Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Low Fat" Beef "Short Ribs"

This recipe is only relatively low in fat. And the meat is actually chuck steak, which is basically the same cut of beef as short ribs, but without the bone. Excluding the bone doesn't result in a regrettable loss of flavor, but does cut down on the fat. But don't fool yourself into thinking this is healthy. Try serving with polenta.

beef short ribs

3 1/2 lbs chuck steak, trimmed of fat (see figure below)
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
4 large carrots, peeled and cut crossswise into 2-inch pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin (a substitute for bone marrow, which helps thicken the sauce)

Remove excess fat from the meat. There should be plenty of fat marbled in already, so don't worry about losing flavor. Pat beef dry with a paper towel. Season beef with salt and pepper up to a day in advance.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add some of the beef without overcrowding the pan and cook, without turning, 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a bowl and continue browning beef in batches. Properly browning the meat is critical to obtaining a rich flavor.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, 12-15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it browns on sides and bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high, add wine and simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until reduced by half, 8-10 minutes. Add broth , carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, a little over 2 hours. Remove carrots (they should be too soft at this point, but will have added some flavor to the sauce). Add new carrots if you like. Cook meat and carrots for another 20-30 minutes until carrots are a nice texture.

Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to a bowl and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Restaurants make short ribs a day in advance, refrigerate the sauce, and remove the fat the next day. Consider doing this, because there is really no way to get the fat to congeal quickly enough to spoon it off any time soon. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meat.

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