Braised Ribs and Green Bean Salad

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This was a major undertaking for me, but circumstances called for a special meal – Z finally got home from the Middle East, and earlier than expected (although the trip took a gruelling 61 hours). So I had him back with me, and although he looked as if he would topple over if you breathed on him hard, I wanted to celebrate with something that I know he would enjoy.

This braised rib recipe promised meat that fell off the bones, and that’s exactly what it got. In fact, I was fishing in the sauce with tongs, trying to find all the pieces of meat that had slipped off the bone while the braising was happening. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, if not entirely pretty.

The recipe for the ribs comes from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising cookbook, which I believe I received as a wedding present but have been too scared to actually use it yet. So far, it gets a big thumbs up.

Red Wine-Braised Ribs with Rosemary

Ingredients

The marinade

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp allspice

8 black peppercorns

1/2 tsp cloves

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 1/2 tsp coarse salt

1 bottle robust dry red wine

3-4 pounds of meaty ribs

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The aromatics and braising liquid:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3/4 cups mushrooms, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

14-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, seeded and chopped, juice reserved

2 3-4-inch leafy fresh rosemary sprigs

Heat the oil in a large in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and saute, stirring once or twice, until beginning to soften but not brown, about 7 minutes. Pour in the wine, add the spices, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to draw the flavours of the aromatics and vegetables into the wine. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

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Place the ribs in a large wide bowl or baking dish, season with the salt, and pour over the cooled marinade. Rearrange ribs if necessary so that the marinade covers them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning the ribs once or twice so they marinate evenly.

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Remove the ribs from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade into a bowl. Reserve the wine and discard the vegetables. The ribs will have absorbed a good deal of the wine, so don’t be surprised if there’s not much more than 1 cup of the marinade.

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Pour 2 tbsp of oil into a heavy braising pot wide enough to accommodate the ribs in a crowded single layer and heat over medium heat. Make sure the ribs are completely dry, and season them all over with salt and pepper. Add only as many ribs as will fit without crowding and sear them, turning with tongs, until deeply browned on all sides, 5 minutes per side. Set aside on a large plate, without stacking, and finish browning the remaining ribs.

Pour off and discard any remaining fat from the braising pot. If there are lots of charred bits on the bottom, wipe these out with a damp paper towel, leaving behind unburnt drippings. If there is a rich browned crust, leave it. Add the remaining tbsp of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and saute, stirring, until browned and softened, 8-10 minutes.

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Add the garlic, tomatoes with their juice and chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, stirring once or twice. Pour in the reserved wine and bring to a boil. Let the liquid boil until it is reduced by about half, 2-3 minutes.

Return the ribs to the pot, along with the juices. Tuck the rosemary sprigs in between the ribs. Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down on the paper so it nearly touches the ribs and so the paper hangs over the sides by an inch. Set the lid in place, then slide the pot onto a rack in the lower third of the oven. Braise gently, turning the ribs with tongs gently so not to tear up the meat every 40-45 minutes, until the meat is fork-tender and falling away from the bones, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. After the first 20 minutes, remove the lid and check to see that the liquid isn’t simmering too furiously. If it is, lower the oven heat 10-15 degrees.

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Transfer the ribs to a serving platter and loosely cover with foil to keep warm.. To degrease the braising liquid, either pour it into a gravy separator and then pour the liquid into a medium saucepan, leaving fat behind, or simply tilt the braising pan and skim off the fat with a large spoon. The liquid should be the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. Heat the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, and taste for salt and pepper.

Transfer the ribs to dinner plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve immediately.

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To complete this meal, I made up a rice and green bean salad that was very fresh. I would almost say a little too fresh – I’m not sure the flavours necessarily complemented each other, but both of these dishes were delicious on their own. The recipe came once again from Clotilde Dusoulier’s The French Kitchen Cookbook.

Green Bean, Red Rice and Almond Salad

Ingredients

2 pounds thin green beans

3 tbsp almond butter

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp fine sea salt

3 cups of cooked rice

2/3 cups almonds, toasted

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

Steam the green beans until cooked through but not limp, 7-8 minutes. Set aside. The beans can be cooked the day before.

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In a large salad bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt.

Add the cooked beans and turn them gently in the dressing to coat. Stir in the rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The salad may be made a few hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.

Add the almonds, parsley and black pepper before serving. Toss to coat everything.

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Word of the day:

Prescience: knowledge of things before they exist or happen; foreknowledge; foresight

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