you get alot done this week and we all benefited by what you shared. I am SO making those potatoes !!! I also have to go back to do the Shepherd's Pie recipe and enjoyed seeing what your results look like. Should really try to get this in before spring hits- it is such a nice winter's meal. Nana and I loved the short ribs and agree with you about how fabulous they are. Great job and thanks for all the info you shared ~

  13. Wonderful post - love the compare/contrast of toppings, the wine info. and the tips. Your Hachis Parmentier turned out beautifully! I like seeing catch up posts; it reminds me to go back and make some of those dishes again.

  14. I love your thorough assessment of the recipes and the wealth of information your add! Very enjoyable!

  15. I hated throwing out all those vegies too. Maybe next time I'll try your idea. I also thought about putting the vegetables through a food mill. Would love to see your frizzled leeks. Bon Appétit

  16. What to say!? Great post, for sure. I'm loving these posts. Question: did you find a change in moisture in the meat without the bone? That's what I always worry about (e.g. pork chops). I HATE dry meat, lol. I'd rather eat tofu.

  17. Wow that was a ton of reading..good reading:) Thanks for your cooking tips..Im glad you enjoyed the ribs!