I just watched the charming, fun film Ratatouille again this weekend. In case you’ve not seen it, As the lead rat-turned-Chef Remy produced his beautifully architectural take on the title peasant dish, I was drawn to cook another simple classic dish. I suddenly remembered short ribs.
Short ribs are one surprising ingredient getting the star treatment these days. Layered with meat, fat, bone and connective tissue, they are as big on flavor as they are inexpensive (well, used to be before they hit the big time—but at 6 bucks or so a pound, they’re still reasonable). As such, they have long been a popular ingredient for soups and stocks. Because of the long cooking times usually demanded by those chewy connective tissues, short ribs have also been a cut of choice for the traditional French boiled dinner pot-au-feu or “pot on the fire”. Come check out what has become one of my restaurants signature dish www.meritageclaremont.com/PDF/BRAISED_BEEF_SHORT_RIBS-1.pdf)
Short ribs are often the least expensive cut of beef in your local food market. Perhaps many shoppers pass them by simply because they aren’t sure how to cook them or don’t realize that they can also be the most flavorful. It’s not tough, but the meat will be if you don’t go “low and slow.” Short ribs have come a long way from grandma’s table. Considered peasant food for years, they’re now appearing on the menus of five-star restaurants.
Short ribs are the meaty ends of the rib bones cut from the chuck roast, which are the most flavorful. Plan on buying about one pound per person depending on how meaty the ribs are. They contain a lot of connective tissue and a great way to tenderize them is by then slow cooking in a flavorful liquid, the very definition of braising. To make them even more tender and flavorful, the ribs are marinated in wine overnight before you start cooking.
Slow cooking has the side benefit of filling the house with seductive aromas. If you prepare it on Saturday, refrigerate it overnight, and serve it on Sunday, the house will smell great all weekend. This doesn’t mean you’ll spend all weekend in the kitchen. The long cooking goes relatively unattended. The whole process can be done in a day, but the flavor will be better if you use the overnight method.