Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Meaty Winter Braise

Who doesn't love a nice pot of braised meat in the wintertime? I know I do. Every now and then I like to mix it up and make a Chinese-style braise. This works best, I think, with cuts of meat that have a lot of bone and gooey things like tendon. So when BrooklynLady came home the other night with several large shortribs, the braise was on.

My wife was thoughtful enough to get shortribs that had been cut lengthwise so the bones were intact, as opposed to the cross section cut that is more common. One is no better than the other, but there is something about eating meat off so large of a bone that satisfies in an atavistic way. And when my 3 year old, who these days is more of a fruit eater than a steak eater, when she saw BrooklynLady and I pulling fragrant strands of meat off of these huge bones, she wanted in.

This braise is quite easy to make, and there are no rules for the seasonings. To me, what makes it a Chinese-style braise is the use of soy and Sherry or cooking wine as the braising liquid, and a set of seasonings that can include some or all of garlic, ginger, star anise, orange peel, dried chili, scallions, brown sugar, and cloves. Here's the way I did it this time with the shortribs (we had about 2 and a half pounds):

Season the meat generously with salt and pepper 24 hours in advance of cooking. Let the meat come to room temperature before browning. Brown on all sides. Take the meat out of the pot, pour out most of the fat, lower the heat to medium and add one finely chopped large onion. Cook them well - until they're translucent. Add a glug or two of Sherry vinegar and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Let the liquid cook off (a minute or so) and then add seasonings. This time I used two cloves of crushed but not chopped garlic, one piece of star anise that I broke into many small pieces, 6 black peppercorns, and two whole dried chilis. Then add the braising liquid. For the liquid, I combined a half cup of good soy sauce, a half cup of mirin, a cup of water, and a tablespoon and a half of dark brown sugar. When this comes to a boil, add the meat back to the pot along with four strips of tangerine peel - no pith, just the peel (orange is better, but I didn't have one). I added a few carrots this time too, just for kicks. Cover with a piece of wet parchment paper under the lid of the pot and put into a 275 degree oven. Plan on about four hours, and turn the meat halfway through. Strain the braising liquid and reduce it a bit so it becomes more of a glaze. Like any meat braise, this becomes much more flavorful with some time in the fridge. Re-heat at 275 degrees with some of the glaze, and go to town. I like simple white rice as an accompanyment, and cucumber is nice too.

Speaking of accompanyments, what to drink with this? As it was re-heating and the scents of soy, anise, and meat wafted through the apartment, I found myself wanting chilled sake. I didn't have any in the house, of course, so my thoughts drifted to Chambolle-Musigny. But I didn't have anything that's ready to drink, so we went with a 2007 Descombes Morgon Vieille Vignes, $28, Louis/Dressner Selections.

This wine was closed down, opened way too young. It had some lovely spices on the nose and the texture was right on, but the palate was clamped down tight. I decanted it, gave it an hour and it was a bit better, but the old vines still weren't giving away any secrets. I should have opened the regular Morgon instead - perhaps it is in a more conversational mood these days.


David McDuff said...

Any leftovers? I'm thinking some Crozes-Hermitage rouge would be pretty tasty with that....

Peter said...

Dish sounds great! I also love the Asian style treatment to the dish. But I still have not had a wine and Asian food pairing that really works for my palate. And spicy foods in general (Cajun, mexican, Korean,etc.)I have had gewurtz and riesling and all the other 'go to's' and it feels a little forced to me. I always prefer sake or a snappy pilsner/lager.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi McDaddy - none whatsoever, sorry to say. There were, actually, but i diced them and used them in fried rice for my kids. And syrah - wow, who woulda thunk it. next time perhaps.

Peter (is this cookblog Peter?) Your point about wine and this kind of food not pairing terribly well - i basically agree. But i keep trying because i'm stubborn. I like certain wines with food like this, but that doesn't mean that the food and the wine bring out the best in each other. Sparkling cider and beer are probably better. And of course sake.