Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Braised Short Ribs with Gruyere-Leek Bread Pudding

Late summer / early fall can sometimes be a bit challenging for foodies. Some days it's still so hot that you can't stand the idea of running your oven all day...but other days, the breeze starts to cool or the sky clouds over and the yen to stew something takes over. Such was the weather this past weekend - some clouds and rain, but temperatures still fairly warm...a sort of middle ground, no man's land.

Your intrepid blogger and her co-conspirator woke up Sunday and just could not decide what to cook...ideas were flying fast and furious, and nothing seemed to stick. All we knew for sure was that a) the Pats were the late afternoon game, and b) the bread fairy had struck the night before, when I came home to a bag full of delicious bakery bread and rolls tied to my front door. (The bread fairy - a.k.a my neighbor with a friend that owns a bakery - has been hanging out quite a bit these past months...good thing we're not avoiding carbs, or anything :) ). .

So there I was in the shower, when suddenly it hit me and I started yelling..."short ribs ! I want short ribs ! And bread pudding...with Gruyere and leeks, like the one at Sprigs ! ". (Yes, things like that are yelled in my shower quite often...welcome to my world.). A quick trip to the store, and we were ready to start cooking.

veggies for short rib braise

bread ready for pudding

The short rib recipe we based ours on was one from Food Network , which we basically really liked - the major tweaks were to swap in some shallots for onions, and some port for some of the red wine. Shallots and port both add such a lovely richness to any dish, and they definitely both make sweet, sweet love to short ribs. The only other tweak we would make would be to cut down the amount of tomato paste - there's really no need for an entire cup and a half, one cup would do very nicely.

veggies and paste reducing

browned and ready !
ribs nestled in goodness
As for the Gruyere-Leek  Bread Pudding...I have been lusting after this ever since the first time I had it at Sprigs. I love, love, love leeks...serious love. Everything tastes better with leeks ! A little web surfing revealed that a lot of people were very fond of Thomas Keller's recipe - which did look promising, though I knew I definitely wanted Gruyere instead of Comté or Emmenthaler. (All of them are great cheeses, but Sprigs uses I wanted Gruyere). Looking at the recipe, though...somehow, 1 cup of cheese and 2 cups of leeks were just not going to be enough for 12 cups of bread - especially on the leeks - they reduce quite a bit when cooked, and I definitely wanted the leeks to be a major component of the dish.  So...I doubled the cheese and leeks. No guts no glory, right ? And it turns out I was right...this bread pudding was perfect, and definitely had the combination of flavors I was looking for - in the right proportions.

oooh yeah baby !

A little Rainbow Swiss Chard , and there it was....Sunday dinner, in time for the Pats game. (Well, there was plum cake too....but that will have to be another blog entry :) )


Braised Short Ribs

Adapted from Food Network

  • 6 bone-in short ribs (about 6 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 - 10 shallots, peeled and halved 
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups hearty red wine
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and port and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.

Leek Bread Pudding
Adapted from “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller (Artisan, 2009)

Time: 2 1/2 hours (1 hour for preparation and 1 1/2 hours for baking)

4 cups leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed (about 2 large)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch-bread cubes
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

Trim leeks, slice in half lengthwise, and rinse well. Place the leeks in a large bowl with water to cover to which you have added the cider vinegar. Soak for 15 minutes, then lift out of the water. Rinse again, and slice into 1 inch lengths.

Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 30 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.

Add leeks and thyme to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.

Sprinkle a little of the cheese in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with rest of cheese. Pour in milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in (some cubes will protrude, which is fine). Let rest 15 minutes.

Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve hot.

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