Saturday, February 20, 2010

Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Braised Short Ribs

This recipe for Braised Short Ribs, by Anne Burrell, received five stars from 158 reviewers on Food Network. Have you ever seen her show? She is full of hints, tips and tricks but also really silly in the kitchen - that girl enjoys her job. This recipe is bizarre, it talks about "crud" and scraping it. But it is this recipe that convinced me to pay more attention to Miss Burrell in the future - she knows a thing or two about cooking!

The ingredient list is pretty simple:
6 bone-in short ribs (I used boneless)
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed (plus some roasted garlic)
1 1/2 cups tomato paste
2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
2 cups water (I also dropped a beef bouillon cube in the water)
1 bunch fresh thyme (I used dried thyme)
2 bay leaves

I found these perfectly trimmed and boneless short ribs at my new Sprouts grocery store. I seasoned with salt and pepper.

I used fresh and roasted garlic because I had both on hand.

Place all the veggies in your blender and puree.

At this point I wasn't convinced that this recipe/technique was any good, but I'm so glad I stuck to it. (and you will be too)

Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.

Crud? Really did she just say CRUD? Scrape the crud and let it reform.
"Okay, Miss Burrell... I'm barely hanging on to this recipe. It looks like I've burned the crap out of these veggies."

Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn.

Reduce the mixture by half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. I didn't have fresh thyme, so I sprinkled dried thyme on top and dropped in the bay leaves.

Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time.

Recipe says to remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. Most reviews I read said they didn't do this. I didn't bother with it either. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart.
I served these tender short ribs on top of my 3 cheese risotto and some of the rich braising liquid.

Every bite will make you moan. I believe this is my new favorite short rib recipe and have made it twice already.

I've made a similar recipe before, Giada's short ribs are also very good but in a completely different way. Review Giada's recipe here.

My mom makes her short ribs another way. Review Momma's recipe here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Decorating for Valentines

I've always wanted to have a Valentines Party at my house. One of these days I'm actually going to do it, but the month of February usually turns out to be a busy one for me at the office.

The pictures I'm posting today are from a training event I did last year around Valentines Day. Although this was a corporate event, you can use these ideas at your own party - weather you are hosting an event for 8 or dinner for 2.

Here is my prep area in the workroom at my office. I was pulling together supplies for a coffee break, hence the coffee urns. I also put a sweet and salty snack on each table and tried to carry my "love" theme throughout.

My color scheme was pink, red and black. The biggest tip I can give you is that I start at a craft store like Micheal's or Hobby Lobby and decide on a color scheme first. Then I choose different papers in my color pallet and theme.

I used the papers in many diffeent ways, in this picture I used them as matting for labeling the coffee and hot water containers, but you could use this technique in labeling the food on a buffet line.

A trip to the dollar store landed me a roll of this heart patterned wrapping paper, as well as the red curly ribbon. Wrapping paper is another GREAT tip for decorating. It's cheap and can bring your theme to the forefront when used as a table runner, or cut up and used as platter liners.

I went through my house and pulled out anything crystal, silver, or red to use as decor items. I found these hurricane candle holders - and even though they weren't identical, they look good grouped together. The cake pedestal has a piece of rose scrapbook paper cut to fit just inside the lip.

Here is one of my break tables fully assembled. The wrapping paper is used as a runner, and I have tiered serving bowls holding red hots and other goodies, a platter lined with colored paper holding a row of valentine chocolates. Keep it simple. You don't need to put out two dozen of something. On the thin platter I set out a single row of 8 chocolates.

Here is a better picture of the tiered serving bowls. I believe I purchased this at Kirkland's, but I've seen similar pieces at other stores like Costco and World Market. The mini scoops were purchased at the dollar store and can also be found at The Container Store. I filled the bowls with Valentine sweetheart candy, dried fruit mix and red hots.

Don't worry that the paper patterns are mixed and matched. Just make sure your color scheme remains the same on your table.

Going along the lines of VDay, I used my martini glasses as the container for mixed nuts. Remember the rule of three. Things look better when set out in 3, it's a tip I learned from my mother when she was a florist.

I saved money and purchased a couple boxes of little debbie valentine cakes. Then set them out on a paper lined platter. Again, I didn't pile them up but placed them neatly in two rows. It's aesthetically pleasing to look at in my opinion.

To add height to my tablescape I wrapped glass cylinders with fun pink and black polka dot paper and lifted a platter of goodies.

Another great tip. I use these 2 inch frames ALL the time. They are all silver, purchased at Hobby Lobby when they were on sale. And they don't all match, but the fact they are all silver and the same size is good enough to use them collectively. For this event, I printed children's answers to the question "What is Love?" and then placed them on the lunch tables. I use these most often when labeling items on a buffet. If it's not easily recognizable, I like to list the name of the item and the ingredients. Especially for large parties, it reduces the number of questions I get about what each food item is and what's in it.

These glass cylinders and square vases are indispensable. These were used as "decor" although it would not have mattered if people ate the candy out of them.

I clustered a few together to use as centerpieces, but these can also be used to hold flowers, filled with water and float a candle on top - needless to say, I would suggest you have a few of these on hand to use for your home events. Garden Ridge is a good place to find glass cylinders.

Okay, so now that you know some of my secrets for decorating a table or buffet - let's talk about the more important stuff. What to serve for Valentines Day!

I plan to attempt a meal that seems daunting to me - LOBSTER! I've seen Julie and Julia, and the scene where she places a live lobster into boiling water makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. Am I capable of boiling a lobster? I may just purchase the lobster tails and steam them. I haven't found THE recipe yet, but I will be searching online tonight for some directions to follow. For dessert, what else but chocolate? My brother once baked a chocolate lava cake and it was delicious. If he can do it, I can do it too.

I'd love to hear what you plan to do for Valentines Day. Are you celebrating with dinner out? Cooking for 2? Cooking for a group?