Monday, April 19, 2010

The Short and Sweet of It - Short Ribs, That Is

Short ribs, when done right, are such succulent beasts. A cut of beef taken from the primal rib and plate cuts, it is a less tender portion of the cow, thus lending itself better to the slow and long cooking method of braising. And out of the many types of braise that I've tried, the Asian style braise is still the one to beat. Maybe it's my Asian palate but there's something about the sweet, spicy and tangy flavors as you bite into an amazingly tender and juicy piece of braised short ribs that just can't be beat. Ever!

First and foremost, short ribs can be bought quite easily from either a supermarket, grocery store or your local butcher. Most of the time, you can find them as bone-in chunks of about 2 -3 inches long (like the picture above), which is also known as an English cut. Also available are boneless cuts, which in my opinion is less superior to the bone-in one. Although they may not be cheap (they usually go for between $5 - $8 per pound) but every once in a while, shouldn't we treat ourselves?

So now that you have your short ribs on hand, let's gather the rest of the ingredients for the braise.

2 medium sized carrots (peeled and cut into large chunks)
1 onion (peeled and quartered)
2 stalks scallions (white portion only, leave the green parts for garnish)
4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pieces of star anise
1 inch ginger (sliced)
1 piece rock sugar (palm sugar or brown sugar can be used as substitutes)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup orange juice
5 pieces of orange peel
4 pieces of dried chili
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 - 3 quarts chicken stock (or beef stock)

To braise, you would need an oven-safe pot or better yet, a cast-iron dutch oven (here are some great ones sold on Amazon: Lodge Color Enamel Cast-Iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven, Caribbean BlueCirculon 5-1/2-Quart Dutch Oven or Calphalon One Infused Anodized 8-1/2-Quart Dutch Oven with Stainless Steel Lid). Start by heating up about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the pot. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and then brown them on all sides in the pot. When done browning, pour away most of the oil, leaving only just enough to sweat the vegetables. So, your next step should be to add all the vegetables plus the chilis, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and star anise. Cook for about 5 - 10 minutes until soft. Next, add the short ribs back into the pot together with the vegetables. Now we can add all the liquids, starting with the rice wine vinegar. Make sure the level of the liquid almost covers the short ribs. Cover the pot with tin foil paper and put the pot into the oven at 350F. Leave it in the oven to braise for about 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

When done, remove the meat from the pot and strain the braising liquid, leaving only the carrots behind. What you need to do now is to reduce the braising liquid on the stove until it turns into a syrupy consistency. You can now use it as a sauce for the short ribs. For side dishes, I cooked some jasmine rice and sautéd a bunch of asparagus. And there you have it, Asian-style braised short ribs. Yummy and so, so tender!

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