December 23, 2011

Praise the Braise...

It's no secret that winter is my least favorite season, however it does get serious bonus points for the kind of cooking that it ushers in... the braise!  Culinary comfort, the only real benefit of freezing temperatures.

Braises are perfect for winter.  It's a long, slow process (which is how winter feels to me) and it is usually comfort food cooking.   What is a "braise" exactly?   In its most basic definition, it's cooking something (usually meat) in a liquid (usually stock, wine or a combination thereof) for a long period of time on a low heat.  Most often, braises are tough cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking turning them into the most succulent and flavorful of meals.

Another benefit of braising is,  it's easy.  Many braises are one-pot meals, some with a side of starch (and we all know how I love that...) which means you aren't left with an entire sink of dirty dishes, something else I can really appreciate.

I have a particular pot that I use for braises, it is a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron pot.  I have had this pot for almost 15 years.  It has made hundreds of meals and looks almost the same as the day I bought it.   This is one very good example of "you get what you pay for".   These are expensive, but it is something you only buy once.

I wanted to do a post about braising and was searching for short ribs that would make the cut.  It took some time, but I found locally raised organic meat with beautiful marbling and so in went the ribs... deciding what to put with them was easy.  I had been craving rutabaga, which I know is not something you hear everyday, so once I had my veggies I was ready to get this braise going.

Braised Short Ribs with Rutabaga Parsnip Puree
  • 6 beef short ribs
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large dice
  • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into large dice
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
  • canola oil
  • all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 - 1 cup milk

1. In a heavy ovenproof pot,  add enough oil to your pot to reach 1/4 inch up the side and heat over high heat.

2. Put about a cup of flour on a plate and add a little salt and pepper to it, mix it with your fingers and dredge the short ribs in the flour.  Shake off the excess flour and set aside.

3.  When the oil is hot,  carefully add the ribs to the pot and brown on all sides.  You may have to do this in two batches; you don't want to crowd them or they won't brown properly.  Remove the ribs from the oil and set on a plate lined with paper towel.  (This can be done a day ahead if you are pressed for time; cover and refrigerate until ready to braise)

4.  Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Pour out the oil and add the onions.  Saute on medium heat until softened and beginning to caramelize.  Add a big pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder and stir.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 more minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook for another few minutes.

5.  Put the ribs back into the pot.  Add the bay leaves, garlic, wine and stock.  Season with a few pinches of salt and a few more turns of the pepper grinder.  Bring the pot to a simmer, cover and slide into the oven for 4 hours.

6.  Remove the pot from the oven and allow the ribs to cool slightly, uncovered.  Remove the ribs and set aside.  Remove bay leaves and discard.

7.   Skim the fat from the surface, then puree the braising liquid and vegetables to make a gravy.  Put the short ribs back in and keep warm.

8.  Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Add rutabaga and boil for 5 minutes.  Add the potato and parsnips and continue boiling until tender.

9. Drain and put back into pot on low flame to help remove some of the water from the vegetables.  Add milk and butter and beat with an electric mixer until consistency of mashed potato.  Season with salt and pepper.

Braised Short Ribs on a puree of Rutabaga & Parsnip

*It may not be the most beautiful of plates, but it is guaranteed to be delicious.

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