Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braised Beef Short Ribs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Pot Luck Dinner”

The Set-up: Ina and her friends, T.R. (!!) and Kirk (Curt?), are planning a pot luck dinner together.

The Menu: Scott’s Short Ribs, Cheddar Dill Cornbread, Meringue Chantilly with Stewed Berries

0:59 – Ina and two friends, the famous T.R., and another fellow named Kirk or possibly Curt are sipping coffee at Tate’s Bakeshop and scheming their next move.

1:18 – T.R. proposes a pot luck dinner at his house. Ina immediately says she’ll make the main course, Kirk/Curt drops some wine knowledge on them so he’s in charge of drinks, leaving T.R. with dessert duty. Something berry-related.

2:01 – We’re back in the barn where Ina says she has three rules for pot luck parties: 1. Make it ahead, 2. Make something that travels well, 3. Make it delicious. The result: She’s making Scott’s Short Ribs starting with roasting the beef in the oven rather than on the stove top.

3:45 – Over to T.R. who claims he’s going to make Meringues Chantilly with Stewed Berries and despite the fact that he’s in Loaves and Fishes he’s just buying cream…right. #Chekhovsrecipecard

4:11 – Back to Ina who is prepping all the vegetables that will go into the short rib sauce - leeks, fennel, carrots, celery - to create layers of flavor. Yum!

5:52 – Ina says that all the vegetables are intended to counter balance the richness of the beef with a brighter, fresh taste.

9:24 – Now that the hardier vegetables have been cooking for awhile, it’s time to add the garlic, tomato paste, and wine. Very boeuf bourgignon inspired.

10:07 – Pro Tip #1: tie the herbs together with kitchen twine to make removing the stems easier later.

11:43 – Short ribs are out of the oven and ready to be nestled into the sauce before they go back in the oven to slowly braise. Surprise ingredient: brown sugar.

12:18 – You know I don’t normally quibble with Ina, but I have to bring up a discrepancy. In this episode she said we didn’t have to make our own beef stock (see minute 19:23), now she has homemade!

13:26 – Over to T.R. as he shops for the berries he’ll need for the Meringues Chantilly with Stewed Berries all the while making grandiose statements about how he’s going to make them all by himself. #foreshadowing

14:39 – The ribs are out of the oven and they’re literally falling off the bone. Pro Tip #2: Bones help to flavor and thicken the sauce.

18:31 – The sauce has reduced while the short ribs rested and now Ina is just keeping everything warm until it’s time for dinner.

19:45 – We’re back with T.R. as he continues to make progress on dessert – whipping cream, cooking fresh berries – all in a very charming cottage kitchen while wearing a pink/white seersucker shirt. How seaside.

20:52 – It’s not nice to laugh at another’s misfortune, but T.R. is about to be hung on his own petard when he realizes that meringues need to bake for 2 hours and then slowly cooled for several more hours. His reaction is straight from the Cher Horowitz play book.

21:20 – While T.R. is left to deal with this setback, we go back to Ina where all is serene as she bakes Cheddar Dill Cornbread to sop up the sauces.

22:03 – I’ve made a version of Ina’s cornbread before and it’s incredible since it’s actually moist unlike most others. Add it to your repertoire immediately!

23:44 – I love that Ina uses her food processor so sparingly. Call me crazy, but I kind of prefer to do as much as I can manually – more control, I guess?

27:48 – Ina’s devotion to garnishing with an ingredient that’s actually in the dish is spot-on; in this case: shreds of cheddar on top. I’m always confused when the decoration is totally unrelated to the recipe.

28:12 – T.R. is throwing himself on the mercy of Anna Pump back at Loaves and Fishes who rescues him with the last three meringues in the store, which he neglects to pay for as he races home in his Jeep woody wagon. Oh, production team that’ll be $12!

29:27 – Kirk/Curt, with impeccable timing, arrives bearing wine just as dinner hits the table. They all dive in and Ina throws some light shade in T.R.’s direction with a comment about how she can’t wait for dessert. She knows something’s up.

29:50 – He tries to pretend it’s all Barefoot “buy something, make something…” style, but he’s 100% caught! I hope she makes him do all the dishes.

Final Thoughts:
Do more garnishing and think through even the smallest elements of the dish.

Poor T.R., the comic relief but also a reminder to always read the recipe!

How did Kirk/Curt get off so easily? He’s on wine-duty again next time?!

Braised Beef Short Ribs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I wrongly thought that because I see short ribs on restaurant menus all the time they must take a lot of skill to prepare. As it turns out, making Scott’s Short Ribs is dead easy and makes you look like a hero.

Trimming the Beef – My ribs didn’t come pre-trimmed and to be honest I didn’t notice that they were supposed to be. Maybe I should have learned from T.R. and read the recipe more carefully! The good news is this won’t sink your results in anyway, but it does mean that you’ll be dodging some fatty bits later. In the future I will definitely trim!

Pre-roasting – I love this method of browning the ribs, so much simpler than in a pan. I lined my baking sheet with aluminum foil just to make the dishes a little easier and patted the ribs dry with paper towels before seasoning to make sure they would really get a good sear.

Vegetables – I’ve still find chopping vegetables really relaxing and with so many items to prep this is a great chance to practice your knife skills. I made one small change and added more carrots – about 6 medium – just because braised carrots are so good and I’ll always take a few extra!

Portioning – I didn’t realize how much the ribs would shrink in the cooking and with so much sauce it’s not a bad idea to make a few extra than you think you’ll need if you can fit them in the pot. Depends on the appetite of your eaters, but 2-3 per person is about right.

Braised Beef Short Ribs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, totally. I used a rimmed baking sheet, 5.5 qt French oven, chef’s knife, large cutting board, vegetable peeler, tongs, measuring cups, and a wooden spatula. Aluminum foil will make clean up faster and paper towels are helpful for getting a good sear on the ribs.

The Verdict:
I made Scott’s Short Ribs as a special dinner for Mike’s birthday celebration, but honestly with so little hands-on time needed this could be an anytime recipe. The beef is amazingly delicious, fall off the bone tender and the vegetables are savory and super flavorful. I’m so glad I made this before winter truly arrives so this can be a staple of our cold-weather dinners! PS: This is really good with the Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits!

Braised Beef Short Ribs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Every once in a while I’ll be paging through a cooking magazine and a recipe will reach out; grabbing me by the lapels, just begging to be made (proverbially of course.) That was the case with this Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak. I found it in a compilation issue of Fine Cooking’s best summer recipes and the name alone summoned mental images of spicy sweet steak consumed on a summer evening somewhere in Kentucky blue grass country.

Wheels were set in motion and a few days later we were channeling a back porch pace up here on the twelfth floor complete thanks to a little urban grilling and some fragrant, ripe peaches. Because what goes better with bourbon than stone fruit?

The humidity has loosened its grip on New York giving way to blessedly fresh mornings and warm afternoons when laying on your back in a lawn of clover while the bumblebees buzz seems like the best possible way to spend an hour or two. This recipe perfectly captures that vibe – gingery warmth, minimal effort.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak (serves 4) 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger root
1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak, or 1 1/2-inch-thick New York strip steaks 

Instructions:
Use a paring knife to peel the ginger and then a microplane to finely grate into a medium liquid measuring cup. Add the soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard to the cup. Whisk together to combine the ingredients and dissolve the sugar.

Place the steak in a large zip top bag and pour the marinade over the meat. Seal the bag and massage to cover the steaks with marinade, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Flip the bag occasionally and if refrigerating bring the steaks back to room temperature before grilling.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high flame for 3-4 minutes. When the pan is hot, remove the steak from the marinade and shake off any excess, but don’t pat it dry. Reserve the marinade.

Grill the steak until good sear marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes. With tongs, rotate the steak 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the edges are a little crisp, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Flip the steak and grill the other side in the same way until the exterior is nicely seared and the steak is cooked to your liking, 10 to 12 minutes total cooking time for medium rare. Let the steaks rest for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch carefully to prevent burning.

When the sauce is thickened and the meat has rested, slice the flank steak thinly across the grain. For strip steaks, slice thickly or serve in chunks. Serve with a drizzle of the sauce

Re-written and slightly adapted from Molly Steven’s Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak in Fine Cooking magazine.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used a two-burner cast iron grill pan, tongs, microplane grater, paring knife, and medium cutting board. I also needed a large liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups/spoons, and a dinner fork, a large zip top bag (1 gallon size) and aluminum foil.

The Verdict:
We loved the Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak preparation – savory soy sauce, the alcoholic sharpness of the bourbon, all balanced against smoky sticky caramelized sugar. I served the flank steak along with a fresh salad of baby spinach topped with blueberries and a few slivered almonds – special shout out from Mike for the accompanying grilled peaches as a way to bridge the gap. This recipe is incredibly easy and the results are excellent.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Memorial Day Steak Salad

Memorial Day Steak Salad    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Memorial Day Steak Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

I had a revelation a few weeks ago. I was sitting on my friend Lucy’s back deck having lunch when it came to me: steak salad is flipping amazing. In between bites of excellently cooked beef (thanks Shane!) I tried to remember the last time I had it and drew a blank. Was it really that long?

It’s clear to me that this American classic has been shockingly neglected in my kitchen. Thankfully, I realized my mistake just in time for summer, a season made for steak salad if there ever was one.

You’ll notice that there aren’t a ton of frills here – no crumbles of blue cheese, no sprinkle of crisp bacon or chopped egg - and that’s intentional. I wanted this to still actually be a salad, a dish that highlights the deliciousness of grilled sirloin for sure, but one that also gives the great summer produce space to shine.

It requires very little cooking, all of which is done ahead of time and can be done outside. It’s substantial but light enough for the hot months and steak always feels special, so it’s perfect for guests. I see only upside to this dish and that it will be making a more regular appearance on our dinner table in the weeks to come, maybe even this weekend…

Memorial Day Steak Salad    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Memorial Day Steak Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Memorial Day Steak Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 - 3 pound tri-tip sirloin steak
8 cups baby spinach or arugula, washed and dried
3 medium carrots, shaved
1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Brianna’s buttermilk ranch or creamy blue cheese

Instructions:
About 30 minutes before cooking, remove the steak from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Pat both sides dry with paper towels and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until quite hot.

Sear the steak for 5-6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove from the heat and cover with foil. Rest 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute in the steak. Place the entire steak in the refrigerator and chill for 2-3 hours, or until ready to serve.

Thinly slice the chilled tri-tip and place on top of the salad greens, shaved carrots, cucumber slices and tomato halves among the plates. Drizzle with dressing to taste, I prefer Brianna’s Classic Buttermilk Ranch.

Memorial Day Steak Salad    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Memorial Day Steak Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100%. I used a grill pan, large platter, medium cutting board, tongs, a chef’s knife, and a vegetable peeler, and foil, paper towels. That’s it!

The Verdict:
As you can imagine this went over well. Both Mike and I love a beautifully cooked steak (medium/medium-rare) and serving it cold is a refreshing change. Normally I go for vinaigrettes, but in this case an awesome buttermilk ranch is the perfect compliment. The crisp vegetables and the bitterness of the arugula, are all balanced by the creamy dressing. We will definitely be looking for as many excuses as we can find to make this recipe. I hope you do too!

Memorial Day Steak Salad  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Memorial Day Steak Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast

Company Pot Roast  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Comfort and Company”

The Set-up: Ina is re-testing some classic recipes and updating them for company.

The Menu: Company Pot Roast, Baked Potatoes with Yogurt and Sour Cream

0:27 – First step of Company Pot Roast: haul out the biggest pot in the house! That is seriously a giant Le Creuset French oven.

1:11 – Pro Tip #1: Pat the roast dry with paper towels to help it sear in the pot.

2:34 – I love a two-fer - Pro Tip #2: After seasoning, dredge the roast in flour – the light coating browns the meat and thickens the sauce.

3:25 – Ina lets one of her secrets for making this company-ready: she’s stealing some inspiration from Beef Bourgignon. Which if you think about it is basically the same dish, just fancied up.

4:16 – Ina keeps a notebook near by when she’s testing recipes to keep track of what she’s doing, a practice I whole-heartedly endorse. If I can’t remember what I did, how can I recreate it?

5:48 – Need a suggestion for the Company Pot Roast extra sauce? Ina uses it to make pasta Bolognese.

6:02 – This is a classic stew/soup/braise combo: onion, carrot, celery, garlic, leeks. Yum!

7:16 – The plot thickens! Ina is going to be home alone and doesn’t need an entire pot roast, so she’s calling her friend Dwyer (who’s in the depths of a kitchen remodel) to see if she’d like dinner. Naturally the answer is “yes.”

10:47 – Apparently if you want to terrify Ina just invite her to a really stiff, formal dinner with starched napkins and hard chairs. Actually that does sound unappealing…

11:22 – Now for the bouquet garni of rosemary and thyme fresh from the garden and tied with kitchen twine.

12:28 – In goes the Burgundy - she really is drawing on beef Bourgignon - cognac, tomatoes, and chicken stock. And (!) something really old-fashioned: a bouillon cube!

13:10 – Dwyer the lucky duck is now jetting around town buying flowers for Ina as a thank you. So sweet!

14:28 – Pot roast is in the oven to bubble away for a few hours. I love hands-off cooking!

18:39 – On to the Baked Potatoes with Yogurt and Sour Cream and Ina is using baking potatoes – specifically russets.

19:02 – Pro Tip #3: Potatoes bake better if the skins are dry before they go in the oven. I never knew that!

20:35 – These are some seriously no-fuss potatoes – no foil, no olive oil, not even pierced with a fork! – just placed right on the oven rack at 350 degrees.

21:41 – Dwyer continues to plan a thank you for Ina by picking up Chinese take-out for dinner. If you’re curious, she orders General Tso’s Chicken with Broccoli and white rice – I assume this is Ina’s usual?

22:53 – Pro Tip for the Ages: “You can make something really simple, but if it’s beautifully presented it makes all the difference in the world.” I’m trying to incorporate that into so many areas of life!

26:16 – Why choose chunky or pureed sauce for Company Pot Roast when you can have both?

27:03 – Pro Tip #4: Mashing the flour into softened butter prevents lumpy sauce. This is one of my all time favorite tricks.

28:20 – I like how Ina upped the fanciness with the ingredients and the presentation by pre-slicing the roast. So much easier to serve!

29:38 – Dwyer arrives to pick up dinner and deliver her surprises to Ina, who seems genuinely delighted by them.

29:59 – Fast forward to dinner time and Dwyer sends Ina a photo of everyone enjoying their delicious meal. Yay!

Company Pot Roast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Final Thoughts:
It’s amazing how the addition of an ingredient or one small change can transform one dish into something else entirely (ex. Beef Bourgignon vs. Company Pot Roast)

Still reflecting on the Pro Tip for the Ages. Should I stitch a throw pillow so I don’t forget?

Wondering, with all the cooking Ina does, how many people in the Hamptons get a catered dinner each week compliments of the Barefoot Contessa Test Kitchen?

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made similar dishes in the past, but I decided to make Company Pot Roast any way to learn more about Ina’s techniques for developing flavor and to see if it really was special enough for company.

Alliums – as I’ve been cooking more I’ve realized that using multiple members of this family - aka onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, etc. – can build layers and depth in a dish. The complexity of flavors increases so much just by using adding shallot or leeks to the standard onions. Try it sometime and see if you taste a difference too.

Sauce – similar to the layering of alliums, Ina’s recipes (and now my own) often incorporate wine and in this case, cognac too. I’m continually amazed by the richness a cup of red wine adds to a tomato sauce and the combination with roast beef is classic.

Presentation – the recipe suggests allowing the roast to rest before slicing and serving with the sauce. Such a small adjustment, but such a big difference! It saves the host(ess) from wrangling a giant piece of meat at the table and definitely takes this dish to “company” level.

Company Pot Roast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Surprisingly, yes - Company Pot Roast is essentially a one-pot meal! I used a large cutting board, my trusty 5 quart Le Creuset, and a blender. I also used a chef’s knife, measuring cups & spoons, tongs, a wooden spatula, a large spoon, and a large pronged fork. Kitchen twine will be helpful too.

The Verdict:
Who could doubt that the Barefoot Contessa has a kick-ass (pardon my French) and company appropriate recipe for pot roast? The flavor of the sauce is amazing - definitely serve this along side something to soak up the extra, like mashed potatoes or polenta - deeply tomato-y and rich with the wine and herbs. I’d also recommend saving any that remains after dinner to serve over pasta or with baked eggs (more on that idea next week!)

Company Pot Roast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Company Pot Roast | Image: Laura Messersmith