Friday, December 19, 2008


One of the easiest (although time consuming) ways to cook is a braise. It's a long, slow, low-heat, partially-submerged cooking method that turns inexpensive, tough, chewy almost-not-worth-eating cuts into Food Of The Gods. Like short ribs.

First you have to brown them. Yes, of course properly. I do it in stages, putting the browned ones on a plate while I do their compatriots.

When the last ones are browned, remove them to the plate and toss in diced celery, carrot, and onion (a couple handfuls of each). This is a mirepoix, which adds a flavor base. Like I said yesterday, add flavor.

You need a liquid. You could use water, but that doesn't add flavor. Stock (chicken or beef) and/or red wine bring flavor to the party. You'll want the meat to be about half submerged. It looks (and smells) better in real life. The meat should NOT be submerged.

This is the basic braise. As to flavor, you can go a bunch of different ways:
Southern, with a rub (and no, you're not allowed to use store-bought rub unless it's from Corky's. Sure wish Swallow in the Hollow did mail order). Serve over grits.

Continental, with thyme, garlic, and pepper. You can use Paprika if you want to get all jiggy, and serve over noodles. Fresh pasta is easy and lets you present a more rustic texture.

Oriental, with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and Old Bay (yeah, it's not oriental, but I like it and that's what's cooking). Serve over short grained (sticky) rice.
Don't forget the garnish, or Martha Stewart will make you take her shooting. Not that that's a bad thing.

Now the one way that's guaranteed to kill the dish is cooking over high heat. Once everything is up to a simmer, toss the meat back in the pot, and turn the heat to low. By "low", I mean as low as your cooktop will go. Check after ten minutes, and if there's no simmer, you can turn the heat up a bit. But there will be simmer, trust me.

Let it go 45 minutes, and flip the ribs. Let it go another 45 minutes, and then they're going to be done.

Take the ribs out and wrap them in foil. Strain the vegetation, and save it. Return the liquid to the pot. NOW you can goose the heat. You want to reduce the sauce by half - remember, half the volume doubled the flavor. This is the time to correct the flavor.

Perfect stick-to-your-ribs for a Conquering Hero returning from snowblowing the driveway.

UPDATE 19 December 2008 19:23: Oops, I forgot to mention that after you reduce the sauce, you'll want to hit it with a little vinegar to "brighten" it. The type can vary: rice wine vinegar for oriental, red wine vinegar for continental, malt vinegar for southern. Long cooking causes some of the acids to fall apart, so you'll want a couple or three tablespoons of vinegar to bring it back.


Home on the Range said...

It's not even 6 am and the bowl of "life" cereal is not looking all that exciting. (ahh, cereal and fruit, the paybacks for the good meals).

Thanks for reminding people about the "low" setting. Too many meals get tough because some people think low means a gentle boil somewhere around medium.

Borepatch said...

I spent half my live thinking that "I got me a big ol' grill with a million BTUs, gotta put the spurs to her."

Probably applies to a lot: just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should,