Monday, October 18, 2010

So-Bro(nx) Teachers Dinner Party

I taunted you with the mention of an amazing dinner for a party, and now I am delivering.

This meal took me 3 days to cook, but it was absolutely worth it. (As are the leftovers!)

The whole dinner party kind of came together out of little bits of serendipity. The hubs announced one night that he wanted to have a dinner party with some of his coworkers before our roof closes for the winter. I did a little mental math and suggested drinks on the roof and dinner in our apartment, considering that eating outside in October is a good way to eat an unfortunately cold meal. He agreed, but no solid plans were made.

Next, I noticed that short ribs were on sale. This of course lead me back to a wonderful cookbook I own called All About Braising (by Molly Stevens), and which I mentioned when I made hard cider-braised chicken. (It really is a wonderful cookbook.) Then I thought how easy it would be to feed guests with short ribs.
You can see the lightning-quick flashes of brilliance that occur in my brain...

Finally, I checked the calendar and saw the Monday was Columbus Day, which would mean the teachers would have the day off. I then informed the hubs that, if he really wanted to (have me cook for all his buddies so he could) have a dinner party, that Monday was the day it was going to happen.
He agreed.
Everyone was in.
I started cooking... Saturday.

The recipe: Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Porcini Mushrooms and Tomato

Step one of this meal is to make a marinade, simmer, allow to cool, and THEN put the meat in for 12-24 hrs of luscious bath time.
The marinade includes:
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon allspice berries, crushed
8-10 black peppercorns
3-4 whole cloves
All of that goes into a little sachet of cheese cloth, to be used and re-used for the next 3 days. As I did not have any cheese cloth on hand, I used one of my empty tea bags I have on hand for brewing loose tea, and it worked perfectly.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, use 2 TBSP olive oil to sauté 1 large onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot (all coarsely chopped and to be discarded later) 2 peeled and smashed cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 whole bottle of "robust dry red wine". I opted for a Dolcetto, as that was what I had on hand. It worked beautifully.
Sauté the vegetables for about 7 minutes before adding the wine and spice sachet, and then allow to simmer on low for ten minutes to bring the flavors together. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

The gorgeous short ribs
Once the marinade has cooled, cover your short ribs (about 4 lbs) with the marinade & sachet in a non-reactive bowl and refrigerate overnight, stirring on occasion to make sure everything is covered.

This is what happens when you leave beef in a bottle of red wine overnight.
Day 2
About 20 minutes before you start to cook, soak 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water. (The water will be used later as well as the mushrooms.)
Preheat the oven to 325º

Make sure to let your short ribs come to room temperature and pat them dry.
In the same heavy bottomed pot, add another 2 TBSP of olive oil and begin browning your ribs on all sides. Do this in batches so as not to crowd your pan and prevent steaming instead of browning.
When all of your meat is browned, set them aside and wipe any charred bits from the bottom of the pot.
Brown bits are good. Burnt bits are not.
Pour out the fat rendered from the ribs and add 1 fresh TBSP of olive oil and add:
1 large onion, thinly sliced (or chopped) - allow to cook down until just browned and softened, 8-10 minutes
2 cloves of garlic, minced. Cook an additional minute.
1 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes with their juice
Porcini mushrooms, drained and coarsely chopped, and simmer another 8-10 minutes
Pour in the reserved (and strained) mushroom liquid and the wine used for braising (strained of the first round of onion/carrot/celery/garlic but RETAIN the sachet) and bring to a boil.

Add the short ribs to the pot, as well as the spice sachet and 2 sprigs of rosemary*.
If there is a great deal of space between the meat and the top of your pot, you can place parchment paper inside so that it is just shy of touching the food, and then add the lid. I did not do this step as my pot was quite full.
Place the covered pot onto the lowest rack in your 325º oven and braise gently 2 1/2-3 hrs, turning the ribs gently every 45 minutes or so, until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.

*The recipe does not say this, but I would place the rosemary in cheesecloth or a tea bag as well because otherwise in your final product you have giant loose rosemary leaves floating around, which can be unpleasant to eat.

Success! Meat has fallen off the bones.
While you COULD serve this meal at this point, I suggest letting it sit overnight. Not only will that allow the flavors to meld more completely, but it also allows you to much more easily degrease the sauce.

Let the pot cool down (this can take a few hrs) and then place it, covered, in your refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, scrape of as much of that congealed yellow fat as you can from the top of the stew.

Close-up Ew.
Cuz that's some seriously thick fat coagulation.
Aren't you glad you didn't eat that yesterday?

Reheat your meal gently on a low flame (or back in the low oven) with the lid on. (Discard spice sachet)
When you are ready to serve, place 1-2 short ribs on each plate and top with the sauce, which should be the "consistency of a thick vinaigrette." 
(Truthfully mine was a bit runnier, in which case I could have tried to reduce it a bit more without the meat in, or just serve it in a bowl. We did not mind the runny sauce as it was juicy and fantastic.)

Serves 6
But what do you serve WITH this decadent slow-cooked meal?

Mmm... charred.
I opted for a potato-cauliflower mash, which was DELICIOUS all by itself, and I was just as happy that there were leftovers of this as well.

 Take one whole head of cauliflower, chopped into reasonably sized chunky florets.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, and roast in a 400º oven until browning. About 20-30 minutes, depending on size.

In a large pot of water, add 3 medium-large sized yukon gold potatoes (peeling optional) chopped into chunks, and bring up to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, and RESERVE the cooking water!!
(If you thought pasta water was starchy and could bring sauces together, boiled-potato water is even better!)
Could have used a touch more olive oil.
At the same time that the cauliflower is roasting in the oven, have the oven do double duty and roast half a head of garlic (or one small head of garlic, maybe 8 or 9 cloves) as well. Slice off the top of the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil to prevent burning, and season with a touch of salt. Wrap in tinfoil, and since this is a small head or only the inner portion of "colossal garlic" it should only take about 35-40 minutes to roast.
Allow the garlic to cool before handling!

Yes, this photo was taken of the leftovers I snacked on all week...
The food processor does all the work for you. First, whiz the cauliflower with a bit of the potato cooking water to get it going into a rough chop. This will not only help get a smooth texture in the end, but make room in your FoPro for the potatoes!

Next squeeze the roasted garlic from its papery shell and add that to the food processor, along with the potatoes, and a generous pinch of salt. Add another small ladle of potato water so everything moves along easily.

The finishing touch that will make the whole dish luscious is 3/4 of a cup of mascarpone cheese. It will make the purée velvety and rich, and incredibly luxurious to eat.
(And when you consider 3/4 cup of mascarpone to 1 entire head of cauliflower and 3 potatoes, it's really NOT that much fat per serving, and so still a pretty healthy side dish.
At least that's what I'm telling myself as I devour it...)

Check again for seasoning, and if it's still too tight a mixture, just add a bit more water and blend until you get your desired consistency. It should be creamy, not watery, but also it should be smooth, not gunky.

Brownie Sundae!
Dessert was super simple. After 3 days of cooking, I wasn't about to make a fancy dessert too!
(OK, I DID bake the brownies myself, but from a mix, so not like it was hard work.)

Step one: warm brownies and then place in the bottom of a dish.
Step two: scoop desired flavor of ice cream on top of brownie (we offered chocolate or vanilla)
Step three: top with raspberry sauce
(OK I made the sauce too, but it was beyond simple. Bag of frozen raspberries, about 1/4 cup of sugar, a splash or two of water to hasten the maceration, mash with fork or potato masher, and serve at room temp or with 30 seconds in the microwave. I made the "sauce" about 3 hrs before we ate it and left it in the fridge ready to go.)

So did I deliver?
Was that not a meal to make you wish you lived in my neighborhood and could just "stop by" around dinner time?
Because really, it was. 
And it was also worth the 3 days of prep and cooking.
This is the perfect time of year for this kind of cooking, so I suggest keeping an eye on the prices of short ribs at your local market and planning a dinner party of your own some time soon.
Also, buy the cookbook.
It is chock full of great meal ideas, as well as idiot-proof in its explanations.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

I am starving now.

A: I am coming over tonight, somehow someway to eat whatever you are cooking.

B: I am going to buy the book.

C: I am saving this recipe.