I hope, dear reader, that sometimes the meal you make makes you cry. Cry for joy, that is — for weeping in ecstasy is truly one of life’s purest pleasures. Lucky for me (not to toot my own horn or anything), but this happens for me often – and I cook because I’m addicted to the sensation. Tonight’s meal plucked my heart-strings in an extra-special way, and now, an hour later, I’m still all verklempt. The sumptuous flavors and soul-soothing textures are still imprinted on my tongue, still indelibly etched into my being, and my heart beats more happily now that it’s been fed by this rich feast. This is the kind of warmth normally found only when laying in the arms of a lover on a cold, crisp night; a brand of almost spiritual fulfillment usually reserved strictly for religious experiences; a type of gastronomic indulgence rarely found outside of chi-chi celebrity chef’s kitchens that charge shocking prices after interminable waits-for-tables. I admit — I was inspired by the Porchetta plate at Kendall Square’s newest hottest gastro-joint, Firebrand Saints, a hopping establishment with a sexy menu, sexy staff, and good prices. Their home-roasted porchetta over polenta with wilted greens was a great dinner; but I admit I feel like I one-upped them here. Polenta can be a flavor suck, whereas grits are a flavor enhancer (‘cuz they’re less gluteny…), and a concentrated gravy of braising liquids and browned beef adds that much more. Yet this meal is something I can see being made out on the open range, by cowboys with some roots and hearty sprouts in their packs, a cast iron skillet over a campfire, and some of the last cuts of meat to tenderize with a slow and steady braise. Honest, homey, and perfect — see for yourself!
Roasted Short Rib, Roots, and Sprouts Skillet with Truffle Parmesan Grits
2 lbs bone-in short ribs
10-16 tiny wee potatoes
10-12 medium Brussels sprouts, larger ones split in half
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ discs
2 medium white onions, diced
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
sea salt, cracked black pepper, truffle salt, vegetable oil
12 oz dark beer
4 cups beef stock
1/2 cup grits
2 cups water
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
I headed out on Black Friday with a mind to blow some dough. Alas, I was mostly disappointed. Newbury Street was all “15% off your 4th item” and stuff – not the type of discounts I wanted. But I did find these adorable little cast iron skillets at Marshall’s (#thuglife) for a pittance, and I sort of cobbled my meal together with them in mind. After curing them fully this afternoon, before I got truly started with tonight’s meal I threw them back in my 350° oven to reheat back through thoroughly. They’ll come into play in about 30 minutes.
These beautiful beef short-ribs are from my new bestest friend, Blood Farms. (Holla out to Lucy+ Chris + Andrew! Friends I incessantly urged to take the drive to West Groton to visit said Blood Farm after they waxed philosophic about their tasty bits of slab bacon in my Thanksgiving Brussels sprouts.) These boney beefy hunks of meat were purchased a few weeks ago and frozen in my sad, crappy freezer, but which were happily defrosted this afternoon in preparation of tonight’s meal. I rinse them, pat them very dry, then bondage them like the naughty cow parts they are (um… to hold the bones in while braising.)
I’ve moved my skillets from my hot oven to my hot range, and I’ve added a douse of vegetable oil to them to heat ’til just smoking. I’ve dressed my bones in salt and pepper, and I place them, bone side up, into the sizzling frying fat. They sear 5 minutes on this side. Using tongs, I flip them so that each other edge sears for at least 2 minutes, until every surface has been kissed with brown.
This is my new daily beer: Session Premium Black Lager. It’s got the whole cool crisp lager thing going, with a nice malty full bodied richness characterized by the “black” eponym. It goes great with beef. 6 oz goes steaming into each pan…
After which time, my meat has begun to tighten on to the bone (the tough stage before the tenderness sets in), and almost all my beer has boiled down to a nice thick glaze. Nice. Thick. Glaze. But it needs more time, so I decide to meaten it up…
The last 30 minutes will turn the starting-to-fray-with-forks-but-still-tough-at-the-bone meat into succulent shreds of deliciousness. Those 30 minutes will also finish off the wee potatoes, sprouts, and the rest of the onion. I toss these beauties with the liquid left in the pan (it’s OK to add more beef broth if it’s too dry; the pan should be about 1/2way full of juice), then toss the pans back into the hot oven.
The final ingredient is the grits – a starchy alternative to a soppin’ biscuit, and my preference to polenta when wanting something corny on my plate. 2 cup water, 1/2 cup grits, simmered until tender.
I add my two tbs butter and my grated cheese to the pot when the grits are just about ready. Then I add a generous amount of truffle infused sea salt — to add flavor and savor. Removing the lid and heat source will thicken ’em up.
The beauty of a skillet is that you serve right in it. I sort of push my lovely caramelized veggies to one side and pour my cheesy truffled grits into the chasm that remains. They ooze like lava under the tenderific meat bones, the bursting potato pods, the crisp-edged, silky innard sprouts, the sweet carrots and the melting onions. The smooth corn goodness offsets the deep tones of meat and garden-fresh roasted flavor. With each bite, I ascend to some transcendental place where perfection dwells on the tines of a fork, while the dark deep smoldering heat of the iron underneath anchors me to terra firma, where lust lurks on the tongue. I challenge you, dear readers, to dive into this delight. A few easy ingredients, a few tantalizing hours of house aromas, and you too can experience Nirvana by merely plucking the fruits of your fork.