Cooking Short Rib Beef the Sous Vide wayFriday, December 12, 2014
"A very important thing to realize is that tougher or fattier meats always have better flavor; this is why osso buco and the short rib are so delicious and filet mignon will never be found on a menu where I am chef.” - Mario Batali
I will be cooking a few lots of Short-rib beef this Christmas. When cooked the Sous Vide way, it turns into a stunning piece of beef which belies its price and is a great party-pleaser.
So, what is your idea of a good steak? This will work for me:
- Good flavour
- Good marbling
- Succulent & Meltingly tender
- Firm texture (as your knife cuts though it, the steak - though pink - stays firm)
I first came across a Short Rib Beef on a menu in Chef Andre's restaurant. A good friend treated us to lunch and as we ate, I was told that it was cooked for 36 hours. It was an amazing piece of beef and like nothing I have ever tasted before.
Curiously for me then, the beef was pink in the middle. How do you cook this braising beef for 36 hours and yet keep it pink?
That was a few years ago. Before I discovered Sous Vide. Before I started this blog.
That lunch experience has stayed in my mind since then. When I started on Sous Vide, I knew I would be cooking beef short ribs soon. And I did, and then some more, mostly for guests.
|My 'perfect' steak|
|Corn-fed US boneless short rib beef - beautifully marbled. |
Details of supplier at the bottom of post.
So, whats the beef on this cut? Short rib beef is usually cooked these ways:
1. You have tasted kalbi. Koreans have been using this cut extensively. It has good marbling. Sliced thinly and grilled quickly, with the right marinade, it is flavourful. It can also be tender if a well marbled cut is used. The taste and texture is akin to flank beef except for a richer flavour from the fat marbling. Some call this the "poor man's Wahyu."
2. In the West, this cut is normally pot-braised. There are some great recipes for this. The ingredients in the sauce and the flavours of the meat intermingle. It is normally braised in the pot with the meat boned in. The meat should be tender and falling off the bone.
3. The third way is Sous Vide. This 'slow and low' method of cooking at a controlled temperature for many hours (normally 36 or more) breaks the collagen down. You follow it with a pan sear and then eat it like a steak i.e. fork and knife. Alternatively, you serve it in slices, go the Asian way with the right accompaniments and use chopsticks.
As short rib is a very flavorful cut, 'steaking' it turns it into a superior steak - well marbled, flavorful, tender..well, all that I have said I wanted for a 'perfect' steak.
I prefer to SV it boneless to reduce the size of the vacuum package. Furthermore, the tendon which clings to the bone does not break down at this temperature (even after many hours) and I rather it is off the bone before I put it into the water bath.
The recipe is simple but the method will need some explaining:
1. A good supplier can trim off excess tendon and fat and vacuum pack the boneless slabs for you. If not, you have to do this yourself. It is important to trim off the tendons as they are chewy and will not break down in low temperature cooking.
2. Adding marinade is an option but if I have a good piece of meat, I normally don't bother. You can also marinate the meat after the sous vide cooking.
3. Leave it in the water bath for 36 hours at 55˚C. Go for 56˚C or even 58˚C if you prefer it less pink. But 55˚C produces a nice medium to medium rare and also give me more 'pan sear time' to form the crust.
4. After it is done, you cool the packs and store in the fridge till you are ready to use it.
5. Remove the beef from the packs. There are juices from the packs which you can use if you like. Just give it a boil and strain the scum.
6. Alternatively, you can remove the beef from the packs and leave it uncovered in the fridge. This will dry the surface of the beef which will make it easier to create a crust when you pan-sear.
7. Using a good pan sear the steak for about a minute on each side. Baste with some butter as it will help with the Mallard reactions and crust. Sometimes I add a bit of Japanese soy sauce as it helps to darken the crust. Let it rest for 2 minutes before you slice and serve
|This is after 36 hours SV and chilled|
|Seared and Crusted|
As this cut is rich, serve it in smaller portions. Think of it as wahyu beef. You can serve it as small steaks or as slices. I have cooked it once using David Chang's (Momofuku) recipe and it was great.
|This was SV-ied in a soy sauce based marinate|
|After searing, it has a beautiful colour and crust|
The photo above illustrates how you can slice the beef. If you slice on the left side, you are slicing against the grain. If you do so on the right side, you are slicing along the grain. Unlike other cuts, as this is tender, I prefer to slice along the grain (see sliced pieces below). I prefer the presentation of beef lines and smoother texture.
While 36 hours is a long time, it is "click and forget." Active preparation time is only about half an hour. It is about planning ahead. Once it is sous-vided, it is smooth sailing from then on as all you need to do is to sear the sides and prepare the sauces. There is no guess work involved and you are certain how the meat will turn out. If you are serving guests, they will be awed by it, as I have regularly observed. I cook it often for BBQs (read here).
One more thing. There are juices from the packs which you can use if you like. Just give it a boil and strain the scum. Making a good beef sauce will need another post.
Currently, my favourite Sous Vide gadget is Codlo and I gave my reasons here. Check out more posts and info on Sous Vide cooking here.
|A BBQ version|
|Another way of presenting it|