Eating and socializing go hand-in-hand. With each social setting, the food we eat must reflect the circumstance. When our attention is focused on a celebration, a business occasion or a big game, the food we prepare can complement the occasion. Snacks are best when they can be eaten easily and within a few small bites
Eating and socializing go hand-in-hand. With each social setting, the food we eat must reflect the circumstance. When our attention is focused on a celebration, a business occasion or a big game, the food we prepare can complement the occasion. Snacks are best when they can be eaten easily and within a few small bites that pack a punch of flavor.
One of my go-to preparations to meet all the criteria above is barbecue short ribs. I like to focus on the event at hand and so, I ensure most of the preparation and cooking is put out of mind well in advance. For a Super Bowl snack, these short ribs are easily prepared ahead of time and are an absolute crowd-pleaser.
I make a marinade for the ribs, cook them low and slow for 48 hours and finish them over red-hot charcoal on a grill to give a crisp and smoky sear. I baste the ribs in an adaptation of the marinade, which is used to glaze the ribs, finished with a toasted crunch of sesame and some fragrant scallions.
It is the multi-layered techniques used for this recipe that accumulate to boast remarkable flavor. The ribs have depth of flavor from the umami-rich marinade. The coal grilling to finish adds a slight smokiness and charring, and the texture is melt-in-the-mouth tender from the formation of gelatin during the slow cooking process. If you want to really get ahead, the ribs can be chilled after you cook them in the water bath, and then reheated from cold over the grill. They’ll still be perfectly cooked and warm throughout.
So why do I cook the short ribs for such a long time?
- Insulating flavor: By sealing the short ribs in a food-safe polypropylene bag, along with the marinade, there is nowhere for the flavor to escape. When we walk into a kitchen that is full of delicious smells, we often remark gleefully with compliments. However, this is a problem. Great smells are great, but they soon disappear as most are lost in the mechanics of the hood. And when great smells disappear, so does flavor. By cooking sous vide, you can ensure that all of the flavor that goes into the bag is retained and eventually tasted.
- Texture: A cut like short ribs is often cooked with traditional methods, such as braising. Long, moist heat breaks down the tough protein strands over time until the meat is tender. If we stop the cooking process at a temperature of medium rare for example, the meat has an inedible texture and flavor has not developed. However, using low-temperature cooking — sous vide in this case — it is possible to unwind the tough collagen protein to moisture-retaining gelatin and hold it at that temperature. This results in a steak-like texture, full of moisture and abundant flavor.
- Increase yield: Cooking at these temperatures also results in less shrinkage. Higher temperatures used in traditional cooking mean moisture loss, and with that, shrinkage. Using low temperatures, I am able to retain almost all of the size and weight of the product with almost no loss.
To finish the short ribs, I am using binchotan charcoal, which holds temperature to above 1,000 C/1,832 F and has a clear and clean flavor. I heat the coals until they are red hot and have a layer of ash surrounding them. This helps to insulate and moderate the heat from the individual coals.
As soon as I put the rib onto the grill, the magic happens. The glaze coating the ribs and the meat searing creates a slow drip of sugars, fats and proteins falling to meet the coals. These charred juices then combust, creating a beautiful range of flavor that is drawn upward with the rising air, coating the meat on the way and creating a vacuum, sucking in air to the coals and repeating. This process distributes a fascinating array of flavor compounds that finish the meat perfectly.
Barbecue Short Ribs
Yields 25 portions
- 1.8 kg beef short ribs, boneless
- 362 grams Korean rice syrup
- 226 grams soy
- 56 grams Mirin
- 9 grams Gochujang
- 6 shiitakes, dried
- Marinade from above
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 56 grams sesame oil
- 150 grams sesame seeds, toasted
- Set a water bath to 60 C/140 F. Mix ingredients together for the marinade.
- Clean up short ribs, removing any excess of fat and sinew.
- Place all ingredients into a large vacuum pouch and seal on 100%.
- Cook in the water bath at 60 C/140 F for 48 hours.
- At this point, it is possible to chill the ribs in the bag to below 4c and continue with the next steps when needed. This means the 48-hour cooking can be done a few days in advance.
- Set up a grill ready with red hot charcoal.
- Drain the liquid and reserve in a small saucepot.
- Cut short ribs into finger-length cubes.
- Remove shiitake from the marinade and add garlic. Boil and remove from the heat, whisk in sesame oil. Leave for 30 minutes to infuse.
- Brush ribs with glaze and grill over charcoal on a Konro grill until crisp and blistered, brushing with glaze after every turn.
- Remove from the grill and brush once more, sprinkle over toasted sesame seeds and scallions and place onto a stick. Serve immediately.