Slowing it Down with Braised Short Ribs!
Perhaps it's just me, but it seems like Christmas comes faster with each passing year. One minute you're poking away the Halloween decorations and the next, your thrown into Christmas Chaos! There's not enough transition time if you ask me. No sooner does the clock strike 12:01 a.m. on November 1st than all evidence of Halloween is erased from store shelves and replaced with Christmas decorations and carols being piped out of every sound system no matter where you go. Every year I whine the same lament over and over again...'It's too soon!'. But do the merchants take heed? Certainly not! We're all victims of a retail plot to overtake our souls and pocketbooks! Sorry for the rant but I just had to get that off of my chest.
I spend most, if not all, November in denial only to find myself in a mini state of panic during the first week of December when I realize that I have so much to do in so little time, which means 3 weeks of blowing my budget all to hell in a mad dash to the finish line that comes at 6pm on Christmas Eve. It's not bad enough that on a regular weekly basis we juggle work schedules and appointments, December means adding hours of shopping, gift wrapping, party-going, baking and cooking. In the midst of all of that, it can be quite the challenge to prepare nurtritious and hearty, not to mention budget friendly, weeknight meals. I mean, seriously, who has the time?
Having worked myself up into a proper panic this past Tuesday thinking of all of the things I had yet to do before C-Day, I felt the need to cook out my stress. My only problem was, I didn't actually have the time to spend a few hours maternly nurturing a splendid meal along. So how could I make a deeply satisfying meal without dedicating the time it usually takes? Well, by using my slow cooker of course!
I wanted to make something deeply flavoured and soul soothing and decided on short ribs. Beef short ribs are one of my favourite cuts of meat. They are the meaty ends of the beef ribs from the hardworking chest and front shoulders of cattle. No other cut has the rich beefiness and 'melt in your mouth' texture. But in order to achieve that tenderness, beef short ribs have to be braised, low and slow and nothing says low and slow more than a slow cooker! I decieed I was going to braise my short ribs so that I would have a rich, deeply flavoured sauce. Braising is an age-old technique that requires more patience than accuracy. To braise means to slow cook in a covered pot on low with some sort of liquid. The magic of braising is that it transforms the tough, rugged texture from all the connective tissue of short ribs into fork tender, fall-off-the-bone meat that creates a simply scrumptious sauce along the way. Attempting to cook short ribs any other way, such as roasting or grilling, would leave them impossbly tough.
My first step was to trim some of the external fat from my beef short ribs, keeping the internal fat and silver skin membrane intact which helps hold the meat to the bone during the cooking process. Not to worry though, low and slow cooking turns that connective tissue gelatinous. While most slow cooker recipes say to just throw all of your ingredients into the slow cooker, put on the cover, turn on the heat and walk away, short ribs deserve a little love and affection. The end result is well worth a little prep work I figure. That being said, I seasoned my short ribs with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and browned them about 4 minutes per side in some olive oil in a large, very hot, pot. When the short ribs were browned, I quickly sauteed leek, white onion, mini portobello mushrooms, carrot and garlic. I placed the short ribs into my slow cooker and topped them with the sauteed vegetables.
Next I deglazed my pot with a bottle of dry red wine. Red wine and beef are a match made in heaven and while I was perhaps a little heavy handed with the shiraz (it's what I had on hand), there's no such thing as too much wine, right? As the wine came to a boil, I scraped up all of the delicious brown bits from the pot and then added in a cup of vegetable broth and three or four sprigs of fresh thyme. When the sauce had reduced by about one quarter, I poured it over the ribs and vegetables in the slow cooker. I then popped in 10-12 grape tomatoes that I had pierced with the tip of my knife. Before putting the cover on, I placed a large piece of parchment paper right down on top of the ingredients. (I did this so that the parchment paper would reduce the 'head space' in the slow cooker which would help produce a more concentrated sauce). After placing the cover on my slow cooker, I set it on high and then left it alone for 3 and 1/2 hours.
During those 3 and 1/2 hours, I had plenty of time to decide what I was going to serve with my short ribs, (not to mention wrap the four presents I have managed to pick up, put on two loads of laundry, pick my daughter up from school, drop her off at her friend's for a couple of hours and then pick her up again). I considered mashed potatoes then polenta and then it occurred to me that we hadn't had celery root in a few weeks. My husband loves pureed celery root perhaps more than mashed potatoes and I think they're way easier to make. (I recently raved about the virtues of Celery Root in my blog of November 10th. Suffice to say it's the ugly duckling of the vegetable family that transforms into a beautiful swan, loaded with health benefits. You can read more by clicking here.)
Having the short ribs cooking away in my slow cooker and knowing that I was going to serve them on a smooth and creamy bed of pureed celery root, the only thing left to consider was a little color on the plate. I decided to go with roasted asparagus.
When the 3 and 1/2 hours on my slower cooker had elapsed, and let me tell you, our home smelled divine at this point, I removed the cover and the parchment paper and continued to cook the short ribs for another 1/2 hour or so, cover off, so that the sauce would thicken up a little. I then peeled the celery root and cut it into 2 inch pieces. I also peeled a medium sized russet potato and cut it to the same size and quartered a small onion. I heated 1 and 1/2 cups of 0.5% milk and 1 and 1/2 cups of water on medium heat in a medium saucepan and added in the celery root, potato and onion. I brought that to a gentle boil and let the veg cook for about 20 minutes until they were fork tender. While that was happeneing, I placed approximately 2 lbs. of fresh asparagus spears, after cracking off the woody ends, on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and roasted them in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 18-20 minutes. When the celery root was cooked, I drained the pot and placed the cooked celery root, potato and onion in my food processor, pureed it until smooth, added in about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and seasoned it with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I poured the pureed celery root back into the saucepan and kept it warm while I placed my roasted asparagus on a serving dish, drizzled with aged balsamic and shaved some parmesan cheese on top using my vegetable peeler. Everything was now ready to serve!
Creamy, smooth Celery Root Puree with Potato and Onion was first on the plate.
Fall off the bone, melt in your mouth Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs were placed on top of the fluffy cloud of celery root, all topped with the savory, rich red wine and vegetable braising sauce with rich, beefy flavours!
Simple yet scrumptious Roasted Asparagus, drizzled with a little aged balsamic and shavings of parmesan cheese were the absolute perfect finishing touch! (See the little brown specks in the sauce? That's beefy goodness right there!)
The 2 lbs. of beef short ribs cost $14.53, celery root $3.99 and the asparagus spears were on sale for $3.49. I had made enough food to serve 6 people and I estimate the cost of this meal to be $4.20 per person. To have the same meal at any restaurant would easily cost you 5 times that!
You simply must try these Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs with Celery Root Puree with Potato and Onion and Roasted Asparagus as soon as you possibly can! If you've never had beef short ribs, you're missing out on one of life's great pleasures...and I'm not exaggerating this time! Other than the initial prep, most of the cooking time doesn't require anything from you but patience! This meal is fantastic during the week or as Sunday Dinner, but it's also guest-worthy! Heck...I'd even go so far as to say it's restaurant-worthy!
Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs, Celery Root Puree with Potato and Onion and Roasted Asparagus....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!