Beginner’s Mind: My Own Recipe
It’s established that I adore cooking, but I’ve always been a recipe man. I like to have things written down and planned out.
Oddly enough, it was my day job in software quality assurance that made me question that – a teacher who told us “Step by step removes your curiosity and actually makes your testing less intelligent. It dulls and blinds you.”
I realized that I agreed, for the most part. So, armed with two books – Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef and Page and Dornburg’s The Flavor Bible, I braised bone-in short ribs for the first time last spring. However, I didn’t write anything down, and so the resulting deliciousness was not repeatable – until last night!
So now, I’ve, um … well, I’ve given you a step by step recipe. Which you should totally deviate from!
Famished: The Ribs
2 lbs bone-in beef ribs
2 Tbsp ground fennel
2 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup olive oil
1 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake (rice wine)
Juice of 1 orange
Step One: Preheat the oven to 325°.
Step Two: Blend all the spices and garlic together into a flavoring rub (using your fingers works best).
Step Three: Trim away any excessive fat caps or cartilage from the ribs, and rub the meaty sides with the spice mixture. It’s not necessary to rub the bone.
Hee hee hee. Rub the bone.
Step Four: Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven, large enough to hold all the ribs at once.
When the oil is shimmering, place the ribs in the oil, meatiest side down. Allow them to sear on all sides. Again, it’s not necessary to sear the bony side.
DO NOT overcrowd the pot when searing! The meat will steam, rather than sear. Sear in batches if need be.
Step Five: Remove the ribs to a plate and pour the broth, sauce, sake and orange juice into the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up all the delicious brown bits.
Step Six: Replace the ribs in the Dutch oven and check the liquid levels. You want the liquid to be almost, but not quite, covering the ribs. I put the ribs meaty side down this time – I’m going to try the other way next time. It’s possible the fat will baste the food more effectively that way, but it’s also possible that the meat will dry out.
Step Seven: Cover the Dutch oven and put it in the regular oven for 1 hour.
Step Eight: Check liquid levels. The fat should be beginning to add to the liquid, so you may be fine. Add broth and sauce as necessary and cook for another hour.
Step Nine: When ready to eat, the meat will be falling off the bone. You should be able to slide them cleanly out with a minimum of effort.
I served these once with wild rice and blanched green beans, and the following night with pan-roasted brussels sprouts and rotini pasta. Since the meat itself is so thick and creamy, you want to have vegetables with some crunch to them and a carbohydrate that will hold onto the sauce and work as a delivery mechanism.
Oh, and one more nice touch – if you’re cooking on a snowy day, take the orange peels, fill them with birdseed, and set them outside.
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