Daniel Orr of FARMbloomington in Bloomington, Indiana.
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Praised Short Ribs

Jim Poris - April 2011

On menus everywhere, but never like this, as four chefs render uncommon twists to a common ingredient.

Yes, Koreans grill marinated flanken-cut beef short ribs--bone-in kalbi, bone-out bulgogi. But by and large the more common English cut short ribs found in American and European kitchens wind up in the braising pot. Barely bubbling in aromatized wine and/or stock, short ribs eat up all the rough roots and tubers frosted farms can dig out, the completed dish a rich winter warmer and a good excuse to pull the cork on a lusty red wine and dine in front burning oak logs. And don't forget to pet the woolly golden retriever while you're at it.

No way did Mystery Basket want any part of that cozy scene when beef short ribs were selected as the centerpiece of its current installment. As always, the participating chefs get a diet of dipping curveballs designed to steer them away from the easiest, most obvious solution to rearranging the mandated amount of ingredients--at least 23 of the 30--into a coherent dish. So, as Justin Bogle (Gilt, New York City), Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara (Sons & Daughters, San Francisco), and Daniel Orr (FARMbloomington, Bloomington, IN) stood with knives poised over their cutting boards, this is the pitch they awaited: beef short ribs; salt and pepper; garlic; shallots; soy sauce; kombu; Bourbon; fresh whole sardines; carrots with tops on; eggs; maitake mushrooms; Swiss chard; molasses; olive oil; Gruyère cheese; radicchio; mustard; lemons; tomatoes; fresh ginger; Sherry vinegar; barley; radishes with tops on; hard cider; plus use of no more than six of the flowing herbs and spices: bay leaves; mint; marjoram; cilantro; saffron; rosemary; thyme; sage; mustard seeds; juniper berries; parsley; tarragon; basil; hot or sweet paprika; coriander seeds; cloves; nutmeg; savory; and curry powder.

Needless to say, they connected with the curveballs--three dishes swatted out of the park.

Daniel Orr
Bloomington, Indiana

"Mystery Basket. Even the words remind me of the New York City after-hour clubs where chefs and their friends meet to blow off steam after a few crazy busy weekend shifts. You'd never know whom you'd meet or what you'd find, but you knew it'd be fun and interesting."

"Usually after one of these nights, if you didn't head over to Blue Ribbon, you'd end up at home, digging through your fridge and pantry looking for something to help absorb the night's festivities. A chef's fridge and pantry are like no one else's. There are vendor samples, strange collections of spices and ingredients from past travels, gifts from restaurant clients, and jars and bottles of homemade vinegars, chutneys, and pickles. Not to mention the freezer, which might have venison or wild boar shot by friends or fish brought back from a Canadian fishing trip. Late night cooking is truly working with a Mystery Basket."

"Now that I have left New York to return home to Indiana to get back in touch with my ‘inner Hoosier,' I've found a whole new Mystery Basket to cook from. Being within 15 minutes from the woods, I can forage and hunt and fish to my heart's content. With farms and gardens all around, each day is like a Mystery Basket. Ginko nuts, chanterelles, crayfish, wild persimmons, sassafras roots, lamb's quarters, chickweed, wild mint, puff balls, morels, day lilies, acorns, and cattails all seem exotic in New York City. Here, they're just lying around ready to be harvested, if you know when and where."

"The challenge that Food Arts gave me wasn't easy. Some of my go-to ingredients were nowhere in sight. No wine for my short rib? But I managed, and I'm a better man for it. I call my dish Bad to the Bone, honoring one of my favorite songs of the past. We used to crank up George Thorogood when we were driving around in my friend's T-bird the year I graduated high school. Given short ribs and whole fresh sardines, I decided to make a showy version of surf ‘n' turf. As everyone knows, ‘bad' is the new ‘good,' and the sardine bone and short rib garnish explain themselves. The components are great eaten individually, but combining them makes them even better. Give it a try."

Bad to the bone surf ‘n' turf with beef short ribs, grilled sardines, country greens & toasted barley risotto. "Start the beef short ribs a couple of days before they're to be served. Season two and a half to three pounds [eight 8 small ribs or four large ones for four servings] with salt and crushed black pepper; sear in a film of olive oil until dark on all sides; add a handful of roughly chopped garlic and shallots; caramelize; deglaze with one-half cup Bourbon; reduce by half; add one-quarter cup molasses, two slices ginger, two sprigs thyme, and two cups chopped tomatoes; stir well; cover with water; bring to a boil; reduce heat; turn ribs so the bones are on top [this keeps that side from overcooking and having the bones fall away from the meat during service]. Simmer two and a half hours to three hours or until extremely tender; remove from heat; cool in the cooking liquid; refrigerate. Remove hardened fat from surface; remove ribs; reduce cooking liquid to a rich sauce consistency that will not separate on the plate; return ribs to the cooking liquid; cover; heat slowly until hot throughout; remove from heat; keep warm until needed."

"Make a stock by simmering an eight-inch strip of kombu in one pint water for 20 to 30 minutes; chop the kombu; add to the stock. Toast barley in a touch of olive oil until nutty and lightly smoky to the nose; add some minced garlic and a couple of handfuls of roughly chopped maitake mushrooms; deglaze with a good chug of hard cider; add the kombu stock; simmer until barley is tender, adding more water as needed; season with salt and pepper. The finished consistency should be like a semi- firm risotto."

"Make an herb oil by blanching and shocking some basil, mint, and parsley and mixing them in a blender with a clove or two of garlic and some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; chill quickly to hold color. Next, a tomato coulis: Sauté some garlic in olive oil until lightly caramelized and nutty to the nose; add some fresh rosemary leaves, shaking the pan around to incorporate; add some chopped tomatoes; cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has been cooked out; blend until smooth; season with salt and pepper."

"Lightly grill radicchio, sprinkling with olive oil and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Saute Swiss chard in olive oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Reserve both in a warm place. Make an herb salad by tossing small sprigs of mint, parsley, and cilantro together. Just before serving, season with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper."

"For the sardines, just open them up and clean them out. Season with roughly chopped garlic, rosemary leaves, and salt and pepper. Just before grilling, add a bit of lemon juice and a light coating of good olive oil. Grill them over a medium fire until nicely marked on both sides. Remove from heat; debone, making sure to keep the heads and tails attached to the skeletons; reserve fillets in a warm place; deep-fry the skeletons until crispy; reserve for garnish."

"To serve, place radicchio on a plate; top with short rib; spoon a little sauce around the meat; add one sardine skin side up; top with the barley mixture and then the sautéed chard and the remaining sardine fillet; decorate the fish with a few chard stems, the crispy sardine bones, and the herb salad; spoon tomato coulis around; finish with a drizzle of the herb oil around both the meat and fish; sprinkle with coarse salt; serve with a lemon wedge. Dig in. Alternate bites with sips of Charles Smith Syrah Columbia Valley ‘Old Bones' Royal Slope 2005."

Justin Bogle
New York City

"So the phone rings in the kitchen on a late November afternoon, and this is kind of how it all went down, or at least how I remember it:

Ring, Ring…
Me: ‘Gilt kitchen. This is Justin speaking.'
Jim Poris: ‘Hello, Justin. This is Jim Poris from Food Arts. How are you?'
Me: ‘Not too bad. How about yourself?'
JP: ‘Good! I was calling to see if you wanted to participate in the Mystery Basket section of Food Arts. Have you seen it?'
Me: ‘I have. But if you could just go over the details, that would be great.'
JP: ‘I give you a list of more than 30 ingredients, and you'll have to narrow it down to 23 and come up with a dish and a recipe for us to feature in the magazine. So what do you think?'
Me: ‘Uuu…mmmmm, OK. Sounds like fun. Let's do it.'
JP: ‘OK. I'll send all the details over to you in an e-mail. Just call if you have any questions.'
Me: ‘Sounds good, Jim. Thanks, and I will talk to you soon.'
JP: ‘Take care.'
I hang up. Then I say to myself, ‘What the hell did I just get myself into?'

"I check my e-mail after service that night and find Jim's. With a vague idea of what the assignment entailed, I opened it, anticipating a list of ingredients that might have had a little more cohesion. Well, I was completely wrong. Kombu and Gruyère? What can you do with those in the same dish? But after I looked over the list for a good hour, I slowly started weeding out the things that I wasn't going to use, and it all seemed to get a little clearer. But, of course, being the procrastinator that I am, I pushed it to the side and figured I would work on it later."

"Before I knew it, I was caught up with Christmas and then New Year's Eve. Wow, deadline near, and I haven't even given this a second thought. So a couple days after New Year's, I printed out the list, took it to the kitchen, and wrote it on the large dry-erase board we have hanging in the back. The goal was to be able to create a dish that could be a good representation of what we would do at the restaurant, or at least as close to it as possible. Over the next couple of days, with the help of my sous chefs and cooks, we were able to work out the dish we have here. It wasn't necessarily easy. But, I must admit, it was fun. Just as I was promised."

Beef & barley soup with slow cooked egg, pickled vegetables & short rib consommé. "Begin by seasoning the beef short ribs with salt and pepper. In the bottom of a large rondeau heat a film of olive oil; sear the short ribs on all sides; remove the short ribs; add shallots, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves; sweat five minutes; deglaze with Bourbon and hard cider; reduce by half. Return the short ribs to the rondeau; cover with water; cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid; place in a combi oven set to 180 degrees with 50 percent humidity; cook 12 hours. Then remove the short ribs from the liquid; allow them to cool before shredding the meat from the bones; strain braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth; reserve braising liquid in the refrigerator for the consommé. Once the braising liquid has chilled, skim any excess fat that has settled on top. Place the liquid in a tall pot. In a bowl, lightly whisk the egg white; combine with diced tomato; whisk the egg white mixture into the cold braising liquid; bring to a simmer; stir occasionally until a raft forms; let the consommé cook one hour, making sure that the raft doesn't break; carefully strain the liquid through a large coffee filter; chill."

"For the pickled vegetables: clean baby carrots, radishes, and maitake mushrooms; place them all in separate containers, with the carrots and radishes in quart containers so the tops won't be submerged in the pickle juice. To make the pickling liquid: toast juniper, coriander, and mustards seeds in a small nonreactive saucepan; add equal parts Sherry vinegar and water and some lemon zest; bring to a simmer; adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper; balance the pickling liquid's acidity with a little bit of molasses; strain hot liquid over the vegetables; place in an ice bath to cool. For the carrots and the radishes, make sure only to cover the vegetable and not their green tops".

"Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the barley until desired texture; drain; place on a sheet tray to cool. To make the radicchio chips: separate radicchio leaves; blanch; shock; dry between two paper towels; remove as much of the large stem as possible while keeping the leaf intact; trim leaves into roughly two-inch squares. Set oven to 180 degrees Fahrenheit; line a sheet tray with a nonstick pad; brush with olive oil; lay the leaves on the pad; brush tops with additional olive oil; place in oven for approximately two hours until dry and crisp; remove from oven; cool; store in air-tight container."

"To cook the eggs, place an immersion circulator set to 63.5 degrees Celsius [146°F] in a water bath; gently place the eggs, still in their shells, in the water bath; cook 45 minutes.

"Heat the consommé in a saucepan. Warm the barley, shredded short rib meat, olive oil, and a chiffonade of parsley in a separate pot; season. Remove the egg from the water bath; crack into a bowl of warm water to remove any excess white. To serve, place the barley mixture in the center of a warm bowl; position the egg on top; arrange the pickled vegetables around the egg; rest a chip on the top of the egg; finish by pouring the consommé around tableside. Open a nice bottle of Clos du Mont-Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rhône Valley 2007 and enjoy."

Teague Moriarty & Matt McNamara
Sons & Daughters
San Francisco

"So we missed the due date for the Mystery Basket by a week. Procrastination is one of our skills. Another is approaching tasks in an atypical way. When we received the set of ingredients, we immediately asked ourselves, ‘How can we stand out? How can we make sure that you'll remember this dish?' "

"With that mindset we chose to do the opposite of the first cooking technique that pops into someone's head when they hear ‘short rib.' We're not even gonna say the word; you already know it. So raw is where we started, where we all start, we guess. There were a lot of ups and downs, most caused by the weather or whatever. Anyway, what does all this rambling and a 23-ingredient dish equal to? Check it out!"

Short rib tartare with barley, herbs, carrots & kombu. "Clean off all fat and connective tissue from TK pounds of beef short ribs; mince; reserve. For the vinaigrette to dress the short ribs: place one tablespoon minced garlic, one-half cup minced shallot, one tablespoon minced ginger, one cleaned and filleted sardine, six egg yolks, two tablespoons mustard, one-quarter cup soy sauce, one-half cup Sherry vinegar, and one-quarter cup lemon juice in a blender; blend until smooth; with motor running, gradually add three cups extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper; reserve."

"Next up: Gruyère chips. Grate Gruyère; line a sheet pan with a nonstick pad; thinly layer Gruyère in square molds; bake at 300 degrees until golden brown, about 10 to 20 minutes; remove from oven; cool; gently peel from the pad; reserve."

"Make a stock by bringing two gallons cold water, one pound kombu, and two bay leaves up to 176 degrees for 45 minutes; strain; cool. Peel and wash approximately 25 carrots, reserving the tops for the salad. Bring carrots to a simmer in kombu stock; cook until tender; drain; puree in a blender, adding a little water if necessary; season with salt and pepper; work through a tamis; cool; reserve. Pick the smallest, most tender leaves of parsley, basil, tarragon, carrot tops, and mint; wash and dry; reserve. Clean some radishes; slice paper-thin on a mandoline; reserve in water. Use one-half cup minced shallots, two tablespoons minced thyme, one-half cup Sherry vinegar, two cups olive oil, and salt and pepper to make a dressing."

"Boil one cup barley until al dente; strain, removing as much liquid as possible; place on sheet tray in thin even layer; place in oven either heated by pilot light or set no warmer than 150 degrees; let barely dry in oven overnight. The next day, heat pot of olive oil to 325 degrees; fry barley until golden brown--it should be crunchy on the outside and soft within; remove with a spider; let drain and dry on paper towels; season with salt."

"Plate a spoonful of the carrot puree, dragging your spoon to get a nice teardrop shape; sprinkle some fried barley on top. Place minced short rib in small bowl; season with salt and pepper; mix in its dressing to taste; press tartare into metal square mold, slightly overlapping with the carrot puree; remove mold; combine a small handful of herbs and four to five radish rounds; add its dressing and salt and pepper to taste; drape salad over edge of tartare and onto the plate; line up three cheese crisps on the plate. That's it. Just serve Domaine de Gioielli Vin de Pays de L'Ile de Beauté 2009, a Corsican rosé blend of Aleatico and Nielluccio, to drink."