Saturday, July 27, 2013

Braised Short Ribs with Mushrooms, Kale and Tortellini

   Remember my review of Little Napoli?  In that review I stated that one of my favorite dishes is the braised short ribs with mushrooms served over tortellini.  Well, one of the advantages and, to a point, luxuries of my profession is that I have the ability to sometimes break down a dish from restaurant and figure out how to make it at home.  After years of working with and preparing food you tend to recognize certain techniques and ingredients in said preparation of food to the point where you have a relatively good idea of how to recreate a dish. Thus is the case with this particular dish.  The short ribs were on sale at HEB, so I figured, why not give it a go.

   First thing first, you will need some hardware.  You will need a heavy bottomed pot that can hold heat very well or even go into the oven.  I prefer to use our, (even though my wife claims it is only hers) enamel coated cast iron dutch oven.  The method of cooking for this dish is braising so the heavy bottom will help protect against scorching.  If you don't think your pot is up to the task, then you can alleviate this problem by sticking it in the oven.  Just make sure your pot can handle that. 

  This first thing I did was gather and prepare all of my mise en place, which is as follows:

1 small to medium white onion

2-3 cloves of garlic
1-2 shallots
1 1/2 -2 cups of flour
Salt and pepper
 olive oil
2 lbs beef short ribs
1 lbs mushrooms
1 qt beef broth
1 bottle red wine
1 lbs kale
1 lbs of tortellini

After you have gathered everything you want to dice your onions and chop your shallots and garlic.

Next, season your flour with salt and pepper and use and whisk to mix it all together.

After that cut your short ribs, which will more than likely com in slabs, into individual pieces.

Dredge the ribs in the flour until they are completely coated and look almost ghostly.

There are some variables to this step.  Instead of seasoning the flour with salt and pepper, you could season your meat directly.  In fact, some might prefer that so that the salt will help draw out some of the moisture from the ribs and help the flour stick to them better.  You could also season at both steps, but just be careful not to over season.  Remember, you can always add,  but you can't remove seasoning.

Next but your pot on the fire and let it come up to temp.  You want the heat pretty hot since you are going to be searing your ribs.  Keep in mind that cast iron does take a while to come up to temp.  Once the pot is hot, add your oil.  You will need enough to cover the bottom of the pot, adding more as you go along.  The reason you might have to add more oil as you go along is because the flour will have a tendency to absorb the fat as it cooks. Sear your ribs in batches, adding only enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Sear and flip so that they are dark brown on each side.

After you have seared your ribs, it is time to add your aromatics.  Add more oil, if necessary, to your pot and allow it to heat up.  Add your onion, garlic and shallots to the pot and allow them to cook until you can smell them and they become translucent.

After they are cooked add your wine.  Now, you don't need an entire bottle of wine, but you can reserve what you don't use and have it with dinner.  You really only need about a cup to cup and a half.  When you add your wine, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the tasty little nibblets stuck on there

After you have deglazed your pot, add the ribs back in and cover them with the beef broth.  If for whatever reason you don't have enough broth, you can either add more wine, or just add water.

The next step is easy to do, but requires patience.  All you have to do next is wait.  Set your heat on a low to medium low, slap a lid on the whole thing and let your ribs braise.  Like I said before, it is important that your pot have a heavy bottom.  This will help the liquid from scorching.  If you don't have a heavy bottom pan, you can stick it in a 325 degree oven, or just open the lid every once in a while to stir. The ribs will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to cook.  The slow cooking time will allow the meat to become tender and for all the connective tissue to break down.  It will also allow some of the collagen from the bones to seep out into the liquid.

Now while you are waiting, you can do other things such as prep your mushrooms or cook your pastas.  You can always buy pre-sliced mushrooms to cut down on prep.  This time, we bought whole button mushrooms and I quartered them.

You don't want to add your mushrooms right away since the meat will take so long to cook.  Wait until the ribs are almost done, say when you have half an hour to an hour to go.  The kale can wait until the ribs are done.  Just add it to the pot and allow it to cook a little bit.  Now, if you don't like kale, you can substitute spinach.

The tortellini should be cooked so that it will be nice and ready when the rest of the meal is.  You can do it well ahead of time and just refresh in some hot water.

Once everything is in the pot you only need to do two things: taste and adjust the seasoning and adjust the thickness of your dish.  The first thing is easy enough to do.  If the ribs need more salt and pepper, just add some more.  The braising liquid will thicken a bit on its own due to the flour and the collagen, but sometimes it needs a little help.  To thicken, well, pretty much any hot liquid,  you just need a little cornstarch and water.  Just mix up the cornstarch, say 2-3 tablespoon, in half a cup of water, then add that mixture to the hot liquid.  You want to add a little at a time  so that you can control how thick you get the liquid.

The final, and best, step to this is to serve your ribs over hot tortellini and enjoy!

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