short ribs braised in ancho chile sauce
We were having such a mild winter, there for a minute, that I worried I wouldn’t feel like making this dish, which entered my all-time favorites file the very first time I made it. The slow braise of short ribs in chiles and coffee creates a very complex comfort-food classic whose heat and spice is easily adjusted up or down based on your preference.
The friend who initially gifted me with this recipe generously included her mother’s useful notes, and I’ve added my own. So please keep in mind that:
1. The dish is about 100 times better the second day. Make it ahead.
2. You can use boneless or bone-in short ribs. I prefer bone-in, but the boneless version is also very good.
3. Unless you have cooked frequently with dried chiles and understand their relative heat/spice, don’t substitute other chiles for the anchos.
4. The worst thing that can happen to the ribs is for them to dry out in the oven. To prevent that, I usually add more of the chile soaking liquid than the recipe calls for, and I seal the lid of the pot with tin foil before putting the lid on, for an even tighter seal.
5. Check the pot after it’s been in the oven for two hours; if the liquid is cooking down and exposing too much of the meat, add more.
For accompaniments, consider:
- smashed sweet potatoes
- sweet potatoes sauteed in duck fat
- not-so-paleo option: polenta
This recipe is adapted from a 2003 Gourmet recipe at Epicurious.com.
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and ribs discarded
2 cups boiling-hot water
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
6 lb beef short ribs
1 teaspoon black pepper
vegetable olive (not extra virgin) oil
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Soak ancho chiles in boiling-hot water until softened, about 20 minutes, then drain in a colander set over a bowl. Taste soaking liquid: It will be a little bitter, but if unpleasantly so, discard it; otherwise, reserve for braising. Transfer ancho chiles to a blender and purée with onion, garlic, chipotles with sauce,
maple syrup, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon salt.
3. Pat ribs dry and sprinkle with pepper and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown ribs in 3 batches, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a roasting pan just large enough to hold ribs in 1 layer.
4. Carefully add chile puree to fat remaining in skillet (it will spatter and steam) and cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add reserved chile soaking liquid (or 1 1/2 cups water) and coffee and bring to a boil, then pour over ribs (liquid should reach about halfway up sides of meat).
5. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil and braise ribs until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
6. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight. The fat will solidify, and turn bright orange from the chiles, like this:
7. Use a large spoon to crack through the solidified orange fat and lift it all out of the pot, leaving the meat juices below in the pot.
8. Reheat the ribs in the pot, covered, taking care not to let the liquid cook down.
9. Serve the ribs together with the juices.
Thanks to Dan Reshef for the beautiful photos (the second and fourth shots) from the rest day dinner. The crappy photos (first and third) are mine.
If you are of German or Irish descent, or generally identify your people as the white American working class, you have a special place in your heart for potatoes.
Me, I am three for three.
Duck fat, on the other hand, was certainly not part of the ancestral cuisine.
When I went paleo, I learned lots of ways to cook sweet potatoes, which by themselves uniquely satisfy both the desire for something delicious and the urgent need for a hit of emergency “acceptable” carbs right after a workout. I must’ve eaten a metric buttload of sweet potatoes since August of 2010 - microwaved, cubed and fried into hash, smashed, whipped with butter and lime juice, sliced into a fusion tortilla espanola, cut into steak fries and baked, tossed with a million different spices, and the best way - simply roasted, whole.
Duck fat makes all those methods seem like culinary insanity.
To get the perfect, deeply browned potatoes I wanted, I experimented with a couple methods. Ultimately, sweet potatoes soften and loose their shape too quickly on the stove top for my purposes. I decided to microwave them first, then cube them and crisp them in the duck fat. Bingo.
Rendered duck fat
Sweet potatoes, scrubbed (if you can get Japanese or Korean ones, do. They are yummier.)
1. Poke a few holes in the sweet potatoes with a sharp knife.
2. Microwave them, one a time, until they are just cooked through - soft but not mushy. The length of time this requires is dependent upon the power of your microwave and the size of the spuds.
3. When they are done, let them cool a bit, then cut them into chunks about 2x2. You can remove the skin if you don’t eat it, but it helps the potatoes hold together in the pan.
4. Heat enough duck fat to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer over medium-low heat in your heaviest pan - cast iron or enameled cast iron are ideal, but not necessary. Don’t use a nonstick pan.
5. Salt the potatoes lightly and place them in the pan. Sautee them without disturbing them until they are as brown as you want; it will only take a few minutes.
6. Turn them with a spatula and brown a second surface.
7. When they are as browned as you like, remove them, taste for salt, and serve.
Do-ahead note: You can also nuke the potatoes, then refrigerate. Cube and sautee when you’re ready.
Thanks again to Dan Reshef for the photos.
roasted boneless pork shoulder with garlic herb rub
the boneless pork shoulder in our January CSA delivery was just the sweetest little porcine nugget. i wanted to do something super simple so the meat would shine. this recipe is adapted from barbara kafka’s roasting. i was concerned with the high temperature it calls for, but the results were outstanding.
there were duck-fat sauteed dandelion greens on the side.
making a roast a week is one of my standard wintertime paleo strategies. i’ll be making this one again before spring has sprung!
7 cloves garlic
1 TBS each dried thyme and oregano
2 TBS each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3.5-4.5lb boneless pork shoulder, tied
1. Preheat oven to 500.
2. Combine all ingredients except the pork in a food processor and pulse to create a smooth puree.
3. Dry the roast and rub the paste all over it. Place it in a small roasting pan, fat side up.
4. Roast for 20 minutes, uncovered, at 500.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 and roast an additional 30 minutes. Spoon off some of the fat from the roasting pan and roast further until the roast registers 160, anywhere from 30-45 minutes more.
6. Remove from the oven and transfer to a platter; let rest 10 minutes. Snip off strings, slice and serve.