Back in the Saddle
Some days I feel like I have time traveled and life has completely fast forwarded, leaving the last 3 months in an absolute blur. It's Labor Day weekend, and while I am extremely happy to have 3 days off of work , September you came too quickly. And while San Francisco summer is just beginning, all things fall are rumbling around in my brain-past, present, and future. Until recently September always meant new beginnings. Starting over for the first semester of a new year was always a great feeling, rejuvenated from having the summer off and full of anticipation of what the year was going to bring. Now that I am 3 years out of graduate school and have somewhat acclimated myself into full fledged adulthood, new beginnings have much more meaning than they ever did before.
John and I recently moved into a new apartment fully equipped with a kitchen 3 times the size of our old prison cell-like accommodations. Full sized appliances, no more bumper butts or accidentally impaling each other with knives, and an actual place to sit down and eat. We're loving the new neighborhood which is so quaint and sugary sweet it's almost sickening. Sickening in the I just ate a whole lot of ice cream and cookies way to fast kind of way, the kind you don't really regret even though your stomach feels like an alien just invaded and had quintuplets in your digestive tract. There are dogs playing in the park, everyone is either doting a stroller or a yoga mat, and every house on the block has a garden. It's total yuppieville, but I love it.
The whole point of this long-winded story is that the Pickled Rose team has been asked to cook a very special meal for John's mom's upcoming birthday. We will be cooking a 3 course meal plus cocktails for about 25 people, the largest number of people we will have cooked for to date. It's definitely going to be a challenge and was exactly the kind of task that my brain and shiny new kitchen were looking for. Nothing gets me more excited than planning a menu, however lame that may sound. It's a way to keep me thinking creatively and to keep cooking interesting.
This is going to be an ongoing installment for the next few months where we test out some of the food on the menu that we have never made before, which might I add is about half of the dishes we plan to make. First up on the chopping block is balsamic braised beef short ribs. This recipe has been adapted from Smitten Kitchen which is one of my favorite food blogs. We wanted a bit more of the acidic bite from the balsamic vinegar, so we upped the amount used as well as glazed the short ribs before their final bake in the oven. The few tweaks we made really intensified the flavor, giving the short ribs just the flavor profile we were looking for. The whole dish was served with sauteed swiss chard and roasted pearl onions, topped with a horseradish cream that is to die for! You can find the original recipe with all the fixins here.
Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs
6-8 beef short ribs, about 14 to 16 ounces each
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced celery
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups port
2 1/2 cups hearty red wine
6 cups beef stock
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season the short ribs with the dried thyme and cracked black pepper. Place in a covered container and allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The next day take out the beef out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking to allow them to come up to room temperature. Then season generously with salt. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. In a dutch oven or large stainless steel soup pot, heat up the olive oil on high heat until it's almost smoking. In batches, sear the short ribs in the oil until browned on all sides and remove from pan.
Next, add onions, carrots, celery, fresh thyme, and bay leaves to the pot stirring continuously to scrape up all of the brown bits from the seared meat. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook the veggies until caramelized. Then add the balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine to the vegetables deglazing the pan. Make sure to scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan again. Turn the heat back up to high and reduce the liquid by half.
Once the wine and vinegar has reduced add in the beef stock and bring to a boil. Next, add in the short ribs to the braising liquid trying to keep the meat in a single layer on the bottom of the pot. Place the parsley sprigs in between the ribs and then cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven. Cook for approximately 3 hours.
At the end of three hours the meat should be falling off the bone. If it's not, continue cooking for another half hour or so. You really can't overcook something like this, and the longer it cooks the better it tastes. When the meat is finally finished, remove from the braising liquid and place on a baking sheet to rest.
Take the braising liquid and strain out all of the vegetables and herbs, and then skim off the fat in a gravy separator. Transfer about 2-3 cups of the sauce and put it into a smaller saucepan. Add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and reduce the liquid on high heat until the sauce has thickened or reduced by about 2/3.
Turn up the oven to 400 degrees. Next, glaze the short ribs with the reduced sauce and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, basting the beef every 5 minutes with more glaze. The ribs will be done when they have caramelized on the outside.