Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Coffee and Chile Braised Short Ribs

Does my cooking have deeper meaning? Does it somehow reflect who I am or who I want to be? Does what I chose to serve, and how I serve it, offer insight into my psyche? Is there really a way to analyze my life by rummaging through my sideboard, my cupboards and my crisper?

What would a culinary psychologist think of a girl like me? (And really, aren't these questions a bit heavy for a kid who really just wants to cook?)

Unfortunately, there isn't really any way to find out, now is there? Well, other than to walk you through my latest menu, and ask...what do you think? Does this sound like a meal made by a someone you would want to get to know?

You see, all of this yammering is leading up to this...I wanted to make something that would wow the boy without giving the impression I was going overboard in my quest to impress. (And, so he would make out with me afterwards. My friend The Chemist claims this should have led to a proposal -- he had the leftovers after all -- but I was satisfied with the aforementioned make-out session)

It had to be appealing, but not intimidating, simple and elegant, yet familiar. And of course, rife with big, bold flavors. I aimed to make something that seemed complex, but was actually a breeze to pull off (Then again, I will always feign it was easy. True or not. I’m just a 1950’s throw-back girl that way. Service with a smile.) and serves up in a flash.

With all that in mind I devised a menu that I was able to make almost all of ahead, leaving time to enjoy the night, the company and (of course) the bottle of bubbly.

We started the night off with some basic appetizers, while enjoying fresh mango margaritas (it was sweltering that day, and they come together SO easily in my ice cream maker!) and a bottle of Champagne, then it was on to the main event.

What was the main event? Why my dears, it was a delightful plate of coffee and ancho chile braised short ribs on a bed of smoked mashed potatoes that were garnished with Maine smoked sea salt (I actualy did smoke the potatoes too, in my smoker. Silly, since it only imparted a little bit of flavor, but a fun experiment none-the-less. Next time I think I will just add liquid smoke to the mashed potatoes and top them with the smoked salt. Less dangerous.) blanched then buttered haricot vert with minced garlic; and balsamic glazed cipollini onions. And for dessert? A tart and refreshing pudding cake. See? Simple, elegant, yet bold.

The combination of flavors and colors was perfect. Spicy, smoky, rich and smooth, crisp, bitter, sweet and all together delicious.

So what does this all say about me? Have I exposed my inner self or is it just a tasty meal truly devoid of Freudian undertones. I wonder. I really do. Though whatever it may say about my inner workings, it certainly looked and tasted divine.

I admit the picture up there is of the leftovers, (which is why the meat isn’t quite falling apart the way it was the evening before) and there weren’t much of those to contend with, but I hope you get the idea, and that you will try this, and enjoy! And when you do, tell me, is that not perfection? I think so.

2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
½ cup flour
Vegetable oil as needed
2 carrots, peeled, large dice
1 large brown onion, large dice
3 stalks celery, large dice
3 cloves garlic, in paper (in other words, not peeled)
3 large dried New Mexico chiles
½ cup boiling water
1 chipotle chile
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup brewed coffee
4 cups water or beef stock
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Salt the meat generously and set aside for at least two hours.

Pour the boiling water over the dried chiles and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water (reserving the liquid), de-stem and de-seed and add to your mini food processor (or just chop by hand).

In a dry skillet, toast the garlic cloves until slightly browned. Remove, let cool slightly, peel and add to the chiles.

Puree the re-hydrated chiles, the chipotle and the adobo with the garlic and some of the reserved water until smooth. Set aside.

Pour the flour onto a plate.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven on your stove top over medium heat.

Dredge the meat in the flour and add to the pot in small batches, turning once or twice to brown evenly. When all the meat is browned, remove and set aside while you quickly sauté the vegetables. When the vegetables are browned, add the chile mixture, the coffee, tomato paste, vinegar and 4 cups of water. Reduce the heat and simmer for three hours or until the meat is falling apart. (Check periodically, if the liquid level gets low, add more water) Remove the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 30 minutes to slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings.

This is best made the day before and re-heated, but it is also good right off the stove top.

Serves six


Cipollini Onions: Pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee this is a smaller, flat, pale onion. The flesh is a slight yellowish color and the skins are thin and papery. These are sweeter onions, having more residual sugar than yellow onions, but not as much as shallots. The advantage to cipollinis is that they are small and flat.

Adobo: A seasoning paste, usually containing ground chiles, vinegar, garlic and spices

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After a thorough analysis of your menu, I have determined that it means that you are: delicious.

WARNING: I am not a professional psychologist!
Well, if I was a boy, I'd definitely have made out with you. Yum. I'd add one more adjective to your "simple, elegant, and bold" and that's "aggressive." This was an aggressive meal, in the very best way, by woman who knows what she wants! Bravo!
I so love braised short ribs...I'm doing some braised lamb shanks tonight!
If it was as hot as you say it was and you turned on any hot appliance in the kitchen to make a meal for me I'd think you were nuts! I really don't know anyone who likes hot food in the mid summer heat. I'd have gone with much more in the way of cold food, less cluttered with more interesting combinations of raw stuff.

So yeah, my take would have been trying too hard. Any guy who likes you already would make out with you even if you served him tuna salad.
Prom - LOL. That's funny! For one thing, my kitchen is insanely huge so the oven doesnt have much affect, and I actually made the ribs the day before, so I when he was here, I just re-heated for about five minutes...and voila!
Wow--I'm gay, but I'd put out with anyone who whipped up that meal for me! I'm sure you impressed. Let's just hope that there wasn't a congealed clump of coffee and chile seasoning on your upper lip all evening left over from your taste-testing before his arrival. That would only happen to me...
AIF - I knew I was mad, mad, MAD for you, now you've proved why. xoxox,
Your new, most-favorite straight-girl groupy,
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