“When has a slightly overcooked carrot ruined a meal” – Anthony Bourdain
Weekends are made for braising meats, drinking wine, and being a little lazy. Some early effort in the kitchen is rewarded by the most delicious and comforting dishes and the promise of future spare time if there are leftovers. In our two-person household, this is usually the case! This weekend, I didn’t get to be lazy until Monday from working for and enjoying our dinner party. Lucky me got the day off for Presidents’ Day so I made up in the R&R department. Back to braising – and the recipe – Tyler Florence says it best in his book, Stirring the Pot: “When you bring up the heated liquid to a certain temperature, what you are really creating is a flavor whirlpool with all the tastiness from the liquid interacting with the flavors of the food in a continuous cycle”. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie (FFwD) was a slightly different take on the typical French/Italian oso bucco and short rib braises. It combined the ‘expected’ mix of aromatics with a fruity red wine and port, plus a few surprising touches like ginger and star anise.
Hello, steamy flavor whirlpool!
While shopping for the ingredients, I learned a few facts about port wine. This fortified dessert wine from Portugal can be either ruby or tawny. Ruby port is bottled after the first fermentation in metal tanks, while tawny ages for at least one more year in oak barrels. The recipe called for ruby, but I could only find tawny ports. Since the distinction between both port types was not a big deal for cooking purposes, we got an inexpensive bottle of tawny. Curiously enough, when I opened the bottle and measured out the amounts, it looked more like ‘ruby’ than ‘tawny’. We used a Malbec/Syrah blend we found for under $7 (total steal!) and stuck to Argentine wines for the rest of the gathering.
The ribs we found in the supermarket were these flat ones with little pieces of bone, which didn’t look like the picture in the book but worked out just fine. We could barely fit the six pounds of meat we got into the five-quart Dutch oven and had to broil them in two batches. Maybe it is time to upgrade to an seven or eight quart? We served the ribs with simple mashed potatoes (a mix of Yukon Gold and red-skinned), salad with white balsamic vinaigrette, and the reduced braising liquid on the side. We skipped the gremolata – a combination of citrus zest, herbs and garlic – but we almost always do when making braises.
If you want to join in the fun, visit the French Fridays with Dorie website and check out how other fellow bloggers did with their recipe. I love how much creativity goes into these posts; last week’s seemingly straightforward pancetta green beans were made into appetizers, served in a meal reminiscent of an airline food tray (presentation only, of course), and there are also the stories behind each interpretation or circumstance under which the dish was made. We already have our recipe schedule for March. I see savory French toast in my future!