Short ribs of beef, oven braised on the bone with plums and ginger turn completely black; only when you cut through the meat the pinkish colour peeks through. Smothered in plum and ginger sauce which, incidentally, turns black too, I couldn’t resist but present them in a black casserole dish. Maybe black is the new black in food presentation?
Obama's short ribs
Beef short ribs are a very popular cut in America; here in UK not so much. It might have since become hugely big because the recipe I’m presenting is called ’Obama’s short ribs’.
Braised in the oven, with plum sauce, the dish was cooked by chef Marcus Samuelsson for President Obama when he visited the restaurant Red Rooster Harlem.
I found the recipe on NY Times Cooking site and got cooking.
The short rib of beef is very tasty, very easy to prepare, good for a party and tastes more expensive than it looks. I tweaked a little, adding fresh plums and extending the cooking time so I was sure the meat would be falling off the bone.
But it had me thinking too: very well, Obama’s braised short ribs, but do we know if he actually enjoyed eating it?
That’s the problem with the dishes named after celebrities. Unless they actually cooked the thing (Barbara Bush’s cowboy cookies), they are lumbered willy-nilly with the edible tribute.
Did Nellie Melba like peaches? Or Anna Pavlova meringue? Was Garibaldi partial to biscuits? And did John D. Rockefeller like seafood?
I’m sure the good former president, being a polite person, would have noshed what was served and praised substantially.
But do you know if he did truthfully? Maybe he hated each mouthful and kept telling himself ‘do not ask what your country can do for you…’?
I guess with his successor at least you knew where you stood: if it ain’t Big Mac, it’s garbage.
How to cook beef short ribs?
Braising in the oven is a super reliable method if you’re aiming to achieve meat falling off the bone, shreddable with a fork and meltingly tender. I owe the technique to Samin Nosrat, whose idea of turning the meat in the braise every half an hour or so has proven sterling value.
The ribs need brief browning in a frying pan, for that lovely caramelisation effect. True, it will all dissolve in the sauce in the oven but it wouldn’t feel right to dump raw meat into the sauce, would it?
The sauce is made from a collection of aromatics. Carrot, onion and celery like in a classic soffritto, plus sweet and fragrant addition of lemongrass, ginger, soy and hoisin sauces, and plums obviously.
All needs a start-up on the hob, before the liquids are added, red wine and stock. The ribs return in and off they go into the oven, not too hot at 160C, for at least three hours.
Every half an hour turn them in the dish, so they braise evenly. The last stage is cooking without the lid, so the tops caramelise appetisingly.
The meat needs to come out again so we can strain the sauce and reduce it a little, if necessary. And they can now be served, coated in the smooth sauce, with rice or plain pasta on the side.
More braising recipes
Braised pork shoulder with chilies, Mexican style. The beer braised pork shoulder takes four hours to cook in the oven and the result is pork so tender it can be pulled or shredded.
Quartered pheasant braised with juniper berries, thyme and mace and served with cooked chestnuts – it’s a wonderful, warming wintery dish.
Cider braised gammon joint with apples and garlic, slowly cooked in the oven. This is the best cooking method for a great ham roast or sensational ham sandwiches.
More budget beef recipes
The budget cuts of beef can be glorious. Spicy seared bavette steak, seasoned with a dry rub of chilli flakes, oregano, garlic and a secret umami agent: dried mushroom powder.
The best chilli con carne with two kinds of beans, minced beef, tinned tomatoes and judicious seasoning, to end all the chilli disputes. For me, at least.
Korean barbecue-style beef meatballs, with spring onions, ginger and garlic plus a secret old-school meatball ingredient: crushed Ritz crackers.