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Braised Waygu Short Ribs

2009/09/18

Every year, a handful of people get together at a friend’s cottage for a Wine Guys Weekend where we eat and drink very well. This past weekend was the third installment. One of the dishes I prepared was braised Waygu short ribs. I was expecting the weather to be a little cooler as braised meats are often better in the fall, but my rule is after Labour Day the Le Creuset can be taken out of storage (forget that stupid no wearing white rule). Cumbrae’s is one of, if not the premier butcher in Toronto. They raise their own beef (Angus, Angus crossbreed, and pure bred Waygu) on their farm. In addition, they source pork and lamb amongst other meats from farms that follow their ideals on raising animals.

Cumbrae Farms Waygu short ribs

Cumbrae Farms Waygu short ribs

I popped in and asked the butcher to prepare the short ribs in an English cut (crosswise against the bone) and he presented me with gorgeous ribs with plenty of meat and a ridiculous quantity of marbling throughout. Each rib was massive and weighed somewhere between 12 and 14 ounces. I salt meat in the way outlined by Cooks Illustrated, salting an hour in advance while allowing the meat to come to room temperature. The salt on the surface draws out the water in the meat. After a period of time, the water on the surface of the meat is at a higher concentration than under the surface, so it gets drawn back into the meat – and sucks the salt in with it. Effectively this method acts like a brine without having to submerge the meat in water. Science! Feel free to sing along with Thomas Dolby at any point in time.

Mise en place

Mise en place

While the meat was coming to temp, I prepared my mise en place. I don’t use a standard mise for my braise, replacing the celery with leeks as I find it has more flavour. I also use freshly grated horseradish, fresh thyme, bay leaves, and a few whole cloves of garlic for good measure.

Searing Waygu short ribs in cast iron

Searing Waygu short ribs in cast iron

Even though I’ve made braised short ribs on many occasions, this was the first time I’d used Waygu. As Waygu has significantly more marbling than regular beef I was unsure of how much smoke would be generated during the searing process. I patted the ribs dry, seasoned again (lightly) with salt, and fired up my cast iron Lodge pan on the side burner of my BBQ. All sides of all the ribs were seared nicely, removed to a holding bowl and seasoned again with salt and pepper.

Sauteeing mise en place

Sauteeing mise en place

I wanted to cook some of the rawness out of the vegetables, so I added a bit of vegetable oil to the pan and sauteed them down. They released a lot of water and I scraped the fond from the bottom of the skillet. Fond = flavour!

Red wine reducing

Red wine reducing

I finally deglazed with a half bottle of fruity, decent wine with not too many tannins. This happened to be a Sangiovese and Cabernet blend from Tuscany. The wine was reduced by half, and pan scraped regularly to get any leftover fond.

Seared Waygu short ribs, tied and ready for braising

Seared Waygu short ribs, tied and ready for braising

I tied the ribs tightly against the bone so they wouldn’t fall apart during the braising process. It’s a real pain in the behind to go fishing for a rib and only end up with bone. Look at those ribs! Seared beautifully!

Everything in the pot ready to braise

Everything in the pot ready to braise

Into the pot went the sauteed vegetables and reduced wine, followed by the rest of the mise en place – bay leaves, fresh thyme, garlic cloves. A litre of good chicken stock (preferably homemade) was also added. You could use veal stock or beef stock here if desired. I didn’t use veal stock this time as I wanted to lighten the flavours a bit. A quick stir and then the ribs were added.

Here’s where things get interesting. I follow the Harold McGee method for braising. If you don’t know McGee, you better get on that puppy, stat. McGee’s “On Food and Cooking” is the reference book for the science behind what happens to food. It’s excellent. As per McGee, I start the pot with the lid ajar in a cold oven and set the oven to 200F. Over the span of two hours, the meat and braising liquid slowly raises to about 120F. After two hours, raise the temperature to 250F which will allow the meat to approach 160-180F. Check the meat every half hour or so until it shreds easily with a fork. By following this slow cooking process, the meat fibers do not tighten as quickly and therefore retains its juiciness. In addition, the slow cooking allows the pigment of the meat to stay inside, retaining a beautiful, rich, red colour. The result is a succulent, well cooked, melt-in-your-mouth short rib. It’s important to leave the lid ajar to allow for some evaporation and to also keep the temperature down. If the pot was sealed, the temperature inside would end up anywhere from 30-40F higher than the oven thermostat.

Once the ribs were cooked, I removed the pot from the oven to cool. By allowing the meat to cool in the braising liquid, it reabsorbs the juices and becomes even more succulent. I also prefer making the ribs the day before I want to serve them, as the extra day allows the flavours to develop further. The day of service, I remove the pot from the fridge, scrape the solidified fat from the surface, and heat gently to melt the braising liquid. Ribs are removed and the braising liquid is passed through a sieve to remove the spent mise, pressing gently to extract as much as possible. The braising liquid is returned to the pot and reduced at a simmer until the sauce is nappe. Season with salt and pepper and set the sauce with cold, unsalted butter chopped into chunks. I used truffle butter this time around which added an extra dimension of flavour. Return the ribs to the sauce, cover, and simmer gently just until warmed through.

Garlic and chile

Garlic and chile

Sauteed rapini

Sauteed rapini with garlic and chile

I knew the short ribs were going to be unctuous and rich so I wanted some sides that were quite the opposite. My first instinct was rapini. I love rapini, and the bitterness was perfect to cut through the richness of the beef. I prepare rapini in the way my Nonna makes it – blanch the rapini in well-salted boiling water for maybe a minute or two, then shock it in an ice-water bath to set the colour and stop the cooking process. Drain well and squeeze in your hands to get out and excess water. Loosen up the strands of rapini, then start some good olive oil, a couple cloves of garlic, and a dried chile in a cold pan, slowly raising the temperature to about medium heat to flavour the oil. Taking care to not burn the garlic (which turns it bitter and ultimately useless), add the rapini and saute briefly, tossing well. Remove from heat.

I also prepared a celery root mash. I much prefer celery root to the stalks as I find it actually has flavour. After peeling the root, I chop into chunks and boil in well-salted water in the same way one would for mashed potatoes. When a knife easily pierces the root, remove from the heat, drain, add a couple glugs of good olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and mash with a potato masher. The lack of cream and butter really lightens this side dish.

Action shot - plating up short ribs

Action shot - plating up short ribs

Braised Waygu short ribs, sauteed rapini with garlic and chile, celery root mash

Braised Waygu short ribs, sauteed rapini with garlic and chile, celery root mash

With all that done, now it was time to plate. Celery root, rapini, a massive short rib and a healthy drizzle of the reduced braising liquid-turned-sauce with truffle butter. How was it? Bloody amazing. Everything I was hoping for and more! One of my friends stated that he thinks it’s the best dish of mine he’s ever had. Considering he’s eaten some pretty amazing dishes I’ve prepared (i.e. duck confit and fresh black truffle risotto), that’s pretty high praise. I was very pleased with how things turned out and I will definitely be making this dish again. What a start to the weekend!

More food and plenty of notes on weekend wines to come!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Emma permalink
    2009/09/19 4:33 PM

    Love the Thomas Dolby reference!

  2. Cheef permalink
    2009/09/20 12:52 PM

    great stuff. keep it coming.

  3. Jess permalink
    2009/09/23 1:58 PM

    judging from this post, you don’t really like celery all that much.

    • futronic permalink*
      2009/09/24 11:09 PM

      Love celery root. Celery, not so much. Maybe as a palate cleanser between wings when dipped in blue cheese dressing.

  4. Ollie permalink
    2010/10/17 4:58 AM

    What does it says on McGee’s “On Food and Cooking” about the amount of braising liquid to use?
    A. meat plus 1/2 of braising liquid
    B. meat plus 2/3 of braising liquid
    C. meat completely covered with braising liquid

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