Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Applejack Braised Shortribs with Butternut & Brussels Sprouts



What is it about cool, crisp weather and slow braising?  They're positively made for each other!  There just isn't anything better than having a pot of goodness simmering on the stovetop on a lazy, chilly Sunday afternoon just filling the house with a most delicious aroma...nothing better at all.
In my opinion, the bubbling liquid and resultant steam are good for your sinuses and your lungs...I bet that's part of the magic of chicken soup, too. As the steam naturally humidifies dry winter air, it help your feel all better.  It's just supposition, but one never knows...remember you heard it here first.
A pot of Applejack Braised Shortribs with Butternut and Brussels Sprouts uses lovely fall vegetables, plus apples and apple cider to accent the flavors - and colors - of the season.  Colors of orange butternut and bright green Brussels sprouts nestled next to the deep, rich brown of beautifully caramelized shortribs look just like a pot full of fall.
If only the colors of the braise would stay, but just as bright fall leaves become muted as the season comes to a close, the color of the dish fades during cooking, too. While I miss some of that lovely color when the dish is done, the flavor that remains behind is beefy and rich, sweet with apple, butternut, cider and red wine, earthy sprouts and amazing flavor!  What would you rather have...vibrant color or deep, lush flavor...mmmhhmm...that's what I thought.
The combination of butternut and Brussels sprouts in a stew or other slow-cooked dish has been working in my mind for a while now.  I was considering what to use to accent those fall flavors...pork?  Maybe chicken or turkey? Hmmmm. (I'm still working on a similar pork dish...maybe pork shanks....)
Then inspiration in the form of Cousin George struck. George mentioned on Facebook that he made Red Wine Braised Shortribs to help ride out Hurricane Sandy there in Maryland.  (He also made a pot of Dark Pot Roast Chili....quite the Renaissance man, eh?!)

I had shortribs in the freezer.  I had red wine.  He sent me the recipe, but naturally I veered off course. Somehow this seemed the appropriate time to set the squash and sprouts to work!
Thus today's recipe was born. Here it is:  

Applejack Braised Shortribs with Butternut & Brussels Sprouts

  • 2 1/2 pounds short ribs, boneless - 6 large, lean pieces (they were actually labeled as chuck shortribs)
  • 2 slices bacon, thick sliced, cut across into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 large red onion, sliced thin
  • 2 large garlic cloves, slivered

  • 1 large sprig of thyme, separated into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 cup Laird's Applejack
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider, you know I use the farm fresh kind from the farm market
  • 1 cup red wine

  • 1 pound butternut squash, pre-cut, pre-packaged cubes - LOVE the convenience!
  • 18 Brussels sprouts, stem ends cut off, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced large

Season the ribs with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on all sides.  Set aside.
In large enameled cast iron Dutch oven (with a lid), saute bacon until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve.  Add butter to the bacon fat in the pot and melt. 
Raise the heat to high, add half the ribs to the pot and brown well on all sides. Remove to plate and add the rest of the meat - again brown well on all sides.  Remove to plate.
Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook for a few minutes until just beginning to soften a little bit.  Add the Applejack and stir well, getting all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Stir the apple cider and red wine into the liquid.

Add the meat back into the pot, nestle the thyme between the ribs and down into the liquid.  Bring to a boil, cover and immediately lower heat to simmer.  Cook for 1 1/2-2 hours until the meat is tender. 

Veggies in the pot all ready for the final simmer...and still pretty.

Add butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and apple.  Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil again and immediately lower heat to simmer.  Cover pot and continue to cook until the squash and sprouts are tender.
Serve over buttered poppyseed noodles (gluten-free to keep this GF - I really like Scharr tagliatelle) & garnish with reserved crisp bacon.

NOTE:  Poppyseed noodles: cook noodles, butter them and add a tablespoon or so of poppyseeds, salt & freshly ground pepper.  Not much of a recipe...I like those easy ones!

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