Whether you call it stew or pot roast, the method used to cook this delicious entrée is called braising. This simple cooking method has been around for centuries and has been adapted by many cultures to prepare some of their country’s signature dishes such as Beef Burgundy / Bourguignonne in France, Irish Stew, Carne Guisada in Spain and the Caribbean, and Birria in Mexico just to site a few examples.
One thing they all have in common is that it uses “less tender” cuts of meat and “tenderizes” them with long, slow moist heat, with an added broth and, quite often, vegetables.
The line between stew and pot roast is pretty blurred. About the only “real” differences are that a stew uses smaller pieces of meat (usually 1 to 2 inches) versus a pot roast which uses large, 1 to 3 pound (or more) whole pieces of meat. The other difference is that stews use more liquid, resulting in a finished dish that is almost a hearty soup.
Whichever variation you prefer, the basic outcome is that this long, slow, moist cooking method slowly breaks down the connective tissues and collagen in the meat, resulting in not only
a tender dish, but a delicious broth (which can be thickened) at the end.
While stews and pot roasts were often thought of as a “working class” meal, this cooking method has recently been resurrected by some of the world’s most famous Chefs and versions of it have appeared on their menus to rave reviews.
Braising is easy, but the quality of its outcome can vary depending on a few things. The most important being the cut of meat you choose to begin with.
The most common braised meats are beef cuts from the Chuck, Bottom Round, Brisket, Flank, Short Ribs and Shank (Veal) are the most popular.
Cuts of beef NOT good to braise? Rib, Loin & Tenderloin. Why? Well, first of all, they’re already tender. Second, their muscle fiber is so fine, braising would turn it into a shredded “beef spaghetti”. Lastly, quite honestly, the less tender cuts have more flavor.
I recently visited Nino’s butcher shop at Troy to give you some photo illustrations of what cuts of meat make great stews and pot roasts.
My favorite without a doubt are beef short ribs, ones that are meaty and well marbled with evenly specs of fat throughout the meat.
There are so many recipes used in braising that I could go on forever with recipes that use wine, beer, sake, tomato puree and fruit juices such as pineapple, cider and cherry. They’re all good but today, I’m going to share one with you a braised beef recipe that is MY personal favorite and my GO TO recipe at home. In fact, I’ll make a large batch of this recipe and freeze (yes freeze) portions of the braised beef with the sauce I make from the
braising broth so I can enjoy it more often. Not surprisingly, this recipe is for Beef Short Ribs.
So, just what makes memorable short ribs? Here’s my own personal criteria:
1. You’ve got to choose the right ribs–meaty but with great specks of fat marbling throughout. Not too fatty, not too much bone.
2. Ideally cut about 2” thick.
3. Seared in hot oil on all sides until well caramelized to develop good color (and flavor).
4. Cooked in a VERY flavorful liquid of good beef stock (or broth) and my secret flavor boosters of soy sauce and honey. More about that later.
5. Cooked VERY slowly (basically poached) over a long period of time (3 hours minimum) until the meat is falling off the bone tender, but not entirely “bleached” of all of its fat and natural beef flavor.
6. Served with a sauce (made from the cooking liquid) that’s not too thick and seasoned ever so slightly. It should be medium-dark in color, sticky from the addition of the gelatin in the rib bones, and so savory that you’ll enjoy it as much as the ribs themselves.
All this, if you do it right, will result in ribs that are neither dry, stringy or chewy. They’ll change your notion of short ribs being a poor man’s steak.
Ironically, pound per pound, great short ribs are more expensive to make than beef tenderloin. Go figure.
How do you go about making these great short ribs?
Before you make this recipe, keep in mind that you really should have a heavy-gauged saucepot to sear, then cook your beef ribs.
It should also have a rather tight-fitting lid. Second, I’m not a proponent of using a pressure cooker (although you can use one to shorten the cooking time by almost half). I myself, prefer the longer, slower cooking method. This will develop more flavors in the sauce, and in my experience, maintain the integrity of the meat shapes.
And here are a few other tips for THIS particular recipe:
· Purchase a low-sodium soy sauce if possible.
· Kitchen Basics brand beef stock works well.
· Cut your veggies into large 1” pieces. Cutting them smaller will allow too much vegetable flavor into the sauce.
As Desired Roux (cook together over medium heat approximately 3 to 5 minutes) 3 Tbsp. Butter & 1/3 Cup Flour
1. Heat oil in skillet then sear the short ribs on all sides until well browned then place the short ribs into a deep, oven safe pot, with a tight-fitting lid of the appropriate size to hold all the short ribs
2. In that same skillet, sauté onions, carrots, celery and garlic cloves for a few moments to soften and then add to the beef
3. Pour beef stock, honey and soy sauce over beef. The pan size should be selected so that the liquids just cover the meat
4. Add Kitchen Bouquet® (optional) and seasonings to the liquids and cover the pan tightly
5. Cook in a 300 F oven for three hours or until the largest piece of meat is fork tender being careful NOT to break apart the meat pieces
6. After meat is tender, carefully remove meat from the cooking liquids being careful not to break apart meat pieces. Carefully trim the meat away from the rib bones and place all
the meat pieces in deep sided service dish. Cover and keep warm
7. Strain the resulting cooking liquids into a saucepot and add vegetable and potatoes. Cover and simmer until vegetable are tender (approximately 20 to 30 minutes)
8. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove vegetable and add them to the reserved beef then skim off ALL the resulting fat from the surface of the remaining liquid and whisk in the prepared roux a little at a time, until the liquid is JUST thickened slightly
9. Strain sauce once more. Adjust the sauce’s seasonings with salt and pepper and ladle the sauce over the meat and vegetables to coat
10. Reserve additional sauce for those who would like more sauce
11. *Additionally, if you love mushrooms, sear large diced white mushrooms and serve over the ribs or stir them into the sauce.
Chef Pete Loren is now in semi-retirement, after a storied 40 plus year career. He now serves as the Chef Emeritus at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace. Explore more recipes HERE.