There aren’t many things in the world as comforting as a something braised for dinner on a cold day. Unfortunately, in Singapore, there aren’t ever any cold days, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still imagine them. One of the things that make braising meat so good is that the technique tends to use cuts of meat that would otherwise be quite tough. Beef short ribs, oxtail, and pork cheeks are all pretty hefty pieces of meat that holds amazing flavour if you cook them right, and we do here.
The beauty of these cuts of meat, like beef short ribs and cheeks is that they are constantly moving inside the animal, breathing or chewing all day. This means that they are extremely well-developed muscles, which translates to a taste sensation when cooked properly. The crazy amount of collagen in these muscles makes them appear tough, but the proper application of moisture and heat breaks the strand of collagen down into three strands of gelatin which provides a great texture to the finished dish.
I’ve always been a big fan of these slow-cooked dishes, and not just for the flavour. Although quick meals are great, it’s really not that much more effort to shove your beef short ribs in the oven for the afternoon while you’re out, and then have a meal ready for when you get back in. You could even use your slow cooker if you’ve got one and don’t want to leave the oven on for hours.
For something as flavoursome and rich as beef short ribs, you need to find the perfect carb. There’s a lot to pick from really; mashed potato works well, but what I really love is some rich and cheesy polenta. It doesn’t have to be a total cheese and cream overload, but it just goes perfectly with the beefy ribs.
It’s always great to add a bit of texture here too, so it isn’t all soft meat and polenta with every mouthful. I’ve found that parmesan crisps can be the ideal accompaniment to beef short ribs and the already cheesy polenta. They’re super simple too, just whack some parmesan in the oven and wait a few minutes! Pick some green veg to have on the side and you’re golden. Enjoy!
When putting the meat onto braise, put it into a cold oven, and then turn it up to temperature with the meat already inside. Doing this gives the meat the most time at the perfect heat for the activation of the host of enzymes which are responsible for the intense flavour found in dry-aged beef. Starting your braising like this will result in a more tender and tastier product, faster.
Beef short ribs pack loads of flavour but can be tough if not treated properly. Braise them down with red wine then finish with creamy polenta and parmesan.
- 4 beef short ribs 200g each
- 1 large onion finely sliced
- 2 stick celery finely sliced
- 2 carrots finely sliced
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 500 mL red wine
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1000 mL roasted chicken stock fresh
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 250 mL polenta
- 1000 mL water
- 1 tsp salt
- 50 g parmesan
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 10 tbsp parmesan grated
Place a frying pan over high heat with enough oil to coat the bottom. Sear the short ribs very well on all sides and set aside.
When the ribs are out, add the onion, celery and carrot straight into the pan and saute over a medium-high heat for around 3 minutes before adding the garlic and cooking for another 2.
Add the wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.
Transfer the vegetables to an oven dish or braising pot. Place the herbs on top, followed by the meat. Add enough of the stock to nearly cover the meat (this must be fresh stock, either bought or homemade, the powdered cubes or bouillon will not work.)
Put on the lid of your pan, or seal tightly with a few layers of foil. Put the pan into a cold oven and then turn it on to 120oC. Cook for at least four hours. The ribs are done when the bone comes out of the meat with a little wiggle.
Remove the ribs from the braising liquid and vegetables and set aside to rest.
Strain the liquid and return to a pan over a high heat. Discard the vegetables and herbs.
Simmer the braising liquid until reduced by around ¾, regularly skimming any fat and scum from the top. During the process, add the mustard and whisk well to incorporate.
While the sauce is reducing, remove the bones from the meat and trim off any sinew or silverskin from around where the bone was, leaving just the meat.
When the sauce is reduced and has become thick and sticky, return the meat to the pan to warm through. Ensure the meat gets a good coating of the sauce before serving.
Measure out the polenta and water. The water needs to be four times the volume of the polenta.
Bring the water and salt to the boil in a large saucepan. Pour the polenta slowly into the water, continually whisking until it no longer settles to the bottom when you stop.
Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook for around 30 minutes, stirring well every 5. It's done when the polenta grains are tender, and the texture is thick and creamy.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and parmesan, stirring well to combine. Keep warm until serving.
Preheat the oven to 200oC.
Divide the parmesan out into four piles on baking paper or a silicone mat.
Flatten out each pile slightly and then bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the parmesan has become golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool down before serving.