Wednesday, March 17, 2010

top chef experiment: take nine (brined short ribs with 5 onion cabbage)

Here's how my brain functions (or malfunctions - I leave that for you to decide) if I don't like what I perceive to be the personality of a given singer/actor/chef/general celebrity type I cannot, in turn, enjoy any of their work.

Take Bono of U2 for instance. He seems like a pompous ass to me. That's exactly how I describe him any time the topic arises. Luckily for me it seems to arise often and I get to shout out "pompous ass" and get all kerfuffled about my obviously very valid judgment of his pomposity.

Another good example: Alanis Morrissette. 

I don't care that she's Canadian, I really don't. I care that her songs back in the day were ridiculous and stupid and therefore she is obviously a fool. Don't get me started on the now infamous "Ironic" lyrics. Complete idiocy. 
And so I couldn't even stand to be in the room when one of her songs was played. Back in the 90s I was so well known for harbouring these strongly held opinions about people I totally have no personal knowledge of that my friends once took it upon themselves to trap me in a room and force me to endure Morrissette and her Ironic philosophizing. 

It was pure torture. I still have nightmares.

The point is that this character trait of mine informs a lot of what I do and don't do in my life. I'm a little rash, I jump headlong into things.

I love as easily as I hate though. In fact, I don't like much. I love, I hate, there's not much in between for me.

Also, not really about the nightmares by the way, I'm not that pathetic.

So what does this have to do with Top Chef? Well it has a lot to do with Chef Michael Chiarello from Top Chef Masters. 

The guy was a bit of an ass on the show. Sometimes more than a bit. He seemed to be dealing with some serious insecurity and self confidence issues. He was totally intimidated by Chef Keller and in every championship round made some mention of a personal competition between himself and Keller that Keller seemed to be totally unaware of. 

When former Top Chef contestants arrived to act as sous chefs in one round, they all immediately felt the overcompensating ego of Chiarello as the "master" made them run ridiculous errands in the kitchen to prove their prospective worth to him. Those who were chosen to be on his team he treated like lesser beings and not the seasoned chefs they all certainly are. 

Oh yeah, and he was also totally put off by the idea that former Top Chef winners would have a hand in deciding the Masters winner, stating clearly that they were not qualified to judge his food. 

As you can see, I was a little annoyed by the guy. 

Actually I more accurately vacillated between being super put off by his attitude and feeling incredibly sorry for him that he couldn't enjoy the comaraderie and friendly competition the way the other chefs seemed to because he was just so busy trying to prove himself all the time.

But his food looked good dammit. 

I actually struggled with myself about cooking one of his dishes because his personality bothered me so much.

My own ego insisted that if I gave in to cooking Chiarello's food I would be giving in to...well, I don't really know what....his yucky pomposity I guess.

Then rational brain had a chat with ego and talked ego down off the ledge of self importance and all the voices in my head realized the whole discussion was stupid and really all any of us really wanted was some short ribs. 

Does this mean I'm maturing? Growing more rational or less dramatic?

Probably not. I'm pretty sure most rational mature folks don't have multiple arguing voices in their heads

And also I still won't listen to U2 and I'll still throw up a little in my mouth if I hear Alanis Morrissette in my vicinity. And I still won't watch movies with Russell Crowe get the idea.

But a good short rib dish? Well I guess I have to draw the line somewhere.
I wanted to try this dish because the ribs are brined before braising and I haven't done that before. This extra step of marinating the beef in salt and really imparted some nice flavours on the meat.

My favourite part of this dish was actually the cabbage. It was so softly sweet and tender. The onions were subtle and sweet. The julienned carrots and raisins were visually beautiful and added a nice level of sugar to the cabbage.

They were such a perfect match for the ribs. Another brilliant dish in which the whole is that much greater than the sum of its parts. 

On their own I found the ribs to be very good if a little too salty for my taste (salt loving dad thought they were just perfect). They were tender and falling off the bone and when met with the cabbage the whole dish gained a wonderful balance of flavours and textures.

Brined Short Ribs with 5 Onion Cabbage 
(adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe on

2 quarts water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups kosher salt
2 tbsp. juniper berries
3 bay leaves

Bring all ingredients together in a saucepan.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Let the brine cool completely and then cover the ribs with brine and refrigerate for 3 hours.

4 lbs. cross cut short ribs
olive oil
2 cups onion coarsely chopped
1 cup carrot coarsely chopped
1 cup celery coarse chopped
1 cup red wine
1 quart chicken stock

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Remove ribs from brine.
Pat dry.
Heat a high sided saute pan over medium high heat until hot.
Add a layer of olive oil to the pan.
When the oil begins to smoke add the ribs and brown on all sides.
Note: They will brown very quickly due to the sugar in the brine.
After browning place the ribs in an oven safe dish.
Put onion, carrot and celery to saute pan and cook over medium heat until well caramelized.
Add vegetables to dish with short ribs.
Pour red wine into saute pan.
Deglaze the pan and then simmer until reduced by half.
Add stock to wine.
Bring to a boil and then pour liquid over ribs and vegetables.
Bring the ribs to a boil on the stovetop.
Then cover and place in oven.
Bake until tender (approx 4 hours).

5 Onion Cabbage
1 cup leeks sliced (white parts only)
1 cup green onions sliced (white parts only)
1 cup shallots diced small
1 cup red onion diced small
1 cup yellow onion diced small
1 cup grated carrot
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 head savoy cabbage

Sweat leeks, shallots and all onions and carrot in olive oil. 
Add raisins.
Saute for a few minutes.
Add cabbage and cook slowly until very soft (approx 2 hours).
Stir frequently.


Sook said...

The short ribs look delicious!! Yum!

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