Short Ribs: Nothing Short of Fabulous

I have been working with the Sous Vide Supreme  since last February and I continue to be amazed at how great most of what I produce using this gadget. That having been said, let’s just face the truth: this machine is a complete luxury. There is nothing I have cooked with it that can’t be cooked conventionally. It is also true however that certain things come out of the SVS off-the-charts fabulous. So far, the short ribs I made recently top this list.

Short ribs are, IMHO, a fantastic food in their own right though they are also difficult to cook well. Absent an SVS or some other kind of sous vide rig (such as this one or this one), short ribs must be slow cooked using conventional means. This usually involves braising: a method which inherently removes flavor from its subject in order to obtain a desired tenderness and texture. The challenge then is to spice the braise in such a way as to impart some intensity back into the protein and, mostly, to sauce the final product so as to give the consumer back some of the flavor that was unavoidably removed in the cooking process. Take for example a traditional stew. Often made with plenty of aromatics such as onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and bay. But without all that sauce, the meat is otherwise rather dry and tasteless. It is often stringy, too. One of the beautiful things about sous vide cooking is that flavor does not leave the food for the water, as it does with a regular braise and, if cooked at the right temperature, the meat does not become stringy.

With all that fat surrounding it and nestled close to a bone, short rib meat actually has an astoundingly delicious natural flavor. In the sous vide cooking process, unless you cook meat at a high temperature (at least 70C/158F), the fat does not render out into the braising liquid, either. Instead it stays in place, moistening and tenderizing the meat all during the  cooking time. In addition, with sous vide cooking, even at a very low temp you are able to cook protein for a long enough time to precipitate the break down most of the collagen within without turning the protein to mush or, worse yet, string. This method results in a level of tenderness that cannot otherwise be achieved in normally tough cuts of meat. All the while, you can maintain the doneness of the meat by choosing a temperature low enough to leave it pink and juicy even after the hours required to break down the collagen.

I bagged my short ribs after patting them dry and sprinkling them with salt, white pepper, a little paprika and some garlic powder. Each rib got its own pouch.

I cooked them in the water oven for 72 hours at 55C/131F. That’s right 3 whole days the meat was swimming! The temperature I chose is the one generally used to obtain what I would call medium rare beef, though some might call it rare.

The above photo shows what the short ribs looked like after their 72 hour swim.

You can see that they are still very pink and you can also easily see why the fat had to be cut away. But let me tell you, that fat did its job. The texture of the meat was way beyond incredible. As usual, to make the dish more appealing, some browning was in order. I used my handy Iwatani Torch though a searing in a red-hot skillet would have worked just fine too.

Though I removed a great deal of the fat, this meat was beautifully marbled which meant that a quick searing produced a perfect crust. The fat left on the meat became crunchy while the juices carmelized on the outside My mouth was watering as I plated our meal.

When I took the meat from the pouches I had reserved the juices. This I cooked, strained and strained again. I enriched the clear liquid with a red wine reduction that I had flavored with mirepoix, minced garlic and spices. I added all this to some veal demi-glace and reduced it a little more. In the end I had a beautiful and rich sauce which I lightly ladled over the meat.

A while before dinner time, I took a bounty of summer vegetables which I had picked up at one of my favorite farmers’ markets and roasted them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Roasted turnips, baby summer squash, new potatoes and golden carrots made a beautiful rainbow on my plate.

Decadent? Absolutely. The meat had the look and richness of the finest prime rib but it was melt-in-your-mouth tender with a texture that I could not possibly do justice to in words. You simply have to try this if you can some day. No, I could not eat a meal like this with any frequency (though I would love to). But my oh my, we savored every bite we took with our eyes rolling back in amazement – it was truly a religious eating experience. We are not likely to forget this meal anytime soon!

Now consider this: short ribs are considered a cheap cut of meat! They are often reserved for soups or stews or the meat is removed and ground for burgers! If you really enjoy short ribs or other meats usually reserved for braises, put a sous vide rig on your wish list! You will find a new dimension!

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7 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Sous Vide, sous vide cooking, Sous Vide Supreme, water oven

7 responses to “Short Ribs: Nothing Short of Fabulous

  1. mac

    Sounds awesome Merridith.

    1 question though. Was it 96 hours/4 days or 48 hours/2 days?

    • So sorry. I totally messed that up – I must have been in a daze when I typed the numbers! It was 3 days, 72 hours. (Double checked my notes, just to make sure.) Thanks so much for pointing that out!

  2. Hi, Merridith!
    It looks deadly de-lish! (you say 72 hours, and then when it is out of the bag, you say this is the meat after 48 hours… thus, the confusion)
    I am impressed and cannot WAIT to get the machine for myself. Thought it might come on the birthday – but, that just passed. We are leaving tomorrow for Europe, so I will have to order it when I return. The ribs I did were the most outstanding dish! :)
    Valerie

  3. Stacy

    Can’t wait to try these in my new sous vide machine! Question: is 72 hours too long for boneless short ribs?

    • Thanks for looking in on my blog. I am trying to get back to posting regularly but haven’t cleared up all the health issues yet. Anyway, I did the short ribs for 72 hours because of the lower temperature I used because I wanted them to be more rare. However, I think it would be fine to take them out after 48 hours and I would be curious to know if the extra day is, in fact superfluous. David Chang (Momofuku) says 48 hours, but he uses 60C as his temp. Then again, IMHO he is certainly the king of short ribs cooked in this style! Let me know how it turns out.

    • PS. I ate at three of Chang’s restaurants lately – everything I ordered was heavenly. I was not at the more fancy venue (Momofuku Ko) so I did not get to taste his short ribs.

  4. Stacy

    Consider me your guinnea pig! I’ll try them for 48 hours and let you know how they taste! BTW, this blog and this particular recipe is what caused my husband to purchase the Sous Vide Supreme for me for Mother’s Day! THANK YOU!!!

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