We have a kitchen. Sort of.
The open shelving that will run on one side is still somewhere out there in the possession of a guy named Dave, a charming and romantic Appalachian character who does not hew slavishly to modern bunkum like timetables, or telephones. This complicates the task of getting the kitchen in shape. Also, several of the burners for our rangetop are missing–and the griddle–and the bit that makes the grill act like a grill, rather than a grate set over two burners.
Still, there is a refrigerator. We have a couple of burners. There is a wall oven. And perhaps most importantly, we have our dishwasher back. (My Darling, how did I never realize how much I loved you?)
Also, we have snow in Washington. Washington treats snow like radioactive fallout–stay inside and wait for the emergency broadcasts from Authorities.
All of these factors conspired together to bring us … a braise. A lovely pot of short ribs in mushroom sauce. My husband took one bite and said “I never want you to do them any other way again.”
This requires me to memorialize what I did, which had been somewhat … approximate, due to my inability to locate various ingredients the recipe called for. And since I have to write it down for my own memory, I thought I’d share it with you, too.
Because you should eat these short ribs. Everyone should eat these short ribs. If I weren’t so lazy, or possessed of a day job, I would be going house to house, delivering these short ribs to the needy, which is to say, everyone.
If you’re like me, you’re going to be nervous about cooking meat in an already-floured sauce. If you’re like me, once you’ve done it, you’ll never look back.
- 4 to 5 pounds short ribs
- 2 medium onions
- 11 cloves of garlic (yes, that is supposed to read eleven cloves of garlic. Trust me)
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 6 ounces bacon, diced
- 1/2 cup cognac*
- A handful of dried mushrooms
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups red wine
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 heaping tablespoon herbes de provence
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- Low-sodium or unsalted chicken stock (optional)
- 1.5 lbs assorted mushrooms (I used shitake and cremini)
* This does not have to be pricey cognac. I used a cheap American brandy; I specify cognac only because if you just say “brandy”, sure as shooting someone’s going to use cherry brandy or Grand Marnier or something.
- 5-6 quart dutch oven or covered baker
- Large saute pan or skillet
- Slotted spoon
- Splatter shield (optional, but highly advised)
- Food processor (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 225 F
- Steep the dried mushrooms in the cognac.
- Cook up the bacon in your saute pan until it is crispy and all the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place in your dutch oven, but leave the fat in the frying pan.
- Sear your short ribs on all sides in the bacon fat. This is where I advise using a splatter shield; I couldn’t find mine, and the oil splatter was something like being attacked by a swarm of small but very determined bees.When they are a gorgeous deep brown all over, place them in the dutch oven. Pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the frying pan.
- Pulse tomato paste, garlic, and onions together in a food processor or blender, or else dice the garlic and onion fine and mix into the tomato paste. Cook the resulting paste in the frying pan over medium-high heat for five minutes.
- Now the fun part: deglaze the pan with your cognac! Turn up the heat to high for one minute, then turn off the heat entirely, and pour your cognac into the pan, scraping up all the brown bits as it sizzles. (You can either remove the dried mushrooms at this point and place them tenderly in the dutch oven, or throw them in with the booze; I just threw them into the frying pan.) If you work quickly, you should end up with a nice clean pan and a sauce that now contains all that glorious brown stuff, also known as the fond.
- Turn the heat back to medium-high. Sprinkle the flour over the frying pan and stir with a spatula until it’s well-incorporated. Whisk in the red wine, soy sauce, and herbes de provence. Add the bay leaves and pour the contents of the pan over your beef.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt, and plenty of fresh-ground black pepper.
- Add enough water or stock to the pot to just cover the short ribs (it’s okay if a few bones are sticking out). Cover your pot and place in the 225 degree oven. Cook until fork-tender, about 5-6 hours.
- About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, saute your fresh mushrooms in a little butter until they’re a nice crisp brown. Add to the pot and cook another ten minutes at 225. Serve with noodles or rice to soak up that gorgeous sauce.
Note: A 225 degree oven is a really, really slow cook, which is what I wanted, because I put it in the oven at 1 pm and we were eating around 7.
“But it’s 3 pm!” I hear you cry. “I cannot wait so long!”
Fear not, my friend. You can cook this at any temperature between 215 and 300 depending on how much time you have. If you want it done in 3 hours, cook it at 300; if you want it done in 8, stick to the lowest end of the range.
And how will you know when it’s done with such imprecise instructions? Poke a piece of meat with a knife an hour or so before you want to eat, and if it’s almost ready–edible, but still offering plenty of resistance to your knife–raise the temperature towards the higher end of the range to get it cooking faster. If it’s already done, lower the oven temperature to “keep warm”, or pull it out and let it sit on the stovetop, then reheat before dinner. Braised meats are forgiving. That’s why we love them so much.
Clever cooks, by the way, will have noticed that we are working in the slow-cooker temperature band, and yes, you could absolutely do this in a slow cooker. Give it 9-11 hours on low, 5-7 on high.