In which I feed a crowd…

Another post so soon? Indeed, due to my woeful lack of attention for close to three weeks, and my natural tendencies towards feelings of guilt (Catholic? can that be inherited? I never spent much time in church, but it came from somewhere) I am going to load up. I actually have a couple of things waiting from before my big New Orleans trip, so you are going to get them all now…

The weekend before New Orleans a group of my cousins gathered in Boston for the BC FSU game. A have a cousin who is a ‘Nole, and another cousin is a legal Eagle, so it is only natural that the Floridians head up north for the big matchup which always seems to take place in the pouring rain. It is actually a lot of fun, and even Molly, who can’t even stand football from the comfort of her own living room, enjoys herself.

the excitement is palpable, no?

the excitement is palpable, no?

The gang was all arriving on Friday, and I was making dinner. We were going to eat at the apartment with the roof deck, so I wanted to make something that I could do mostly ahead and transport with a modicum of ease. Short ribs it was. I have made these short ribs for some of this group before, and they are a huge hit. They come from Fine Cooking, and they are braised with asian flavors, and served over the greatest lemon garlic mashed potatoes you could possibly imagine. I started them the night before (the night of the fried eggplant) and then the night of the dinner all I had to do was throw them back in the oven to heat up, and make the mashed potatoes. Easy.

It all starts very innocently…

tomatoes

tomatoes

The tomatoes go in to a braising liquid with soy sauce, water and star anise or chinese five spice powder.

now it's getting good.

now it's getting good.

That gets put aside until you need it. I also did a little mis en place of scallions, garlic and ginger, so it was ready for the hot pan.

doesn't get much better...

doesn't get much better...

And then I broke out the big guns…

hello my darlings.

hello my darlings.

As I was making this, I was counting 12 people for dinner. There were six of us. This happens to me more than it should. Cooking reasonable amounts of food has never been something I have done well.

And this is where it gets good…

glorious.

glorious.

Ahh the glory that is beef short ribs. So so good. Short ribs come cut either between the bone in individual ribs, or across the ribs in strips with three or four bones in them. The cuts have names that I forget, so I will just tell you that this needs the kind cut on individual bones. I had them cut about two inches long, but I think I would have had the butcher leave them a bit longer, though I am not sure why I think that.

Anyway, beef short ribs are marbled and meaty and relatively inexpensive. I paid $50 for 12 or 13 pounds, you want to figure about a pound a person, since there is a lot of bone in there. Also, you may want to actually count the number of people who will be eating so you don’t buy double what you need. Although these are so freakin good you may want the extra for yourself. Somehow the extra this night stayed at my cousins’ house. I bet they were a delicious snack for Jed and Sarah. They are two of my favorite people and they have a roof deck so I don’t mind leaving them treats as enticement to invite me back.

So the short ribs…they go into a very hot pan (or pans) and sear for several minutes on each side until they are brown and caramelized. (Does several mean three or more? I think it does, but it sounds like more than that, I would guess several meant seven.) In this case, just cook them until they are brown and caramelized on side, and then turn them. I think maybe five minutes a side will do. They will look like this:

can you smell them yet?

can you smell them yet?

The whole process takes a little time, since short ribs aren’t like any old pansy steak with only two sides, they are big fat cubes of beef, which makes for a lot of sides to caramelize. Six to be exact. Once all the sides were caramelized, I pulled the ribs out and put them aside in a bowl (or a serving platter would do…) I poured the fat out of the pans, and put them back on medium-high heat. In went the scallions, garlic and ginger, and I spent a couple of minutes pressing them against the bottom of the pan to extract all the flavor.

smells divine

smells divine

Then the ribs go back into the pot.

almost there.

almost there.

The cooking liquid went into the pot, and then I brought it to a simmer.

Now for the easy part.

Now for the easy part.

And just because my dutch oven photographs better, doesn’t mean my Calphalon wasn’t doing a fantastic job one burner over, so in order to curb the jealous tendencies that can creep up between cookware, here is a shot of that as well…

C'est magnifique...

C'est magnifique...

That Calphalon has been with me a long time, I love that pot. It may have been my first real cookware purchase.

The pots went into a 350 degree oven for several hours, and every half hour to 45 minutes I turned the ribs to make sure they all got some time under the liquid. When they finished the meat was super tender and falling apart, and had fallen off the bones. This, incidentally, is not something that Fine Cooking shares with you. In their picture of this recipe there is a gorgeous looking short rib attached to the bone sitting atop fluffy mashed potatoes. I assure you, that short rib was undercooked. It gave me a fright the first time I made this because mine didn’t look nearly as pretty without the bone attached, but after I have made these several times, I am assured that it was photographic trickery, because it just can’t happen that way.

At any rate, once the ribs were finished cooking, I took them out of the pots and put them in a baking pan. I condensed the cooking liquid into one pot (the Calphalon) and stuck both things in the fridge. If you are serving them the night you make them, you have to skim the fat off the top of the liquid, but if you are refrigerating overnight, the fat will congeal at the top and you can just scrape it off the next day before you reheat.

***

The following day, I removed the fat layer, and put the short ribs back into the pot, and the whole shebang, plus a five pound bag of yukon golds, made their way across the bridge to our dinner locale. The ribs went back into the oven to reheat, and the potatoes went into a pot to boil.

swimming

swimming

That might be the most boring picture you’ll see on Bread and Ginger, but it was time for one.

As the potatoes boiled, I simmered milk, garlic, butter and lemon zest together. I think the key to good mashed potatoes is to add the liquid hot. It helps keep the potatoes warm and fluffy. Once the potatoes were boiled, I mashed them, I use a potato ricer when I can, and then I added the liquid. The ribs came out of the oven and I served a couple of ribs per person on top of a mound of delicious garlicky goodness.

mmm mmmmm, scruptious.

mmm mmmmm, scrumptious.

This is such a great recipe for a crowd because you can make lots of it, it can be done ahead of time, and so far everyone loves it. The ribs are meaty and rich, and the potatoes are buttery and creamy but have a nice tang from the garlic and lemon to balance out the richness of the ribs. And they are great leftover. Make short ribs if you have never done so. You can braise them in anything you want, wine, beer, veal stock, and you can add all sorts of flavors to them. You could do mexican spices, or italian flavors. Short ribs make a great ragu. Once they are cooked, you can shred them, add them to a tomato base and serve over pasta. You could braise them with mexican spices, shred them and use them for a taco base. Perfect for fall and winter, some football, some short ribs, a lazy Sunday. Ideal.

I also made a fruit crisp for dessert. I actually didn’t love this. I was excited to use Asian Pears and Italian Plums from my farmer’s market, but it wasn’t the greatest.

Italian plums.

Italian plums.

I don’t know if it was the combination or what. The pears didn’t get soft, and they weren’t really sweet or something. I just didn’t love it. But I used Ina Garten’s crisp topping and I really liked that, mostly butter and flour, so it sprinkles like a crisp or a crumble, but it cooks up like a batter almost. Good texture.

plum and asian pear crisp.

plum and asian pear crisp.

We served this with whipped cream, and it was good in theory, and a lovely fall dessert, but I am going to use different fruit next time.

could have been better...

could have been better...

Next up: a Hargraves family favorite.

PS: WordPress wackiness of the day: braise and caramelize. So silly.

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