Short Ribs Swing My Way

Sunday, I decided to make braised short ribs with potato gnocci (also spelled gnocchi, pronounced NO-key or NYO-key).

I put my heart and soul into this one pot. This pot held all of my frustrations, loves, and joys about cooking. I was focused and determined to make a damn good meal. I really miss making excellent food and just because I don't have the kitchen I had before doesn't mean I can't produce great meals. I'm a professional, dammit! And I intend to act like one!

I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back in my new-to-me kitchen and cook like I always do. I can't let the frozen food section of the grocery stop me from culinary excellence. Am I yawning? Is it frustration? I don't know either.

This recipe is a take on Carbonnade a la Flamande, Belgian beer-braised beef. Gnocci takes the place of traditional spaetzle, an egg noodle pasta. Gnocci are essentially dumplings, a familiar vessel in the South, when made this European way. They are placed in the pot 30 minutes before service and cooked to perfection in the simmering boil of meaty goodness.

Braised short ribs Serves 4
3-4 lbs short ribs
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (you may or may not use all of this)
3 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
16 oz bag baby carrots
Bouquet garni (bay leaves, thyme, sage leaves, peppercorns, marjoram, parsley stems, rosemary sprigs)
1 12 oz bottle beer (I used Yuengling, a dark stout is preferable)
3 cups vegetable or beef stock (broth is fine here, too)
1 Tbsp brown sugar (Dixie Crystals Extra Fine Granulated Sugar is fine)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. F.
Rinse off ribs and dry with a paper towel. Season and rub ribs liberally with salt and pepper. Set roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Add a scant amount of vegetable oil to a roasting pan. . Brown each rib on each side until a nice, dark crust forms. Set ribs aside. Drain excess fat drippings from pan. Add onions, celery, carrots, bouquet garni, brown sugar. Cook until onions are translucent. Add beer and stock/broth to deglaze the pan. Use rubber spatula to bring up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a rolling boil and let beer suds subside. Add ribs and remove from heat. Cover pan with its lid or foil. Place in oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees F. Continue to cook ribs in the oven until the meat is tender and falling off the bones, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. At the 1 1/2 or 2 hour mark, slip your gnocci into your braise and let them cook until they've doubled in size.

Make sure your meat is dry before attempted to sear because your meat won't crust if it's wet.
Usually a bouquet garni is a sachet of herbs or a bunch of herbs tied into a piece of celery or leek. I use the term here to mean all of the herbs associated with the classical term should be thrown into the pot. If you want to make a sachet and take it out at a certain time during cooking, that's OK. I put everything directly into the pot and only took out the bay leaves just before serving.



Pot-au-feu of bouquet garni, mirepoix, and DA BEER(s)!

I missed class the day in Asian/European Cuisine that we made gnocci (and osso bucco day...and roesti potato day and waterzooi day...) So I have been at a loss for how to achieve perfect gnocci (other than going to the frozen foods section). There are many recipes out there for gnocci. I've always had Julia Child in my library, so I turned to her for inspiration. Lo, and behold: making it is easy! Just make choux (pronounced SHOE) pastry, add potato, and GO TO TOWN!

I make choux pastry a lot. It's really simple and in a few minutes you can have profiteroles for your guests. Everyone will think you are a kitchen whiz! Just by having a bit of choux in your freezer, you might save lives. You'll be like...the Red Cross or the Red Crescent or something...

Pate a choux/Choux Pastry Yield 2 cups (adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Julia Child)
1 cup water
6 TB (3/4 stick) butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs

Bring water to boil with butter, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and pour in flour all at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spatula or spoon to blend thoroughly. Then beat over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until the panada leaves the sides of the pot and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

At this point, you can continue in the pot with the wooden spoon or use a hand-held mixer for the remainder of the recipe.

Remove pot from the heat and make a well in the center of the paste. Break an egg into the center of the well and beat it until it has absorbed. Continue with the other eggs until all is well blended and smooth. At this point, the pastry can be cooled and rubbed with butter on the surface and refrigerated for a few days or frozen for later use; piped or spooned into puffs or quenelles to be baked immediately and frozen OR frozen and baked at a later time. Fresh choux is best and any time you preserve it for later, your puffs won't be as high. But the choux is always perfect for gnocci! (picture on left: my beaten up choux after 2 eggs)

Potato Gnocci Makes 12 (3x 1/2 inch each) (adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Julia Child)

2 cups cooked potato or instant potato
1 cup warm choux pastry (pate a choux)
1/3 cup grated Swiss/Parmesan mix (optional)
12-in skillet of simmering stock/broth/water

Dry out potatoes by stirring them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over moderate heat for a minute or until they film the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

Beat the choux (and cheese, if using) into the potatoes, correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

Take the mixture by spoonfuls and roll it with the palms of your hands on a lightly floured board to form cylinders and 2 1/2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.

Slip the gnocci into the simmering liquid and poach, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. If it boils, the gnocci may disintegrate. When they have swelled to almost double, and roll over easily in the water, they are done. Drain on a rack or towel.

The key is DRY potatoes. Using the instant potatoes saved me a lot of time and heartache. I used just enough water to reconstitute the flakes to eliminate the ricing step. And the boiling step. Oh, and the peeling step, too. :)

Pretty, creamy, dry potatoes.

One cylinder of gnocci dough before cutting. I used lots of flour on my hands to ensure it wouldn't be sticky.

The end result. I wish this picture looked as appetizing as it really was. This was a test plate to make sure everything was falling off the bone and packed full of flavor.

It was.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. Nikki,

    What a life you've been leading!

    Check this out:

    My paternal grandparents were born in Italy and her gnocchi was a mainstay of special family dinners. Pate a choux? No, no, no! It's potatoes and flour and salt only! The Italian way, anyhoo.

    Hope that things calm down and you adjust to your kitchen soon. :)


  2. Vicci: Thanks for that link! To be honest, I'd be afraid to not make the gnocci without eggs because I'm afraid they'd turn into doughy lumps of clay and I don't want to be disappointed or disappoint anyone else.

    I hope I adjust to my kitchen too. Soon can't come fast enough. There's no exhaust fan, no garbage disposal, and most of my cooking paraphenalia can't fit in this new space.


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