Monday, April 19, 2010

Mole Ribs

Yes, mole ribs, but thankfully not from the little burrowing rodent we know and love (though I may have to try that some time). This is a creation derived from a craving for something different and inspired by a jar of wonderfully aromatic smoked paprika that I bought on a whim, paired with some grass-fed beef short ribs that I got at a nice little farm down the road. A mole is a type of sauce that originated in Mexico and although there is no one way to make mole, the sauce is usually composed of a variety of spicy peppers, some tomato, other spices, maybe some fruit (I've seen raisins used), and usually chocolate as well. Though this dish probably cannot be called a traditional mole by any means, I did my best with what I had and I couldn't figure out what else to call it. So here it is in all its glory:
We started with some delicious fatty short ribs. Some people will cut off that chunk of fat, but I say don't. Instead, score it a few times with a knife and when you brown the meat, leave it on that side for a while over low heat to render off some of the fat and crisp it up a bit. After the ribs are nice and browned up...wait, a quick aside. I have met many people who think that "browning" meat means just cooking it until it turns from pink to brownish grey -- this does nothing for the flavor. To "brown" means basically to toast and create a nice deep brown roasted color and is best done over a moderately high heat in a thick bottomed (cast iron is great) pan, especially if the meat is to be cooked to temperature (rare, medium-rare, etc). For the ribs, it doesn't matter much and a lower heat might make less smoke and more brown without worrying about burning the meat.
Anyway, after the ribs are nice and browned, put them aside and toss in some onions to the pan with all that delicious beef fat (when in doubt of what to do next, sauté some onions, it will almost never hurt). Once the onions are starting to brown, pour in some water (it will sizzle violently) and scrape up any deliciousness that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour all this into a sauce pan for the long simmer to come.

To this I added the ribs, some chopped sweet potato and carrots (for thickening), a couple sundried tomatoes for the tomato component, a couple cloves of crushed garlic, few bits of unsweetened chocolate and spices. Really whatever you have in the fridge would work as long as you follow common sense and the basic guidelines of peppers, tomato, chocolate. Tonight's spices included some undertones drawn from the Middle East with some cumin,
coriander, fenugreek and star-anise seeds (in order of prevalence: only two anise seeds) and black peppercorns toasted briefly together and then ground up into a powder and added with a bay leaf. As for the peppers, I have no access to some of the unusual and speciality peppers of the Mexican pallet, so I used as many peppers from the cupboard as I could including a dash of crushed red pepper, a bit of cayenne and a generous helping of the wonderful smoked paprika. I didn't have any fruits on had, but I would have also added a few raisins for some subtle sweetness.
That all went in the pot, it was topped up with water (stock would have been nice), a dash of soy sauce for salt and robustness and then left to simmer for many hours (I think it was five hours tonight). A good meal to think about at lunch time, prep it and forget that terrible infomercial "Set it and forget it!". When the meat is barely hanging on with the last little strings to the bone, or maybe it has fallen off by this point, and is tender as a ripe tomato, then pull out the meat and bones and set aside for a brief moment. Now puree the sauce with a stick blender in the pan, or take it out to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Taste and season with something quickly if it needs anything (mine needed a touch of salt), return to the pan and reunite with the ribs. Simmer for a couple more minutes and then serve over brown rice. Yum.
Ooooo...and those spring greens: some green beans sautéd with dandelion greens from the backyard topped with some fresh chopped garlic and a pat of butter. Bon appetit.

No comments:

Post a Comment