Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Braised Short-Rib Guinness Stew

“I’ve never seen a worse cooking mess in my entire life! There’s oil dripping down your computer screen! The walls … the ceiling … what have you done???” Ron doesn’t mince words. And frankly, all I could say was: “Well, yes! Um … and er, um.”
As it happens, Ron was right. Our entire kitchen was coated with a fine film of oil. The stove, microwave, fridge, kitchen cupboards, counters, walls, and floor were slick with it. I haven’t made such a mess since my confessional post of Sept. 21, 2011 titled Angelina Jolie Invents Ginger Ale. Ron, bless his heart, cleaned it all up, as he did with last September’s Ginger Ale fiasco.  
(As if anyone needed another example of this man’s kind heart, I knocked over an open can of evaporated milk in the refrigerator immediately after he’d cleaned up all the oil. We didn’t notice until it dripped all the way down the back of the fridge and began to smell. “I’ll clean it up,” he volunteered. “I’ve been looking for something to do …”)
Now that I’ve persuaded you that the recipe below is far too messy and far too much trouble for anyone to possibly make, let me say that this Braised Short-Rib Guinness Stew is probably the single best Irish stew recipe you will ever taste in your life. Like, ever
“Braising,” by the way, refers to a method of cooking tougher cuts of meat by searing them at a high heat before simmering them in liquid over a long, slow cooking time.
I’m normally not a huge beef stew fan, but this particular stew is outstanding. This is a gourmet recipe worthy of a fine restaurant - which is exactly where it comes from. I’ve modified and simplified the method based on one prepared by chef Andrew Carmellini of New York.
As a professional chef, Carmellini enjoys a commercial kitchen in which he can make all the smoky, oily mess he likes; kitchens like that are suited to such challenges. Those of us who live in apartments and houses, however, must consider the Mess Factor. I learned what not to do from the awful mess I made, and am passing those tips along to you, so that you can enjoy this superb dish without having to repaint.

To reduce the mess, sear the meat in a cast-iron skillet or pot. Cast-iron retains heat, allowing you to sear meat at medium-high. I used stainless steel - not the ideal pot for searing meat - and so bumped the heat to its highest setting, creating much smoke and splatter. Next time, I would sear the meat on a barbecue with a lot of BTUs (a measurement of heat, Dollinks). If you do that, transfer the works to your kitchen stove o
nce you’ve finished the messy part
The meat in this recipe requires a full day’s marination, so start the day before you plan to serve it. As with any stew, this dish tastes even better the day after you cook it, so you could even marinate the meat on Day One, cook it on Day Two, and serve it on Day Three. 
This recipe is a little expensive. It takes time and care. But ohhhh, is it good! I’m presenting it to you as a suggestion for a delicious and memorable St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I’ll be quite content if you choose not to make this dish! That way, I can keep this recipe all to myself! Bottom line: Given the mess I made, would I prepare this recipe again? Most definitely. And that says it all.

                       This recipe requires extra time for marination
Braised Short-Rib Guinness Stew:

4-to-5 lb. (1.8-to-2. kg) meaty bone-in beef short ribs
One-to-two 15-oz. (455 mL) can/s of Guinness
Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
4 tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 celery stalks, cut into 2-in. chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-in. chunks
2 tbsp. tomato paste 
¾ c. all-purpose flour, divided
2 c. dry red wine
1 tbsp. dried thyme leaves
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
4 c. commercial beef broth and 2 c. cold water (or 6 c. of my Beef Stock posted Mar. 9, 2012)
Day One: Rinse ribs quickly under cold water; blot dry with paper towel. Using a very fine skewer, poke several holes into meat. Place in heavy plastic bag or in covered marination tub (see Note). Refrigerate and marinate ribs 12-to-24 hr., turning several times to ensure even penetration of beer marinade.
Day Two: Remove ribs from refrigerator and warm to room temperature for approximately 1 hr. Remove ribs from marinade, blotting dry with paper towel. Discard marinade, seasoning meat liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.
Now for the messy part! Using a large, deep, cast-iron pot or skillet, heat  2 tbsp. of the oil on medium-high. Pop the short ribs into the oil when it begins to smoke. Using tongs and working with a few pieces of meat at a time, sear meat on all sides until nicely browned. Be careful meat does not burn. Expect this step to take nearly 10 min. with each batch of short ribs.
Transfer the ribs from the pot to a plate. Wipe down and scrape insides of pot to remove any burnt oil, but do not wash pot or remove caramelized bits of meat from the bottom. Return pot to stove top. Heat 2 tbsp. remaining oil, adding onion, celery, and carrots. Cook 5 min. on medium-high, until vegetables browned and become slightly caramelized. Stir tomato paste into pot, coating vegetables. Cook 30 sec., until tomato paste begins to caramelize. Reduce heat and add ¼ c. of the flour, stirring a further 30 sec. and being careful flour does not burn. Reduce heat to medium low. Gradually pour in red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom to release bits of caramelized meat and vegetables. 
Remove pot from heat and take a moment to consider this: If your cast-iron pot is large enough to hold 1-½ qt. (1.5 L) of liquid plus meat and vegetables, continue with this pot as you move to the next step. If your pot or skillet is too small, begin the next step using a Dutch oven or any similar large pot with a lid. A heavy stainless steel pot will perform very well for the balance of this recipe. Ready to go? Okay!
Add the thyme, bay leaves, and parsley. Increase the heat to medium-high, cooking the sauce 5 min. or until the wine has reduced by three-quarters. The sauce will now be a rich, dark color. Return the ribs and softened vegetables to the sauce. Add commercial beef broth and water (or an extra quantity of my Beef Broth with no added water) so that the short ribs and vegetables are entirely submerged in the liquid.
Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low, covering pot. Rest a toothpick between lid and pot to ensure pot does not boil over. Simmer 4 hr., stirring occasionally. Remove and transfer approximately 1 c. of finished sauce to a small bowl, cooling to room temperature. Whisk in remaining flour and add to finished sauce, simmering briefly to thicken. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serves 4-to-6.
I added potatoes and additional vegetables to this stew about 20 min. before it finished cooking, but the more decadent way to serve it is in large individual serving bowls over hot mashed potatoes.
Note: I made this stew using 3-½ lb. of bone-in short ribs, and found a single can of Guinness sufficient to do the job. My Tupperware Season-Serve® marinade container does an excellent job with any marinaded food. The lid fits snugly, and the container is deep enough to fit several pounds of food requiring marination. During the marination process, I simply turned the container over now and then, allowing the marinade to work its magic on the meat, adding flavor and tenderness. This container costs about $22.

Day One:

Exhibit A: Short rib. Distinguishing features: Short. Ribby.

Exhibit B: Guinness.  Distinguishing features: Tall. Beery.
Don't marinate meat in a container like this. It floats!

Season meat liberally on all sides

Poke a few holes in meat, pouring on the Guinness

Marinate 12-to-24 hr. to enhance tenderness and flavor 

Cover and rotate to ensure even marination

Rotate again

Yada-yada once more!

Day Two:

When meat has fully marinated, blot dry and set aside

Add ribs to smoking hot oil in heavy pot

Brown on all sides, turning every 2 min.

When ribs finish cooking, transfer to plate and set aside

Prepare vegetables as recipe directs

Cook vegetables in oil until they start to caramelize.
Add tomato paste and flour, taking care to avoid burning

Return short ribs to pot

Add a liberal lashing of wine

I added potato chunks: This stew tastes even better 
served over mashed potatoes

Thicken a small amount of cooled sauce ...

Return it to the pot as a thickener

Serve with a knife, fork, and spoon!

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