Friday, December 4, 2009

When short ribs meet grilled cheese.

My 1 1/2 year old daughter is a self-made vegetarian. She spits out meat of any kind including fish and chicken. Thank goodness for her love of eggs and dairy products or she would be getting very little protein. So you can understand how shocked I was when she stole half of my short rib grilled cheese sandwich and ate it, meat and all! Now this wasn't any regular short rib though. It was short ribs, on the bone, braised with beer, blackened tomatoes, roasted garlic cloves and whole canned chipotle peppers for eight hours in a crock pot. The meat was so tender, with a hint of heat from the peppers that just made your mouth feel warm and alive. Originally I was going to put the meat into tacos or on some egg noodles but after I tested out the short ribs in a grilled cheese sandwich, I didn't have them any other way. As far as cheeses go, sliced Havarti works great. It's not overpowering in flavor and is wonderfully creamy when melted. Use a really good bread of course. I used a seven grain sourdough. It's important to brush a thin layer of olive oil or spread some butter on each outer side of your sandwich before putting it your medium-hot pan or panini press (you want the sandwich to cook slowly so that the cheese melts and bread doesn't burn). It makes the bread crispy and caramelized, worth the extra calories. A lot of what I cook is not a ten minute meal with three ingredients. Some of it is a labor of love and commitment but what you get is mouth watering food that is large enough to freeze into several meals. Then you have future dinners that you can just defrost that morning and heat up in a few minutes for dinner. When you add it all up, you've saved a bunch of time and energy.

Chipotle Braised Beef Short Ribs

2 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs (preferably on the bone)
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
4 tomatoes (blackened)
Head of garlic (roasted)
12 oz. bottle of dark beer
2 tbsp. of tomato paste
2 chipotle chiles from a can or jar (not two cans of chipotle chiles!)
1/4 cup of orange juice
2 1/2 tbsp. of firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of allspice
1 large bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
4 cups of low-sodium beef stock

Place washed and dried tomatoes under the broiler (you can do this in a toaster oven) for several minutes, keeping an eye on them. They will blister and eventually blacken. Take them out when just blackened but not charred. Give them a rough chop when cool enough to handle and set aside. Lower the oven to 350 degress and put in your garlic head wrapped in foil. Roast for 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the cloves from the head and set aside.

Generously season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Sear all sides of the ribs in a large pan until you have a nice brown crust. About one minute per side. Remove from the pan. Add a cup of the broth to the pan to deglaze it, scraping off all the yummy brown bits. Add that liquid and the rest of the ingredients to a crock pot. Don't forget your blackened tomatoes and roasted garlic! Stir until all combined. Evenly place the short ribs into the liqid, making sure that most of the meat is submerged. Cook on the lowest setting for about 8 hours. When cooled put the entire crock pot bowl into the refrigerator over night and the next day scrape off all the hardened fat on top and discard it (not down the sink please!). You can now reheat, season with salt and pepper (if needed) and serve in tacos, over some egg noodles or like I did, in a grilled cheese. The best sandwich ever!

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