In our experience what is known and proven is passed on as law. When we accept cooking as a fixed set of rules we limit our discoveries. In our book we brine short ribs and cook them at 65°C for 24 hours and the results are delicious. As we continue to wonder about sous vide cooking and what is really possible we are able to see the forest through the trees. It turns out that if you discard cooking terms like braising and roasting and focus on an end product you may refine your approach and results. Short ribs are normally braised to break down connective tissue and convert it to gelatin. The traditionally long slow and low cooking creates meat lubricated with gelatin, swimming in sauce that is not very juicy or meaty*. So we asked ourselves an important question, what if we did not focus on the breakdown of connective tissue? The results are wonderful. This idea stems from our sous vide cooking of lamb shoulders. We cook them for 24 hours at 57°C. When they are cooked we cool them down and when they are re-thermed we cut and trim the meat, removing silverskin and connective tissue and the resulting meat is tender, juicy and rich. This low temperature and extended time allows for the meat fibers to loosen and some connective tissue to convert to gelatin. What is essential is that the focus is on the meat rather than the pieces holding the meat together.
We applied the idea to short ribs. For these we started with English cut uncleaned short ribs. We brined them bone in and uncleaned in red wine seasoned with 1% salt and maple syrup. After they brined for 24 hours we cooked them in the brine at 57°C for 24 hours. We then cooled the ribs down in the cooking liquid. After the ribs were chilled we removed the bone and silverskin from underneath each rib and the silverskin and fat from the top of the ribs. The center pieces of meat were juicy, tender and seasoned. We took all the trimmings, and the red wine cooking liquid (brine) and pressure cooked it all together to break down the connective tissue and turn it into gelatin. After the liquid was cooked we strained it and reduced it into a rich glaze for the short ribs. We cooled the sauce down and put the cleaned short ribs and some of the sauce back into clean bags to re-therm them at 55°C for ten minutes. When the meat was warmed through we glazed it with some additional sauce and leaves of red romaine lettuce. We cooked the ribs of the romaine lettuce in the sauce to serve alongside. The short ribs are juicy, seasoned, winey and rich. These short ribs skirt several cooking classifications and that is where we want to be.
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*We have found cooking short ribs for 48-72 hours and the meat loses its meatiness while it gains tenderness. Future short rib cookery will have us deep frying them before brining them to bring a maillard flavor to the finished product. Further tests will have us shortening the cooking time and temperature to see if can achieve greater results or as good results in less time.