Tuesday 12 May 2015

Braised Short Ribs with Grilled Spring Veggies and Cauliflower Purée

Taking advantage of local produce while it's in season is the best way to get the most out of your ingredients and at little cost. I haven't done anything special for spring yet so I'd been meaning to put this together. I also had some short ribs in my freezer and a purple heirloom cauliflower that I had to use up so this is what I came up with. Two popular vegetables that are their best this time of year are asparagus and radishes. I thought about how I could incorporate these two ingredients. There are many ways that you can prepare asparagus but radishes you usually only see fresh in salads or pickled. Not many people think of cooking radishes. Fresh radish has a sharp and peppery flavour, which can easily overpower a dish. However when it's cooked, that flavour really mellows out. I would liken it to slightly peppery cooked parsnip. It's quite interesting. I love grilled asparagus and thought what it would be like to grill the radishes. I was happy with the outcome. 

If you've frequented this blog before then you know that I love a good braise. Particularly a braised piece of meat still attached to the bone. It's fantastic how a little patience can pay off in flavour and texture. Braised meat dishes are especially comforting in the winter time. The flavours of this dish are kind of like winter turning into spring, if you care to think that much into it. This approach is mostly classic French. If you want to make proper restaurant style short ribs at home, then this recipe is for you. 

This post also has some cauliflower in it! I love me some cauliflower and all the different ways that it can be prepared. Since the cauliflower I had was purple it added some great colour to this dish. Originally my concept for the plating was totally different than how it ended up. I had to make some last minute alterations so it was a little haphazard. You can plate your dish however you like. It certainly doesn't have to look like this. 

In this post I'm going to show you how to put together a braise for the short ribs, a sauce reduction, the cauliflower purée and the grilling of the asparagus and radishes. This is a very easy dish to put together, there are just several steps (and it takes a few hours of waiting). I promise you'll be very happy you gave this a try if you decide to. Since we have much to go over, let's get started!


Ingredients for short ribs
(5-6 hours)

4 short ribs (about 1.2 kg or 2.6 lbs) 
1 white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 scotch bonnet peppers (optional, more on this later)
2 cups dry red wine
2 cup beef stock (can substitute with chicken stock)
2 tbsps tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Fresh thyme
1 cup flour
4 tbsps (or so) neutral oil

Preheat oven to 300 F/149 C.

What I mean by "4 short ribs" is 4 strips of meat, each with 4 bone segments. Short ribs are usually sold in this manner. Mine came to 1.2 kg, but since short ribs differ in shape and size, just aim for 4 decent sized short ribs. 

Cut each short rib in half so that you end up with eight pieces, each with two bone segments. Lightly coat with oil (a tbsp or two) and season generously with salt and pepper. Then dredge in flour. The flour will create a nice crispy coating and will also help to thicken the sauce later. 

Warm a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsps of neural oil suitable for frying. Brown the short ribs in batches. Each short rib has four sides and 2 ends. Each side will take 2-3 minutes and then give the ends a good 30-45 seconds each. 

When the short ribs have a good sear all over, set aside and reserve for later. 

Add the onion, carrot and celery to the dutch oven. If it seems too hot, reduce the heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper and sautée for 5 minutes or until softened and slightly caramelized. 

Add the garlic and the scotch bonnet peppers. Adding chili peppers is totally optional. If you decide to use them, you can use whichever ones you prefer and the quantity to taste. This is otherwise a very classically French recipe. Scotch bonnet peppers are usually found in Caribbean cuisine. I used them here because I'm partial to them, but that's just a personal touch. Feel free to use your own. I removed most, but not all, of the seeds from my scotch bonnet peppers. The seeds and inner membrane of a chili pepper are where most of the fiery heat is found. 

Sautée for about a minute or two. Just be sure not to burn the garlic. 

Clear a little space on the bottom of the pot and add 2 tbsps of tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste by itself in the space you created for just under a minute before incorporating it into the vegetables. I find that this cooks out the metallic tartness that you often get with processed tomato products. Stir thoroughly for about a minute.  


Add 2 cups of dry red wine. Choose a good but cheap wine. Bad tasting wine doesn't magically turn good if you cook it. Choose a wine that you like the taste of, but that you didn't have to pay much for. Bring to a boil.

Boil until the alcohol burns off. This should take a minute or two. You'll know when it's ready because as the alcohol is burning the steam will have an acrid, chemical smell. Once the alcohol burns off it will smell amazing and delicious. Add a small handful of fresh thyme sprigs into the boiling wine. Form a single layer. 

Place the browned short ribs on top. Nestle them into as even a layer as you can manage.

Add 2 cups of beef stock or broth. The liquid should just come up to about the top of the meat. If required, add more stock or water. Bring the liquid up to a gentle simmer. 

Place a lid on the dutch oven and place in the middle of your preheated oven. Allow the short ribs to braise, undisturbed, for 4-5 hours.

After about 5 hours, my short ribs looked like this. 

Carefully remove the short ribs from the sauce. They should be very soft and tender. The bones will easily slide right out. Set aside.

Use a mesh strainer or a Chinois to strain the remaining contents so that all of the solids are removed from the liquid. Force the excess liquids out of the solids by pressing on them with a wooden spoon or spatula. The liquid will have a layer of fat on the top. Use a spoon to skim off as much of the fat as possible before returning it to the dutch oven.


Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat. Continue to skim away any fat or impurities that rise to the top. Remember, fat doesn't reduce so not doing so will leave you with a greasy sauce.

Reduce the liquid to at least half or until the sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Chef tip: While the sauce is reducing, consider stirring in a couple tbsps of Dijon mustard. I completely forgot to. It's not absolutely necessary, but it does take the flavour to a whole new level. 


Cut your beef into whatever size pieces you like. Turn them in the red wine reduction to coat before plating. 

Ingredients for Cauliflower Purée
(25 minutes)

1 head cauliflower
1 cup chicken stock
3 tbsps unsalted butter, chopped
Leaves from 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme

I fortunately had a purple heirloom cauliflower which added some fantastic spring colour to this dish. I have seen heirloom cauliflower in orange, yellow and green as well. Any colour will work, even if all you can find is white. The difference in flavour and texture is negligible. 

Remove the leaves and roughly chop the cauliflower into small pieces like so. 

In a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, boil 1 cup of chicken broth. Add the chopped cauliflower and close the lid so no steam can escape. Leave for 20 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the steamed cauliflower to a blender or food processor. Add a tbsp or so of the stock. Add the chopped butter. 

While the cauliflower is still hot, seal the mixer securely with a lid. Pulse in a few short bursts before blending into a smooth purée. If using a blender, you'll likely have to push the sides of the contents down towards the blade between blending. Please be cautious as pockets of steam will be trapped in the purée.  If you double this recipe, make sure you never fill a food processor or blender more than two-thirds full. Otherwise pressure from the steam could force open the lid and make a big mess (while also possibly burning you). You can avoid this by blending in batches and mixing them after. 

Add the fresh thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper before giving it one final mix.


Ingredients for Grilled Veggies
(10 minutes)

Asparagus spears
Radishes, trimmed
Olive Oil

This is the easiest part of the dish. The quantity of veggies is totally up to you. To prep the asparagus, all you need to do is chop the ends off by an inch. These parts are woody and fibrous. This step will also ensure that all of your spears are about the same length.


Lightly toss in olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

For the radishes, trim the ends and halve or quarter them depending on size. 

Lightly toss in olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Preheat your grill. If using a gas grill, set the heat to medium-high. If using a charcoal grill, expect about 20 minutes of preheating time to allow it to come up to temperature. High, direct heat and lots of turning is the best technique to just cook the veggies through but give them a slight, smoky char. 

The asparagus and radishes take about the same amount of time. For me they took about 5 minutes. 

For the asparagus, I laid the spears out in a single layer running opposite the directions of the grill. 

For the radishes I used a perforated grill pan. Every minute or so I'd give the asparagus radishes a toss. If you don't have a perforated grill pan, you could make an open face parcel out of tin foil and cook them in that. They won't char but you will still get some of that smoky barbecue flavour. 

Cook both vegetables to your liking. For me, I like my asparagus about here. 

Likewise for my radishes. 

Veggies don't need to rest like meat does coming off the grill. It can be plated and served immediately. 

There are the three components of your dish right there! It's just a matter of plating them together however you like. All in all this is dish is as well rounded as it is wholesome. All the elements taste great, go well together and create some stunning colours. Of course, you don't have to necessarily combine these three recipes. Feel free to choose and be creative! 

Although the asparagus and radishes were the inspiration for this dish, the real star is the short ribs. This is another great example of how braising can take a tough cut of meat and turn it into something tender and melt-in-your-mouth. The reduction has a rich depth of flavour you and your guests will love. It's a simple technique you can easily do at home to turn out something you'd pay for in a restaurant. Serve it up with an interesting take on classic vegetables and you gave an unforgettable dish. 

There's lots more in store for the blog. Until next time,

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