Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Braised beef short rib a la Nicoise

This recipe is inspired from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques.  It uses the technique of braising which I love but mostly equate with Winter.  Early Spring is very transitional (especially when you don't live in South Georgia), with cold and dreary followed by warm and sunny.
a la Nicoise is a Mediterranean variety that's kinda half Italian and half French, and has little black olives and tomatoes.  This recipe called for a braise of beef short rib.  I decided to leave the bones in although you don't have to, they can be cut out. This recipe served enough as a main course for 4 people.

8 beef short ribs, well-browned.  Drain excess fat and add

1 diced onion
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 garlic cloves
on low heat until aromatic.

Then add:
2-3 sprigs of thyme
28 oz of tomatoes (2 small cans, or 1 big one)
1/2 cup of pitted Nicoise olives
1 bay leaf
1 quart of chicken or beef stock
10 peppercorns

Put the meat back on top of that, making sure it's mostly submerged.  If not, add water as needed, depending on your pot.  Either put it in an oven at 225, or put it on low heat and let it go for a few hours until the short rib is fork tender.  I don't salt it until the end because I don't know how far I need to reduce it until it's done.  If you salt too heavily at the beginning, and you reduce the liquid, it's going to be inedible.
Here is decision time.  You can leave the braising liquid as is (chunky) or separate the meat and the braising liquid and blend it up into a puree (which is what I did in this case).  Serve it with something green for the color contrast (parsley, fresh thyme, etc.).

Side notes
  • Like any other braised dish, the more time you spend on browning your meat, the better it's going to be.
  • Think ahead on this dish.  Make it the day before you plan to eat it, and let the sauce and the meat sit together to really combine those flavors.
  • This can be served with wide egg noodles like papardelle or fetuccine.  Alternatively, you could serve with rice or bread.  Although the meat is great, the highlight of this is the sauce.
  • If you puree, realize that your going to emulsify whatever fat you didn't get rid of in the braising liquid.  Ideally, you defat your braise as much as possible before throwing it in the blender, because the flavor of beef fat is a little heavy.
  • Original recipe called for balsamic vinegar, which you definitely can add to give a little sweet acid.

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