Sunday, November 2, 2014

Lazy Day Beef Ribs

I like beef ribs a little more than pork ribs.  Trust me, I will never turn down pork ribs, but give me a choice and I will take the beef.  This is mainly due to growing up with more beef than pork available on the dinner table (not that there was ever very much of either one).

Mostly dinner beef consisted of hamburger, but occasionally (every few months) whole cuts appeared on the plate.  Steak wasn’t common, and I assume it was because I was a kid, and the best cuts went to the adults.  The first time I had steak I believe I was 8 or 9 years old.  My parents started talking about it a week or so ahead of the dinner when I was to get my first taste of it, and they extolled the virtues of the steak in great excess.  I couldn’t figure this out, but I guessed it must be something out of this world.

I came into the house on Saturday evening expecting my first steak dinner, but the smell from the kitchen worried me a lot.  My first thought was that something had rotted in the trash.  Soon my mother came out of the kitchen and noticed me sitting on the sofa reading.

“The steaks will be ready in a few minutes.  Go get washed up for dinner.”

Everyone gathered at the table and I was handed a plate with my steak on it.  I didn’t remember any piece of beef looking like this before.  It was sort of fried and covered with onions and gravy.  And the smell!  Ugh!  But I took a bite.  That was the worst thing I had ever put into my mouth.  I couldn’t eat it.  Needless to say I was in trouble.  I could either eat it or go to bed early and hungry.  I went to bed.

About a year or so later we visited some family friends and steaks were on the grill.  As soon as I heard we were having steaks, I wanted to go home.  Oh, how I wanted to go home.  I didn’t care what anyone thought about my actions, I wasn’t going to eat that steak, and I was going home.

Well, I was forced under threat of a major whipping to stay and eat that steak.  And to my surprise, it looked good, it smelled good, and it tasted good.  What happened?

Later that evening I commented about the difference in the steaks.  I heard some grumbling from my parents but little else.  The next day I was told that what the friends had served was actually liver and not steak.  Well I decided I liked liver.

A few months later, we went to a restaurant where liver was on the menu, and I ordered it.  I remember the waitress giving me a strange look, and I remember my parents looking at each other as though something was dreadfully wrong, but no one stopped me from placing my order.  And when the liver came to the table, I was horrified.  They made a mistake, I didn’t want steak, I wanted liver, and I wasn’t going to settle for anything else.

Finally the truth came out.  My parents had thought I would eat the liver if they called it steak.  They didn’t expect to go somewhere where an actual steak would be served to me, and when it happened at the home of the friends, they weren’t certain of what to say or do, so they let me believe the steak was liver.  Then I ordered the liver at the restaurant.  Well, it was time to fess up.

I didn’t trust them for a long time because of this, and I didn’t eat steak for a long time either.  By the time I was an adult, my tastes had changed a bit, and I was now including liver in my diet every 15 or 20 years, and steak was something I found I could enjoy more regularly, but for most of my teen years, I stayed away from either of them.  Beef, for me, meant brisket, roasts, hamburger, or ribs. 

The beef rib is a Texas favorite, but honestly, it takes a lot of work to do it up right.  Not to mention the time.  Granted, it’s worth it, but sometimes I’m busy, and I don’t have the time to fuss with the fire and smoker all day.  My goal was to have tasty beef ribs without making a mockery of the Texas classic, so I went another direction, and the results are outstanding.  And they cannot be compared to the barbequed version.  They stand on their own.

Lazy Day Beef Ribs

Serves 4 two times.  Or 1 eight times.

    3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
    3 dried Guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
    1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, stemmed and seeded
    2 tablespoons adobo sauce
    2 ½ cups water
    1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 tablespoons dark honey
    Juice of 1 lime
    8 big meaty beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
    1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon coffee crystals
    1 cup beef broth

Rinse the chiles (except chipotle) under cold running water, and then place in a medium bowl.  Cover with boiling water and soak until softened, about 30 minutes; drain saving the liquid in another bowl. Transfer all of the chiles to a blender with the onion, garlic, chipotles with sauce, honey, lime juice, and about 1 tsp salt and puree until smooth.

Pat ribs dry and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown ribs in batches, turning occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer when browned to large (6 quart) slow cooker. 

Very carefully add chile purée to the fat in the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the reserved chile soaking liquid, coffee crystals, and beef broth, and bring to a slow boil.  Reduce the chile broth by about one quarter of its original volume, and then slowly pour over ribs (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat).

Turn the slow cooker on High and cover with the lid.  Go do something else for about 5 to 6 hours.  Or turn the slow cooker on low and do something else for 10 to 12 hours.  Either way, when ready to serve, remove the ribs from the cooker to a platter and keep warm.  Skim the fat from the pot juices and reduce in a saucepan on the stove.

Serve over some mashed potatoes, rice, polenta, or grits.  Add a couple of big cheese enchiladas on the side and this meal will be hard to beat.

I’ve noticed these ribs are better on the day after making them, and better still after waiting another day.  Better than liver any day.

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