These dishes were never meant to be. Either the ingredients were cursed or I was cursed from the beginning. Really, the dishes should be good, really good; hell, the beef braises in a "nest" for Pete's sake! But it was not meant to be - the beef was not as tender as I could have hoped after braising, the stove was hot-no-cold-no-hot when trying to brown the ribs for the stroganoff; my pasta rollers got all kinds of jacked up while making the noodles for the stroganoff. To top it off, the photos I took of the stroganoff and beef stew recipes are gone.
Even Time Machine couldn't save me! The best part, best, is that about three weeks ago I decided to reformat all of my memory cards for my camera - there were so may different ones floating around and I though to myself:
If I haven't backed these up - it's on me . . . reformat? . . . confirm . . . contents deleted . . .
So it's on me. I'm sorry. I would make the braised short ribs for the stroganoff again because braised meat + homemade noodles + cream + mushrooms = awesome in my book. The Catalan Beef Stew? An interesting flavor combination (the orange zest against the bitterness of the olives was great) but it will not be making the rotation in the foreseeable future.
What pictures I do have are of the braise itself. Check it:
The braise is a two step process; flavor is developed through reducing red wine and aromatics (seen above), once reduced fresh aromatics are added to the pot along with some beef stock.
Meanwhile, the meat is patted dry, seasoned with salt and pepper and coated in flour. I'm pretty sure I was a little zealous with the flour but after such a long braise, it was inconsequential. The two cuts of meat below are both short rib cuts - the top was from Whole Foods - they offered the whole strips while the Wegmans (bottom) cuts were in pieces. I didn't really have a preference - the pre-cut Wegmans version were already in single serving sizes which was nice for presentation in the later dishes - but ultimately either would work.
(look it's not a mind-blowing picture but there's a shortage - so I thought I would overload while I can)
Seasoned, Floured Meat
The meat is seared - don't fear the oil - I know that it looks like a lot, but one thing this book has taught me for sure is that it is better to have too much than too little oil in a pan when sautéing. The "lightbulb moment" opposite the recipe for braised short ribs explains the rational in greater detail, but essentially, oil is present in the pan to help transfer heat into the protein (or vegetable). Having enough oil ensures quality searing and sautéing; more so than too little oil.
The vegetables are covered with cheesecloth to allow flavor to transfer freely without transferring vegetable matter. Does the meat turn out nice and clean? Sure. Was it completely and totally necessary? Hard to tell, but my instinct tells me no. For a rustic, no-fuss, family-style dish, it seems a bit, um, pretentious. But, Keller is no hack - so I obey.
Beef stock added - ready to braise
(Last photo...savor it)
The meat is covered with a parchment lid (I am getting mighty good at making these little buggers) and braised for several hours. Once tender, the meat is removed, the braising liquid strained and the fat skimmed off, and the meat can rest overnight or up to three days. This is a great make-on-Sunday dish that can be reheated, added to other dishes, or transformed completely (as in Catalan beef stew) throughout the week. Additionally, there was enough braising liquid left over that I could reuse it at least once more with another batch of short ribs.
Listen, the short ribs are good. They are versatile. They are time-consuming. In my case, they were cursed. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't give this a go. Hell, I'm getting back on the horse tomorrow (2.28.10) with a fresh batch of shorties (and a new pasta roller). Sure it's a little intense for a braised one-pot meal (okay two if you count the pan in which I sauteed the meat - but I could have done that in the braising pot) - but it is darn tasty and cooking is fun, so suck it up and take a few hours to braise.
Beef Stroganoff: I will make this again and post a shot photo piece. I gotta say, there are few things more satisfying than making one's own pasta, one's own sauce, and one's own protein - nothing jarred, processed or preserved. I love fresh pasta. I love beef. I love, love, love mushrooms so this dish is a winner.
Catalan Beef Stew: I'm pissed I don't have the pics from this one. So pissed. This dish has a different flavor profile than my palate is used to and so it was refreshing to have braised beef in a non-traditional way (to me). I really liked the bitterness of the olives against the sweetness of the fennel, leeks and orange zest. The sofritto gave the dish a certain richness and the potatoes made for a more filling serving. As I mentioned above, I won't be remaking this dish to recreate the photos - but I will say this is a flavorful, fresh look at braised short ribs that is worth giving a try if one needs a fresh look at stew/braised meat. Need a pic? Here is the real deal.
Various Veggies - Wegmans
I'm slowly digging out - up soon: Oxtail Tartine, Scallion Potato Cake, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pan Seared Duck Breast, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Sliced Iceburg Salad, Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing, Brioche Croutons, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe... Stay Tuned.