Learn to love a long, slow braise to make tough meat awe­some

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FOOD - By Sara Moul­ton

How do you trans­form a tough, less ex­pen­sive cut of meat into some­thing ten­der and de­li­cious? You braise it!

Brais­ing is a won­der­ful and ba­sic cook­ing tech­nique that uses a slow, wet heat in a covered pot. It’s great for cuts such as chuck, flank, brisket, rump and round. In fact, cooked prop­erly, th­ese cuts can be more de­li­cious than more ten­der cuts. I’m us­ing short ribs in this recipe, but the method can be used to won­der­ful ef­fect on any other tough cut of meat.

Short ribs can be butchered three ways: English, flanken or bone­less. In English style, the ribs are cut par­al­lel to the bone, with one bone per cut. In flanken style — which orig­i­nated with the Jews of Eastern Europe — the ribs are cut across the bone. With English style, you get rel­a­tively uni­form chunks of beef. With flanken style, you get a sauce with more body and fla­vor be­cause the cut bones en­rich it.

You also can get bone­less, which we used in this recipe. They cook a lit­tle faster than ribs with bones, and you get more meat for your money (you’re not pay­ing for the bone weight).

We start by brown­ing the ribs in a pan. Dur­ing brown­ing, the meat will give off juices that form tasty lit­tle brown bits on the bot­tom of the pan. Re­con­sti­tuted with wine once the meat has fin­ished brown­ing, th­ese bits end up en­rich­ing the sauce. I also brown the veg­eta­bles, which amps up their nat­u­ral sweet­ness.

This recipe re­quires two bot­tles of beer, though you also could use a full bot­tle of red wine. But whether beer or wine, please choose bot­tles for which you feel some real af­fec­tion. It doesn’t have to be ex­pen­sive, but it also shouldn’t be the dol­lar spe­cial. You won’t end up tast­ing the beer or wine, but you will be as­ton­ished by and grate­ful for the soul­ful taste of the ribs, which will boast an acid­ity and depth they’d oth­er­wise lack.

Com­bine the browned meat, veg­eta­bles, beer and chicken broth in a Dutch oven, covered tightly. I place a piece of kitchen parch­ment right on top of the meat to make sure no liq­uid es­capes. Then it is cooked low and slow. You’ll know you’re done when the tip of a knife slides into the meat with no re­sis­tance. If you be­came antsy and try to speed up the process by boil­ing the meat, you’ll end up with hockey pucks for din­ner.

As­sum­ing you have the time, try to pre­pare this dish a day ahead, then al­low it to cool off and chill overnight. It also freezes beau­ti­fully. Not only will the ribs taste bet­ter the next day, but by then the fat will have so­lid­i­fied at the top of the pan, al­low­ing you to scoop it off with ease. Then you can warm up the con­tents and pro­ceed with the recipe.

Beer braised beef short ribs

If you use bone-in short ribs, check the meat af­ter 3 hours of brais­ing. They likely will need an ex­tra hour of brais­ing. Start to fin­ish: 4 hours (1 hour ac­tive) Serv­ings: 8 2 ta­ble­spoons ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, di­vided 5 pounds bone­less beef short ribs Kosher salt and ground black pep­per 2 cups thinly sliced yel­low onions 2 medium car­rots, coarsely chopped 1 1⁄2 ta­ble­spoons minced gar­lic 2 ta­ble­spoons tomato paste 1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tea­spoon dried thyme) 1 bay leaf Two 12-ounce bot­tles beer 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth 1⁄4 cup plus 1 ta­ble­spoon allpur­pose flour 1 1⁄2 ta­ble­spoons Di­jon mus­tard 1⁄2 cup wa­ter 2 tea­spoons lemon juice Heat the oven to 325 F. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 ta­ble­spoon of the oil. Use pa­per tow­els to pat the ribs dry, then sea­son them on all sides with salt and pep­per. Re­duce the heat to medium, add a quar­ter of the ribs to the pot and brown on all sides, about 10 min­utes. Trans­fer them to a large platter or bowl. Re­peat with the re­main­ing oil and short ribs, trans­fer­ring them to the platter or bowl when fin­ished.

Re­turn the pot to the heat and add the onions and the car­rots. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til golden brown, 10 to 15 min­utes.

Add the gar­lic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf, then saute for 2 min­utes. Trans­fer the veg­etable mix­ture to the bowl with the ribs. Re­turn the pot to the heat and add the beer. Bring to a boil and sim­mer un­til the beer is re­duced by about three-quar­ters.

When the beer is re­duced, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Re­turn the meat and veg­eta­bles to the pot and cover with a piece of kitchen parch­ment. Put the lid on the pot and set in the oven on the lower shelf and cook un­til the meat is very ten­der, 4 to 5 hours.

Use tongs to trans­fer the ribs to a platter. Let them stand un­til cool enough to be han­dled.

Mean­while, strain liq­uid in the pan into a bowl. Dis­card the solids and re­turn the liq­uid to the pot. Let stand for sev­eral min­utes, then skim off any fat that floats to the sur­face (or use a fat sep­a­ra­tor).

In a small bowl, whisk to­gether the flour and wa­ter. Set the pot over medi­umhigh heat and bring the cook­ing liq­uid to a boil. Add half of the flour mix­ture in a steady stream, whisk­ing. Bring the sauce to a boil, check the con­sis­tency and if you would like it thicker, whisk in more of the flour­wa­ter mix­ture. Sim­mer for 8 min­utes. Whisk in the mus­tard and lemon juice, then sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Add the meat to the pot along with any juices from the platter. Cook gen­tly, just un­til heated through. To serve, ar­range some rib meat on each plate and spoon some of the sauce over each por­tion.

Nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 620 calo­ries; 290 calo­ries from fat (47 per­cent of to­tal calo­ries); 32 g fat (13 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 170 mg choles­terol; 15 g car­bo­hy­drate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 57 g pro­tein; 820 mg sodium.

Sara Moul­ton is host of pub­lic tele­vi­sion’s “Sara’s Week­night Meals.” She was ex­ec­u­tive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade host­ing sev­eral Food Net­work shows, in­clud­ing “Cook­ing Live.” Her lat­est cook­book is “Home Cook­ing 101.”

MATTHEW MEAD — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

This file photo shows red wine braised beef short ribs in Con­cord, N.H. Brais­ing is a won­der­ful and ba­sic cook­ing tech­nique that uses a slow, wet heat in a covered pot. It’s great for cuts such as chuck, flank, brisket, rump and round.

MATTHEW MEAD — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

This file photo, shows short ribs be­ing braised in Con­cord, N.H.

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