Slow Cooker Braised Beef Short Ribs

Slow Cooker Braised Beef Short Ribs
(Adapted from recipe of Jason Wilson and The Food Network)

Braised beef short ribs is a luxurious entree. The long and slow braising of the ribs allows the connective tissue to break down and the ribs to cook to a juicy tender finish. When served over polenta or pasta with a fine cabernet or syrah, some roasted vegetables, and warm crusty bread you have a great meal for a winter evening.

Yields 4 Servings

5-pounds bone-in beef short ribs
1 bunch each fresh thyme, rosemary and sage leaves chopped
2 Tbsp each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (750-ml) bottles Cabernet Sauvignon
Extra-virgin olive oil, for searing ribs
1 yellow onion, medium dice
2 carrots, peeled and medium dice
2 ribs celery, medium dice
3 cloves garlic
1 quart beef stock
3 bay leaves
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

The day before braising, season the ribs liberally with the salt, pepper and herbs. Place in a large non-reactive bowl and cover with the wine. Marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove the ribs from the marinade. Pour the marinade into a sauce pot and reduce to half over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile in a Dutch oven or roasting pan, working in batches, sear the ribs on all sides until well browned. Place the seared ribs in the slow cooker vessel. Brown the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the same pan used to sear the ribs, adding more oil as needed. Add a quarter cup of the reduced wine to deglaze. Top the ribs with the browned vegetables. Add the reduced wine, stock, bay leaves, and dried and fresh mushrooms. Set heat to high for 1 hour and the braise on low for 4 more hours.

Transfer the ribs to a rimmed baking sheet covered loosely with foil. Allow the ribs to rest for 1 hour before removing the bones.

Skim any fat from the sauce. Strain the vegetables from the sauce and discard all except for as many of the mushrooms as can be salvaged. While the ribs are resting, reduce the sauce for about 1 hour. Finish the sauce by whisking in the butter just before serving.

Serve the ribs over polenta or pasta with sauce poured over them.

A Different Type of July 4th Barbecue

Ample Bites knows that the favorite Independence Day barbecue fare for most Americans falls along the lines of hot dogs, hamburgers and, maybe, a bratwurst or polish sausage. Some barbecue enthusiasts use the holiday to smoke a beef brisket, ribs or, perhaps, grill a “beer can” chicken. Ethnic picnics in our great melting pot of a nation can include carne asada, a whole lamb or small pig on a spit over a charcoal fire.

Ample Bites has cooked the vast majority of the favorites. This year I have chosen to do a meal with more of an Asian flair. The heat of the grill infuses the rich flavors of a marinade made from sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, chili paste and fresh ginger. With a few grilled vegetables and some pickled cucumbers as accompaniments and a nice bed of brown rice, these grilled Thai beef skewers make a delicious and filling meal.

Happy Independence Day to All!

Thai Beef Skewers with Pickled Cucumbers
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Ted Allen & The Food Network Magazine, July/August 2012)

Serves 4 – 6

For the Pickled Cucumbers

¼ cup sugar
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ Asian cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small hot red or green chile, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

For the Beef Skewers

1 cup soy sauce
8 tsp rice vinegar
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 tsp fish sauce
4 tsp mirin
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
6 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
4 tsp red pepper flakes or Thai chili paste
Juice of 1 lime
2 lb sirloin, rib-eye or NY Strip steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 scallions (white and light green parts), cut into 1-inch lengths, plus additional, sliced for garnish

Pickle the cucumbers: In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, salt, vinegar and ¼ cup water over medium-high heat until the sugar and salt dissolve; remove from the heat. Put the cucumber, chile and red onion in a medium bowl and pour the hot brine over them. Let cool, then add the cilantro. Chill

Make the beef skewers: In a medium bowl, mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes. Pour about half of the mixture in a serving bowl, add the lime juice and reserve as a dipping sauce. Put the beef cubes in a zip-top plastic bag and pour in the remaining marinade. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Put in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat a grill to high. Drain the meat, discarding the marinade. Thread the cubes on to skewers (3 to 5 per skewer), separating each cube with a piece of scallion. Grill directly over the coals, turning once, until nicely charred, about 3 minutes per side.

On a serving dish, sprinkle skewers with sliced scallions. Serve warm or cold with the reserved marinade for dipping and the pickled cucumber and chiles on the side.

Vegetable Side Dishes for Easter

An Ample Bites fan asked for some suggestions for vegetable side dishes for Easter dinner this Sunday. Below are recipes for a few of my favorites. All of these dishes go very well with ham and lamb.

Asparagus and Cheese Tart
(Courtesy of April 2012, Food Network Magazine)

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 cup grated comte of gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 Tbsp minced shallot
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp whole milk
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, mix the cheeses, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Red Onion

2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F

Line a baking sheet with oil. In a large bowl, toss sprouts, onion, oil, sugar and seasonings. Spread the sprouts in the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, toss well and serve immediately.

Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Cook beans and cranberries in simmering water in a skillet for 4 to 5 minutes until tender crisp. Drain and pat green beans dry. Immediately heat oil in skillet and add the onions and sugar, cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the beans and cranberries and stir for about 3 minutes, until heated through. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook one additional minute. Garnish with the slivered almonds and serve.

Scalloped Potatoes with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
(Courtesy of April 2012, Food Network Magazine)

2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8 inch thick and patted dry
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated gruyere cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 plum tomatoes, sliced 3/4 inch thick
2 yellow and orange bell peppers, cut into 3/4 inch strips
1 onion, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
3 tsp herbes de Provence
1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs (preferably fresh)

Whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the remaining 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan; stir in the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the garlic and bay leaves and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the potatoes and simmer until halfway cooked, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Gradually stir in the egg-milk mixture and 1 cup gruyere. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat the broiler. Put the tomatoes, bell peppers and onion on a baking sheet in separate piles. Drizzle each pile with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss each pile to coat and spread them out. Broil until tender and charred around the edges, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with olive oil. Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) in the dish. Spoon out half of the potatoes and arrange evenly over the breadcrumbs; top with the broiled onions and half each of the tomatoes and peppers. Top with the remaining potatoes in an even layer and all of the cream mixture; discard the garlic and bay leaves. Top with the remaining tomatoes and bell peppers.

Bake until the potatoes are tender and lightly golden, about 40 to 50 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining 1/2 cup cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup gruyere. Continue baking until the cheese melts, about 5 more minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.