Sunday, March 12, 2006

Braised Short Ribs with Guacamole: A Cautionary Tale


Ah, peer pressure. As I was cruising the meat aisle at the supermarket today, I heard a little voice in my ear: "C'mon... everybody's doing it. Don't you want to be cool? Try some, you'll like it." And, despite years for D.A.R.E training, I barely hesitated before I reached into the refrigerated case and picked up a pack of short ribs.

I did, however, draw the line at polenta. Nor did I serve my short ribs with a "comforting root puree." (What is it about turnips and parnips that culinary souls find so comforting?) I served mine with guacamole, dammit.

And I gotta say, my seat on the bandwagon is pretty comfortable. I'm a late joiner, I know. Every restaurant in D.C. has had the short ribs in regular rotation for months and the entire blogosphere has already whipped up their batches. But the Human Vacuum was a big fan, and I do rather like having a big pot o' food food for dinner. Plus, my latin variation gave me a chance to use up some of cilantro threatening to push out the other herbs in my window garden and a chance to experiment with the star anise I've been hoarding in my spice cabinet.

***
Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Guacamole

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat until smoking:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
(If you happen to have some pancetta or fatty bacon around, throw it a couple tablespoons, diced, when you add the cold olive oil and let the fat render for extra flavor)
Add:
2 pounds short ribs
Brown very well on all sides. Don't crowd the pan. You'll probably have to do this in batches. Remove the ribs and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-high, and pour off the all the fat but two tablespoons. Then add:
1 large onion, diced
2-3 large carrots, diced (I used about a cup of sliced baby carrots, since I never seem to have real carrots around)
3 stalks celery, diced
Cook until they vegetable soften and start to brown (7-8 minutes), then add:
4 cloves garlic, well crushed with the flat of a large knife
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
Cook for an addition 1-2 minutes, until tomato starts to caramelize.

Return the short ribs and any juices to the pan and add:
2-3 cups hefty red wine (I used claret)
2 cups beef or chicken broth
2 whole dried bay leaves
3 dried guajillo chiles (or other sweet, mild chile), rehydrated and finely minced
1 whole star anise (optional but awesome)

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer very low for at least two hours, or as long as 6 hours.

When you're ready to eat, remove the ribs and set them aside. Bring the remaining liquid to a rapid simmer and reduce until it's as thick as you want. I made mine very thick, like chunky salsa.

To serve, I put a tortilla spread with guacamole on each plate, arranged the ribs on top, squeezed lime over them, poured the reducing braising liquid over, and sprinkled fresh cilantro on top.

Serves two with gonzo leftovers.

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