Porter Braised Short Rib – Wild Mushroom Risotto

Listen. This MIGHT be the best thing you will ever make. Unless you are a real chef, in which case this might be something you make in your second week of culinary school. In any case, this dish is just comfort on a plate.  If this dish were a style of beer, it would probably be a winter warmer.

A couple things to note: you need to step up if you’re going to attempt this dish, and probably set aside a good 2.5 hours of active prep/cooking time. You’ll also need some stamina since you’ll be continuously stirring that risotto for a good 30 minutes. So clear your calendar for the night, pound down a couple Clif bars, and let’s get cooking.

We’ll start with the short rib. You can usually get about 3 pounds at Costco for $20-25. Here I cut them into thirds:

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Season LIBERALLY with salt and pepper. This is pretty much all the seasoning that’s going into this dish so make sure you get a nice coating on all sides.

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Dredge in flour, shake off excess, throw in a hot pan over high heat. For those of you who read my searing tutorial, this is the real way to sear. IMPORTANT: To sear the meat, it has to be in direct contact with the cooking surface, so you’ll have to do this step in batches. Don’t crowd the pan or you won’t get the browning and caramelization you want.

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When it looks like this, take it out and start the next batch.

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See this? This is concentrated beef flavor. Don’t waste it.

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Throw your onions and garlic in without cleaning the pan, sauté and add a little more flour. Keep cooking until the flour browns a bit.

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Add your beer. Just a quick note on the beer: I have tried this recipe with a number of dark beers and found that milder, less boldly flavored porters or stouts work best. Try not to use any imperial beers, because they tend to leave a little more bitterness at the end of cooking, and really you don’t need to be spending that much money on a beer that you’re going to cook down anyway. Definitely don’t use a porter or stout that has added flavors, like a smoked porter or a maple-vanilla-coffee-bourbon barrel aged stout. Keep it simple!

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Return meat to the pot. Don’t forget those sweet sweet drippings.

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Throw in some thyme and some bay leaves, cover, and let the magic happen.

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2 hours later… (I tasted it and added a little brown sugar because it tasted a little bitter. I think that’s the last time I’ll use an imperial stout for this recipe)

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Great on it’s own… or of course with some risotto.

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While the short ribs are cooking, you best be making your risotto.

Start with some dried wild mushrooms:

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This was the first time I ever tried cooking with dried mushrooms and it was a REVELATION. So delicious. Even just adding the warm water/broth to the mushrooms created this deep, rich, umami smell. Believe me, I hate using the word umami but I’ll use it here. So yeah like I said, soak in warm water to hydrate for about 30 minutes.

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When it’s re-hydrated, take it out of the liquid, squeeze gently, and if you want (and I highly recommend this), strain and retain that soaking liquid.

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I’m using a paper towel in the strainer to make sure absolutely no grit remains.

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You can use this liquid in the risotto, in a mushroom soup, or just to add some savory flavor to a gravy or other sauce you might make in the future.

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Now for the actual cooking. Start by bringing some stock to a simmer:

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Next, saute the mushrooms, starting with the fresh criminis.

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When they look like this, add the wild mushrooms.

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Take out the mushrooms, melt more butter, then add shallots.

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Add the raw rice and stir to coat with the butter.  When the grains start to look translucent on the tips, that’s when you add some broth.

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When most of the stock is absorbed (as below), add more. You’re gonna be doing this for a while.  Don’t stop stirring.

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After about 15 minutes, add the mushrooms back in.

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After another 10-15 minutes, your risotto should be al dente. Add some parmesan to finish it, and get ready for a party in your mouth.  Not some lame dorm floor party with pretzel chips and Smirnoff ice, but a sophisticated, scotch and smoking jackets type party with smooth jazz and local celebrities.

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There it is.

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Porter Braised Short Rib:

2-3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, each cut into thirds (2-3 inch segments)
1/2 large Vidalia onion, sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz bottle of a mild porter or stout (such as Anchor Porter, Yard’s George Washington Tavern Porter, or if you’re in a bind, Guinness)
5 sprigs of fresh thyme tied together with butcher’s twine, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup flour for dredging
Salt and Pepa
Olive oil
Chopped chives, for garnish

Season the meat all over with salt and pepper.  Don’t be bashful.  Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with olive oil and heat on high until very hot.  Add flour to a shallow dish and dredge each piece of short rib in it, shaking off excess, and add to the pot (do this in batches, you should brown the meat in a single layer and DON’T CROWD THE POT).  Cook all sides of each piece until the flour becomes a brown crust, then remove from heat.  Continue cooking all the meat this way until it is all browned and then reduce heat to Medium-High.

Remove any excess oil from the pot so that 1 tbsp of grease remains, then add the garlic and onions to the pot, stirring until the onions just become slightly translucent.  Add another tablespoon of flour to the pot and let it brown. Add the beer, and as it begins to simmer add the meat back into the pot. Add the bay leaves and thyme.  Lower heat to low, cover pot and cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.

After 2 hours, give the sauce a taste. If it is a little bitter, you can add a bit of brown sugar to balance it out. That’s it.

Wild Mushroom Risotto:

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 oz dried wild mushroom mix (I think mine had porcini, morel, wood ear)
10 oz fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan or grana padano

Soak the dried mushrooms in about 1-2 cups of warm water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and squeeze gently to get rid of excess moisture.  Chop roughly.  If you want, you can strain and reserve the soaking liquid, which is now super flavorful and can be a great addition to soups or sauces.

Bring 7 cups chicken broth to simmer in medium saucepan and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fresh crimini mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms until tender and beginning to brown (3 minutes), then add the wild mushrooms. Sauté a bit longer until most of the moisture has evaporated but before the mushrooms get too brown.  If needed, at a little olive oil so they don’t burn. Transfer mushrooms to a separate bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter with olive oil in the same saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallot and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and increase heat to medium. Stir to coat the rice with the oil until edges of rice begin to look translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3/4 cup warm chicken broth; stir until almost all broth is absorbed, about 1 minute. Continue adding broth by 3/4 cupfuls, stirring until almost all broth is absorbed before adding more, until rice is halfway cooked, about 15 minutes.

Stir in sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth by 3/4 cupfuls, stirring until almost all broth is absorbed before adding more, until rice is “al dente” (tender but still firm to bite) and risotto is creamy, about 10-15 more minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Transfer risotto to serving bowl. You’re done.

Assembly: Place risotto in a shallow dish, top with 2-3 pieces of braised short rib as well as some of the braising liquid (which is delicious), and garnish with chopped chives. It should bring a tear to your eye.

beer pairing recommendation: let’s go with a big stout for this one, like Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout.

(Wild Mushroom Risotto recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

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