June 11, 2012
carré de bœuf
(beef short rib square)
When I staged
at La Folie
, a Michelin one‑star restaurant in San Francisco, one of my daily tasks at the end of service was to fill two 4‑inch deep hotel pans with ice. I transferred any prepared sauces that remained on the line into either a one‑pint or one‑quart plastic deli container, and set the containers in the ice. A lid with a label was prepared for each container, but the containers remained open until the contents were cold. When I came to the saucepan with the sauce used for the short‑rib presentation, it was not uncommon to find a small specimen resting in the sauce, a portion I would quickly gobble up.
Currently, in the “poultry and meat” section of the prix fixe menu, there is an item called “Le Bœuf.” It is described as a “Creekstone Beef Tenderloin, Braised Beef Short Rib, and Burger Rossini with Sauce Bordelaise.” There is a supplemental charge of $20 when this item is ordered. In one form or another, Le Bœuf is a permanent resident of the menu. When I dine at La Folie, I always select Le Bœuf because of that one small piece of short rib. Terms like succulent, rich, and unctuous don’t adequately describe that pleasurable mouthful.
My love for short ribs is rather recent. In October, 2008, I dined at Picholine
, a Michelin two‑star restaurant in New York City. There was an item on the menu that was similar to Le Bœuf, including a short rib. Up until that evening, short ribs were something I generally avoided. On this evening, there were other items on the plate that I desired, and I figured that I would just slide the short rib aside. But after one bite of that short rib, the other items on the plate were forgotten. It was a short‑rib epiphany. Those few bites were the manifestation of a divine being.
I was aware of short ribs before my New York trip, but I can’t say I had any strong feelings about them. I had eaten them in the form of Korean short ribs. I enjoyed them but not spectacularly. On Maui, they were available from Azeka’s Market in Kihei, and they held an island‑wide, if not state‑wide, reputation. As is usually the case of with Korean short ribs, the pieces were quarter‑inch thick slices of half bone and half meat, marinated in a sweet‑spicy sauce, and grilled thoroughly. They were chewy but tasty.
As a butcher, I’ve learned that there is a large difference between the government’s definition of short ribs and what is sold in your meat counter as short ribs. For example, the USDA’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specification for cut number 123, beef short ribs, is: “This item consists of the rib section from any rib and⁄or plate item and shall contain at least 2 but no more than 5 ribs (ribs 6 through 10). The dorsal side shall be at an approximate right angle to the rib bones and the latissimus dorsi shall be continuous across the cut surface. The ventral side shall be a straight cut that is approximately parallel to the dorsal side and does not contain any costal cartilage. The cutaneous trunci, diaphragm, and serous membrane (peritoneum) shall be removed. The surface fat shall be trimmed to not exceed 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) at any point. The purchaser shall specify the number of ribs and the width (distance between the dorsal and ventral sides) of the rib sections.” There are also three variations consisting only of ribs 6, 7, and 8 and a boneless variation. Generally, the short‑rib subprimal is a square plank of meat and bones cut from the middle ribs. A single slab can consist of two to five ribs. There is also a similar definition for cuts comprising ribs 2 through 5. What winds up in the market is generally sawn from these larger pieces and sold under names like Korean short ribs, Asian short ribs, and Flanken ribs. Where I buy mine, the butcher has four‑rib slabs where the overlying meat ranges from 7.5 cm (3 in) thick at one end to no more than 12 ml (1⁄2 in) at the other end. My relationship with my butcher is such that he’ll cut me a 7.5‑cm (3‑in) thick slice from the thick end and leave the less meaty portion for other customers, and he’ll do this on a couple of slabs so I only get the best of each. Usually for cooking, I cut each of my hunks of meat into four portions by cutting between the bones.
When cut into thin slices and marinated, such as with Korean short ribs, the meat can be grilled. When left in thick pieces, short ribs demand braising. In this example, however, the meat is wet roasted. After coating with the spices, the meat is oven seared in an open saucepan under high heat. The heat is then lowered, and the aromatics and liquid added. A few hours later, the meat is tender.
The recipe presented below is adapted from one I found in Your Organic Kitchen
by Jesse Ziff Cool. Maybe “found” is not the correct term. I ate a short rib dish in her restaurant, Flea Street Café
, and noticed that the menu said the dish was from the book. One of my dinner companions said that she had the book. After dinner, we went to her house for drinks, and I took the opportunity to copy the recipe from the book.
In the serving in the picture, the smear of sauce had some saffron sprinkled over it and the meat is sprinkled with a little minced parsley. The blurry, grayish stuff in the background is a little ground coriander seed that I sprinkled over the plate and the sauce.
700 g (11⁄2 lb)
beef short ribs, cut into individual rib portions
175 ml (3⁄4 c)
full‑bodied red wine
plum tomatoes, cored and chunked
fresh flat‑leaf parsley
ground coriander seed
freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 230 °C (450 °F).
2. Season the ribs heavily with garam marsala. Rub the spices into the meat until it is nicely coated. Place the ribs into a saucepan, and set it in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes, turning the meat about half way through. The meat should be nicely browned.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 190 °C (375 °F). Add all the remaining ingredients, and return the saucepan to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender when pierced with a meat fork. Check the meat, and turn it every 45 minutes or so.
4. When cooked, transfer the meat to a plate. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. In the meantime, discard the thyme sprigs from the garnish ingredients. Transfer all the garnish ingredients to the jar of a high‑tip speed blender. Blend until fluffy. Transfer the sauce to a container and refrigerate.
5. For service, trim the meat into squares and vacuum pack in a single layer. Place the bag in simmering water for a few minutes to reheat the meat. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.