Good TO THE BONE Braising brings out old-syle flavor in meats

February 28, 1993|By Dotty Griffith | Dotty Griffith,Contributing Writer

Ribs and shanks -- bone-in meats seldom used these days -- are a comfort food from yesteryear. Yet they can fit right into a modern schedule.

It could be the quintessential American short ribs, cooked with cola and chili sauce, or the Italian classic osso buco, using lamb shanks instead of veal.

Braising, the technique often used for such dishes and for pot roasts and stews, isn't necessarily at odds with a busy lifestyle, says cooking teacher Carol Ritchie.

The meat is first browned either in the oven or on top of the stove, then smothered with a liquid and cooked at a low temperature until tender. It may take an hour or more, but during most of that time the dish requires little attention.

And braised dishes often improve with a night in the refrigerator, qualifying them as a good make-ahead dish. Plan to cook short ribs or shanks on the weekend at your leisure; eat them during the week when there's just enough time to reheat.

"I love to do a lot of things ahead," Ms. Ritchie says. "That's my idea of fast food: things you can make ahead and heat up."

There's a nutritional bonus to refrigerating the meat, notes Ms. Ritchie. Before reheating, the congealed fat can be lifted off. "That's the best way to remove the fat," she says.

One problem: Finding bone-in cuts can be difficult. Your best bets are to ask your supermarket to order what you want, or to go to a butcher shop.

Meat supplier Steve Robbins says such cuts aren't always easy to find in retail butcher shops because most of the slow-cooking once associated with home and hearth is being done in restaurants. Allow about a pound for every 1 1/2 to two servings, and a couple of hours' cooking time. Then, relax and enjoy the aroma of the meat simmering in pan juices.

Cola short ribs

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

non-stick vegetable spray

4 to 5 pounds beef short ribs

salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

1 1/2 cups cola soft drink

1 1/2 cups bottled chili sauce

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons liquid red pepper sauce, or to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons flour, preferably instant dissolving (optional)

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a roasting pan or Dutch oven with non-stick spray. Brown short ribs on all sides over medium-high heat. Drain any excess oil from the pan.

Combine salt, pepper and garlic powder; sprinkle evenly over ribs on all sides.

Mix cola, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce and red pepper sauce. Pour over ribs. Cover pan with tight-fitting lid and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until tender. Remove ribs from roasting pan and keep warm. Skim excess fat from sauce in pan.

To thicken gravy (optional): Dissolve flour in equal amount of water; stir into sauce. Gently heat on top of stove until sauce bubbles and thickens. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Source: Adapted from "Potato Chip Cookies and Tomato Soup Cake: Recipes of Americana"

Lamb osso buco

Makes 12 servings.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 lamb shanks, about 1 pound each, sawed crosswise into 2 pieces (ask the butcher to do this)

1/4 cup olive oil (divided use)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped carrots

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 cup dry vermouth or white wine

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

gremolada (optional; recipe follows)

quick and easy saffron risotto (recipe follows)

On a large plate, mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Roll each piece of lamb shank in the flour mixture and shake off excess. Reserve any remaining flour.

Heat a large, heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until a film appears over the oil. Add only as much lamb as will fit without crowding; brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes, adding oil as necessary to keep lamb from sticking. Remove the lamb to a bowl and set aside. Pour off the fat and discard.

In the same pan, heat the butter until bubbling. Saute the carrots, celery and onion for about 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and translucent. Sprinkle on any remaining flour mixture, stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomato sauce, vermouth or white wine, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Add the shanks and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 1 3/4 to 2 hours or until tender, turning the shanks once after 45 minutes.

Prepare gremolada, if using, and add to the pan when shanks are done. Cover, remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Spoon sauce over shanks. Serve with saffron risotto.

Quick and easy saffron risotto

Makes 6 servings.

3 tablespoons butter

2 5-ounce packages yellow saffron rice

2 1/3 cups water

2/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup minced parsely (optional)

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