Friday, February 4, 2011

Seasonal Notes and Stout Braised Short Ribs

What’s in season? Well, not too much right now seeing as the ground is covered in snow (unless you are lucky enough to be living in the tropics or some warm weather area of the world). But for the rest of us, it’s easy to be tempted by the spring and summer fruits and veggies at the grocery. But do you really want those tasteless, juiceless, dull colored tomatoes?

Most of the farmers markets are closed for the winter; however, there are a few here and there in the larger metro areas so go check them out. They are probably always selling smoked meats and cheeses as well as late-harvest fall fruits and veggies. Otherwise, check out your local Co-op (in Champaign-Urbana region – check out: Common Ground Food Co-Op )

Some great winter options include: Carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga (swede), celeriac, fennel, sunchokes, leeks, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), collards, kale, brussel sprouts (try to buy on the stalk as they keep fresh longer), belgian endive, persimmons, pomegranates , Clementine’s, dates , and pears.

Stout Braised Short Ribs

When it’s snowing and frigid cold out, braising is the way to go. I love the technique of braising; the crisp, dark sear on the meat followed by a savory liquid to come in and eat up all the little bits of goodness stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then a long, slow simmer to harmoniously blend it all together. YUM!

Back in Maryland, I was a member of Polyface Farms buying club. If are so fortunate to live in the DC/MD/VA region and don’t know about the club – please, please, please check it out Polyface Yum.
And if you don’t know about Polyface, it’s a top non-industrial American farm run by Joel Salatin and family in Swoope, VA. The farm is self-sustaining, and is home to chickens, cattle, pigs, turkeys, and a few other creatures. All their products are fantastic – I’ve tried quite a few. In this recipe, I’m using the pork short ribs – nice distribution of fat and meat to give a succulent taste.

This recipe is adapted from Epicurous and makes for about 2 really hungry hippos as D. and I were this night.
Total time – about 5 hours including prep and cooking –this is a great recipe to make ahead as the dish develops a better depth of flavor overnight.

Spiced rub ribs


1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 lb beef short ribs, cut into 4-inch pieces
1 cup of roughly chopped onion or leek – or both
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, rough chop
2-3 cups of rough chop root veggies (potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, squash etc)
2 celery ribs, rough chop
1 bay leaf
5 cloves garlic (I leave whole- or you can slice)
1 cup of beef or chicken broth
1 12-oz bottle of Guinness

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.
Stir together paprika, curry powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and mustard seeds in a small bowl until combined.
Rinse the ribs and pat dry with paper towels. Place them in a baking dish or just on a plate, and coat them all over (both sides) with the spice mixture. You will probably have some spice mix left over. You can use this later if you desire a lot of seasoning, or save for another day.
Let the ribs marry with the spice for about an hour – you can leave at room temperature.

Heat oil in dutch oven or large pot over high heat, and quickly sear the ribs on both sides (about 1-2 minutes per side). Remove ribs and set aside. Add the onion (leeks), carrots, celery, and any other root veggies you are using, along with the bay leaf and garlic to the pot and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the broth, beer, and tomatoes, bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Add the ribs back to the pot, cover, and braise over low heat on stove-top or preferably put into the oven for about 2 ½ hours.
Skim off any fat that has developed on the top and remove the bay leaf. Ready to serve with some crusty bread. (Note: if making ahead, cool completely at RT and then refrigerate. To reheat, place the pot in a 350°F oven for about one hour.

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