Monday, April 12, 2010

Beer-braised Asian-style Short Ribs

Let's take a look at a cow:
image from wikimedia commons 
Today we're cooking short ribs, which come from that highlighted section there on Bessy.  In the U.S. you will typically find bone-in short ribs sold one of two ways: flanken, which are cut across the bones about 1/2 inch thick (or thinner if you get Korean-style) and English, where each rib is separated and then cut into short lengths (about 2 inches in length).  The flanken are often used to make Asian style
short ribs, but for this recipe we used the English cut.  We used The New Best Recipe cookbook as a jumping-off point and then tweaked some of the ingredients from there.  For example, I had a can of somethin' somethin' that I bought at Seafood City a while back that I had been dying to try.

Have you ever heard of toddy palm seeds? Borassus flabellifer is a robust and long-lived (100 years or more) fan palm.  The palmyra tree, as it is also known, is highly respected in the Tamil culture of southern India.  There it is called karpaha ("celestial tree") because all its parts without exception have a use.  It is also very common in Cambodia and northeast Thailand. The fruit, sometimes called ice-apple (among a myriad of other names), measures 4 to 7 inches in diameter, is translucent pale-white and tastes kind of like lychee. A sugary sap, called toddy, can be obtained from the young inflorescence. Toddy is fermented to make a beverage called arrack, or it is concentrated to a crude sugar called jaggery.  (taken from wikipedia)

So, I decided that these joyous little fruits had to be incorporated into our short ribs!

As I mentioned above, Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe paved the way for a fantastic preparation of our short ribs, which began with an hour of dry-roasting.  I halved the recipe since there were only two of us, and so started with 3 pounds of ribs.  You will also need:
  •  1.5 large onions, chopped medium
  • 1 large carrot, chopped medium
  • 1 celery rib, chopped medium
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • a 2" piece of ginger peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1.5-2 cups mildly assertive dark beer
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons szechuan pepercorns 
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 cups toddy palm seeds, sliced (you could substitute lychee, mangosteen, kumquat, prunes...)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives (or cilantro leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
The ribs are first seasoned with salt and pepper and arranged in a single layer, bone-side down, in a flame-proof roasting pan.  Then they go into a preheated 450° oven for about 45 minutes or until the meat begins to brown.  Then take them out and drain off all of the liquid and fat with a bulb baster before returning the pan to the oven to roast for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until well browned.  Set the ribs aside, drain off the fat and reserve.  Reduce the oven temp to 300°.  Then place the (flame-proof!) roasting pan on two stovetop burners set at medium heat; add 2 cups of dark, mildly assertive beer (I used a Murphy's Stout I had in the fridge) and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spatula or spoon.  Set aside.

Next, heat two tablespoons of the reserved fat in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the onions, carrot and celery.  Saut√©, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour until combined, about 45 seconds.  Stir in the beer from the roasting pan, along with the broth, soy sauce, ketchup and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil and add the short ribs, completely submerging the meat in the liquid; return to boil, cover, place in the oven, and simmer until the ribs are tender, about 2 hours.

THEN...transfer the ribs to a large plate, removing the excess vegetables that may cling to the meat.  Strain the braising liquid into a medium bowl, pressing out the liquid from the solids.  Meanwhile, bring the brandy to a boil in a small saucepan and add the sliced toddy palm seeds.  After the braising liquid has settled, skim off any excess fat that has separated to the top.  Return the braising liquid the the Dutch oven, add the brandy soaked ice-apples, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil.  Submerge the ribs in the liquid and return to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until the the ribs are heated through, about 5 minutes longer; gently stir in the lemon zest.  Divide the ribs and sauce among individual plates, sprinkle with chives or cilantro and serve with cinnamon and star anise infused white rice, and garlicky collards. 

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