Monday, October 20, 2014

Braised Beef Shortrib Tacos

I got bone-in beef short ribs from an Amish Market in Baraboo. Short ribs are a fatty cut of meat which is part of the ribcage. It expands and contracts with each breath, constantly being worked awake or asleep. This meat is absolutely chock full of collagen this are intra-muscular, tough stringy proteins. This makes it an extremely tough and well-worked piece of meat with a depth of flavor which is nearly unmatched in the rest of the cow.

Stolen from A great Charleston SC food blog!

Collagen can go two ways. Cook it under high heat and it'll bunch up and get tight and tough. The long proteins will basically turn into a stiff raincoat around each muscle fiber and will become nearly impossible to eat.

But if you gently cook it slowly, over a low heat the collagen, instead of freaking out and bunching up, will relax. It's like lowering yourself into a hot tub after a long day of standing on your feet cooking. The collagen becomes gelatinous; it turns into tiny sheets of meaty jelly between each muscle fiber. This makes the meat incredibly tender without adding much fat. This is the joy of braising. It's like a little hot tub for meat!

I wanted to get as much flavor into this meat and into the braising liquid as I could. The first step for any braise is to caramelize the meat, which usually involves browning it in the pan to create a fond (the sticky stuff on the bottom of the pan) which is incorporated into your braising liquid. Instead I decided that I wanted to get some smoky flavors into this predominantly sweet dish. So I charcoal grilled them.

I created a big pile of charcoal entirely on one side of the grill. I used that side to get a good sear on each side of the short rib, then I piled them all on the cold side of the grill and let them smoke for 30 minutes to pick up a bit more smoky flavor. 

Recipe (to partially feed 50)

8 lbs of Beef shortribs - charcoal grilled (we will lose about half this weight during the cooking and de-boning)
1/2 C of Natural peanut butter
2 x 2" Cinnamon sticks
Water to half submerge the ribs. 

I put the grilled ribs into a roasting pan in a single layer. I put 2 bottles of Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout in a mixing bowl, added a 1/2 cup of natural unsweetened peanut butter and the cinnamon sticks. I mixed this to combine and added it to the pan with the ribs. I added about 2-3 more bottles worth of water, or enough to half submerge the short ribs.

I pre-heated my oven to 300 degrees and baked the ribs for 4-5 hours turning the meat every hour and adding more water if necessary. The meat will take on a very dark appearance but we don't want it to burn, if all sides are quite dark you can add a tinfoil lid to the pan to reduce the further browning. 

After 4 hours the meat will have shrunk a lot and become extremely tender. I was able to shred the beef with a fork. 

Place it on a corn tortilla along with a nice citrus-y salsa. The sweetness of the beer and the peanuts do well with a slightly sour component. I made a lime black bean salsa which complemented this taco very well. 


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