I was looking for a way to cook short ribs until perfectly tender without having the meat fall apart. As I discovered after much experimentation, brining is the answer; it firms the meat enough to keep it on the bone and adds flavor, too.
We weren't sure we could get away with serving short ribs at Tra Vigne. Some of the partners thought the dish might be too rustic, but customers like Koerner Rombauer have made them a hit. He ordered them the first week they were on the menu, and now he's disappointed when they're not.
For the brine:
2 quarts water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups kosher salt
2 tablespoons juniper berries
3 bay leaves
4 cross-cut short ribs, about 1 pound each
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup red wine
1 quart chicken stock
Make the brine : Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cool completely. Cover short ribs with brine and refrigerate 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove short ribs from brine and pat dry. Heat a large high-sided sauté pan over moderately high heat until hot. Add a film of olive oil. When oil begins to smoke, brown short ribs on all sides. (They brown quickly because of the sugar in the brine.) When richly browned, place in a dish that can go from stovetop to oven.
Add onion, carrot, and celery to sauté pan and cook over moderately high heat until vegetables are well caramelized. Transfer vegetables to dish with short ribs. Add red wine to sauté pan and simmer until reduced by half, scraping up any stuck-on bits with a wooden spoon. Add stock, bring to a boil and pour over short ribs. Bring short ribs to a boil on top of the stove, then cover and bake until fork-tender, about 3 hours.
Profiles, Reflections & Recipes from the Napa Valley
by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher
Photographs by Steven Rothfeld
Published By StewartTabori & Chang, October 2001
312 pages, over 150 full-color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created January 2002
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