Looks pretty tasty, right? These little guys were something I came up with to put on a menu for an event I’m catering next month. Yesterday I decided to do some experimenting because no matter how delicious something sounds in your head, it’s always a good idea to make it a few times to get it just right before serving it to anyone. So what this is is a puff pastry circle topped with whipped potatoes and shredded short rib in sauce. It sounds wildly complicated but really is quite simple, and you could actually just make a dinner out of it by foregoing the miniature size and puff pastry for just the short ribs and mashed potatoes.
Short ribs are incredibly tough little dudes. I’ve had good luck cooking them in the pressure cooker in the past, but braising is the classic way of preparing them. They come in two cuts: English cut, which is when you have the single bone per rib and not as much meat, or flanken cut, which are the ones with a big hunk of meat and usually a side that is all fat. This is not a bad thing; you want that fat because it adds flavor and typically a lot of it cooks away during the braising process. I used some of both yesterday while making this dish, just to see which worked better. For my purposes, which is getting more meat, the flanken is superior.
A bit on braising: braising is a process in which meat is browned and then cooked in large sections in some type of liquid. It’s not unlike stewing, except stewing uses smaller cuts of meat and is typically done on the cooktop rather than finished in the oven. For this dish, red wine and beef stock were my braising liquids. You always want to make sure to season your meat before the searing process, and definitely save the cooking liquid after the meat is cooked through because that will be your sauce!
For the puff pastry circles, all I did was buy some frozen puff pastry sheets, let them thaw, and then I used a little circle cutter to make the rounds. I laid them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, pricked each one with a fork, and then covered them with more parchment and another sheet pan. They baked at 400F for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. You want to be sure to prick them and cover them with weight because puff pastry wants to rise and get really delicate. Pricking them lets any air escape during baking and then the extra weight is a failsafe.
The mashed potatoes were super easy. Just peel and dice a russet or two, boil until tender, and then throw the potato in a food processor with some salt, 3 T butter, 4 T milk, and blend until super smooth. I piped them out with a pastry bag onto the puff pastry circles. I would also recommend topping that with just a tiny bit of shredded or shaved parmeggiano reggiano.
Braised Short Rib Appetizers
2-3 lbs flanken cut beef short ribs
Vegetable or canola oil
Salt and Pepper
2 carrots, peeled and rough chopped
2 celery stalks, rough chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 T tomato paste
3 T All Purpose Flour
2/3 Bottle Red Wine (I like Cabernet Sauvignon for this dish)
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 full rosemary stalk
2 stems fresh oregano
3 stems fresh thyme
3 C beef stock, low sodium
Room temperature Butter & Flour, mushed together
Season short ribs generously with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. When hot, sear all sides of each short rib and then remove to a plate. Add the carrot, celery, and onion to the pot and cook about 2 minutes, stirring. You want the onions to get a little bit translucent. Add the tomato paste and flour, stirring until the tomato paste turns a sort of burnished orange color. This is a technique known as “pincer” and will help the sauce to thicken up. Add the short ribs and any juices back into the pot. Pour in the wine, bring the pot to a low boil, and let it reduce by about a half. This should take 20 minutes or so. Once this is done, pour in the stock, and add the herbs and garlic. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and put in the oven. Let braise for roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven. Take the short ribs and put them on a plate. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into a large skillet. You want to have a lot of surface area on the bottom of the pan to induce quicker reduction. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let cook about 7 minutes. A little at a time, whisk in the butter and flour combination. This is called “beurre mania” and just thickens the sauce and adds flavor and shine. When you can dip a spoon in the sauce, wipe your finger down the back of the spoon and the line stays, you are ready to season. Add kosher salt to the sauce and taste until you are satisfied with the flavor. Shred the beef from the short ribs and then add back to the sauce. Keep warm. If making the appetizers, assemble them starting with the puff pastry, then the potato, parmesan, short rib, and some minced parsley for garnish. If you want to just have dinner, serve the short ribs with sauce over mashed potatoes with some greens on the side. Enjoy!
Makes about 100 small appetizers/Serves 4 for dinner