It does seem the Italians are on the giving side of my cultural misappropriations this week; they have escaped my notice until now. It amazes me how a region with such a mild climate can generate so much cold weather fodder.
The short story about this dish is Madam BadWolf went out for a refresher course in hand-to-hand combat (Christmas Shopping at an outlet mall) and returned from her excursions with some very nice beef short ribs. Having braved the maddening unwashed masses, she was not in the mood to cook and made the simple command, “COOK!”
And so I cooked.
Since short ribs come from the area between the chuck and rib, they combine the characteristics of both cuts. Short ribs get the rich marbling of rib steaks with the deep beefy flavor of chuck roast. In short, they’re an indulgent treat for anyone who loves beef and a real “stick to your rib” (haha) comfort food.
A low and slow wet cooking method is best to break down the tough meat fibers (collagen) into gelatin-rich juices and produce melt-in-your-mouth meat. So braising is the perfect cooking method, but to pump up the flavor, I’ll use a robust red wine and fortify the liquid with an assortment of herbs.
Technically, as written, this recipe is not a braise as I do not brown the ribs, but as Mediocrates said, “Meh, Close enough.”
Most braises follow the same basic steps. The food to be braised (meats, vegetables, mushrooms, etc.) is first pan-seared to brown its surface and enhance its flavor (through the Maillard reaction). If the food will not produce enough liquid of its own, a certain amount of cooking liquid that often includes an acidic element (e.g., tomatoes, beer, balsamic vinegar, wine) is added to the pot, often with stock. A classic braise is done with a relatively whole cut of meat, and the braising liquid will cover two-thirds of the food in the pan. The dish is then covered and cooked at a very low simmer until the meat becomes so tender that it can be “cut” with just the gentlest of pressure from a fork (versus a knife). Often the cooking liquid is finished to create a sauce or gravy as well.
A successful braise intermingles the flavors of the foods being cooked with those of the cooking liquid. This cooking method dissolves the meat’s collagen into gelatin, which can greatly enrich and thicken the liquid. Braising is economical (as it allows the use of tough and inexpensive cuts) and efficient (as it often enables an entire meal to be prepared in a single pot or pan).
Peposa Dell’Impruneta (Braised Pepper Beef)
- 1 Brasier Or a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid
- 4 ea Beef Short Ribs ~10 oz
- 1 tbsp Salt Kosher, of course
- 10 cloves Garlic Peeled, crushed
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 tbsp Black Pepper Cracked, do it your self
- 1 tbsp Black Pepper Fresh Grind
- 4 ea Sage Leaves Fresh
- 4 sprigs Rosemary Fresh
- 2 ea Bay Leaves
- 2 cups Red Wine Robust wine
- Salt To Taste
- In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic to a paste, add the tomato paste and mix well
- In a large bowl, lay out the ribs and examine thence season generously on all sides with salt. ~ 1tbsp
- Transfer mixture into the bowl with beef and rub onto all sides of the meat
- Add crushed peppercorns and ground pepper. Distribute evenly over all sides of the beef.
- Transfer to a brasier or deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid
- Tuck sage leaves, rosemary, and dry bay leaves between pieces of meat.
- Carefully add wine along the side of the pan to avoid washing the seasoning off of the meat.
- Place pan over high heat and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low. Cover tightly.
- Cook until meat is fork tender, turning pieces every 30 minutes or so, about 3 1/2 hours.
- Transfer the meat to a warm plate and cover.
- Increase heat to high and bring braising liquid to a boil.
- Simmer until liquid is reduced by about half or until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Optionally, remove the rib bones from the meat.
- When the sauce is thickened, transfer the meat back to the skillet, and any drippings.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and spoon sauce over meat.
- Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Beef shank is the traditional meat for this
- Shortribs work exceptionally well
- Even large chunks of chuck will work.
- Mashed Potatoes
- Or a combo, gnocchi
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