FRAGRANT BEEF SHORT RIBS WITH GINGER, STAR ANISE & LEEKS
Cooking New American: How to Cook the Food You Love to Eat
The soy sauce seasons the ribs well (no need to salt them before searing) and produces an intense sauce that's delicious with mashed potatoes.
Sweet, buttery leeks are such a perfect accompaniment to the full flavored beef that they're included right in the recipe. Some mashed potatoes would round out the plate.
Cooking Ahead: Cooking and cooling the braised ribs at least a day before serving helps the flavors marry and makes degreasing easy.
• 1 1/3 cups drained canned whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/2 cup fino sherry, dry white wine, or dry vermouth
• 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
• 4 whole star anise*
• 6 to 6½ pounds beef short ribs on the bone (each 3 to 4 inches long)
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1½ Tablespoons vegetable oil; more as needed
• 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
• 1 piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch), peeled and cut into 8 slices
• 6 large scallions (white and green parts), cut into 2-inch lengths
• 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
• 3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips (2 to 2½ cups), rinsed, and dried well
• Kosher salt
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put the tomatoes, 2/3 cup water, the soy sauce, sherry, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir. Add the star anise.
Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with pepper. In an ovenproof pot that's large enough to hold all the ribs in no more than two layers, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Put as many ribs in the pot as will fit without crowding and brown them on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter. Brown the rest of the ribs, adding more oil if needed, and transfer to the platter.
Pour off the fat from the pan, reduce the heat to low, and add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, stirring and pressing them against the pot, for 1 to 2 minutes to bring out their flavor. Return the ribs to the pot and pour the tomato and soy sauce mixture over them. Bring to a simmer and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise the ribs, lifting and turning them about every half hour, until the meat is very tender and starts to fall off the bone when pulled with a fork, 2½ to 3 hours.
Transfer the ribs to a serving platter (or if you're working ahead, transfer them to a baking dish; refrigerate, covered, when cool). Pick out and discard the ginger and star anise from the pot and pour the remaining sauce into a large, clear measuring cup. When the fat rises to the surface, after about 5 minutes, spoon it off and discard. (Or, if you're working ahead, cool the sauce in the pot, refrigerate it, and skim the solid fat off the top. When it's time to reheat the ribs, return them to the pot and heat gently in the oven.)
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat the sauce, season generously with pepper and more salt, if you like, and pour it over the ribs. Scatter the leeks over the top and serve.
* Beautiful, Aromatic Anise
Star anise is a whole star-shaped spice that's wonderfully reminiscent of licorice, clove, fennel seed, and aniseed. It's used often in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking to infuse soups, stews, and braised dishes (much like bay leaves are used in Western cooking). Some supermarkets carry whole star anise, but you'll definitely find it at an Asian market, or try a mail-order spice source.