Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Short Ribs Come Up Short

Meat has never been more popular and unpopular than at this point in time. Its aficionados are more rabid than ever -- from fat crazed foodies to members of developing nations who are upping their intake -- and the same fervor is found in those who abstain. Depending on who you talk to, eating meat is either the pinnacle of human existence or the rope we're hanging ourselves (and the rest of the planet) with.

I fall somewhere in between. I love eating meat, and I recognize how bad it can be in the amounts we eat it and in the way we produce it. When I do partake of the flesh, I mostly eat sustainably raised meat from nearby farms like Codman and Stillman and Verrill and rarely let it take center stage on the plate. That keeps me below the national average of a half a pound a day, which if you're going to eat meat is really the least you could do.

Of the popular cuts of meat with those for whom meat is popular, short ribs are currently tops. They meet all of the criteria for hip meat: they're fatty, popular in Asian cuisines, and most importantly not something most of us grew up eating. (And by "hip meat" I mean meat that people are into, not meat from the hip.)

I've been perfectly happy eating short ribs in the past, though I've never thought they were any better than any other fatty cut that's been braised forever in something delicious. But when I finally made my own short ribs (by which I mean short ribs that I cooked and not part of my body), I was a little let down.

Largely it was my fault. I went with a generic dark, Chinese-ish sweet soy braise, and I went overboard with cleaning out my cabinets to flavor it. Components included leftover coffee, Sichuan peppercorns, a star of star anise, cider, palm sugar, soy sauce, a cinnamon stick, carrots, onions, garlic, cumin, I think, as well as the belief that I had the power to haphazardly create the perfect braising liquid. That last ingredient was probably the one most responsible for the slightly bitter aftertaste.

Also, there was just too much fat. I'm not celluphobic, but I also will only eat so much beef fat in one sitting (by which I mean not a lot of beef fat rather than SO much [emphasis mine ((everything else mine too))]), and there just wasn't a ton of meat left after I'd separated it. But note the juice being absorbed by the board.

And just to make sure that the meat wasn't the main event, it was served with broccoli and some of the reduced liquid over quinoa-corn noodles.

Now I know what you vegetarians and vegans are thinking: why not just eat the noodles and broccoli? Well that wouldn't have made a very interesting blog post now would it?

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Sean McLeod said...

Sorry your ribs (the ones you cooked not the ones on your body) were less than satisfying, though I appreciate your blogging about the results just the same. Definitely good for a chuckle before I leave work.

I have 3 pounds of ribs in my freezer that I've been wanting to braise, perhaps using this recipe from FN that I love and is my first ever braised dish. It's sort of Moroccan in style with a mixture of dried fruit, cinnamon, and olives.

Aaron Kagan said...

Sounds great! Let me know if you want to guest post about it.

Funny, but growing up all I ever heard of was a barbecued rib. Now most people I know would probably pick braising as the default.

BottyGuy said...

Short Ribs are alway better done simply, not too many spices and a few liquids. When I do mine I salt and pepper them then, make sure I brown them well on all 6 sides. I add a few cloves af garlic to the pan before I add the liquid: beef stock, and coffee or dark beer (a Stout like Guinness or Murphy's is good). I don't add soy because it makes the liquid too salty when you reduce it.

Finally I add a few spices, thyme and a dried Ancho Chile. I remove the chile and some broth at the end, blender it up and add it liquid back through a sieve.

Reduce the liquid before serving, I like them with mashed potatoes or polenta.

BottyGuy said...

Oh, one more thing on amounts and left overs. Two ribs is usually enough for anyone. I usually have left overs as well but the make terrific taco filling.

Sophia said...

So pleasing to the eyes and definitely pleasing to taste. Love it!

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