Beef short rib bites

This is a play on a dish by ChefSteps where they make sous vide pastrami over a period of about 10 days (!) to develop great smoky flavor and tenderness, and serve it on a pumpernickel crisp with pickled mustard seeds and a red cabbage puree. I didn't want to spend 10 days making pastrami, so I cooked beef short ribs for 24 hours instead, and used a beet puree that I had leftover from my recent duck dish. You'll notice they (unintentionally) have a very similar structure: a red meat paired with an earthy beet puree (serving as 'sauce'), and a pickled element (for acidity, to cut richness). Many dishes look the same when you have the fundamentals down! Short rib is a very rich fatty cut, and we'll be adding a strongly-flavored spice crust. However this works due to the small portion size; this works on a multi-course menu but you would probably not want an entree-sized portion of this!

You'll notice the meat is perfectly pink from edge to edge, with very thin crust for flavor - this is the power of sous vide! No more graying overcooked edges!

There are two types of short rib you might find in your local market: English style, cut parallel to the bone, and Flanken style, which are thinner and cut across the bone. We're using English style here. It's a large, fatty cut that needs long, slow cooking to break down the tough collagen. ChefSteps has done an extremely detailed breakdown of the effects of different temperature and cooking time combinations (up to 72 hours). I chose to do 24 hours at 144F for a more tender steak-like texture that can be cut with a knife, rather than a total fall-off-the-bone texture. Take a look at the guide and choose to suit your tastes!

This is the first long cook I've done with sous vide, which is a great chance way to showcase its unique cooking abilities. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, make sure you're using strong freezer bags and monitor for signs of leakage during the cook. Either way with long cooks you'll need to monitor for evaporation and add water as necessary; putting a lid on top of the bath greatly reduces water loss to evaporation. I use a makeshift lid made from aluminum foil. I chose not to add fat (oil) to the bag, like you would usually do for proteins like chicken and fish, as I was concerned about its effects during a long cook, and this worked out fine.

Pickled mustard seeds add a tangy acidic pop to the dish. We're basically following the ChefSteps pickled mustard seed recipe, which you'll notice looks very similar to the pickled parsnip recipe from the duck dish. Many pickling recipes are similar: combine water, vinegar, aromatics, sugar and salt, bring to a boil, pour over your product, and let mellow for a few days. We're doing the exact same thing here, just with improvised quantities.

Finally, Chefsteps provides a recipe for the pumpernickel crisps which calls for freezing the loaf and then slicing it extremely thinly on an electric slicer before briefly baking to crisp them up. Unsurprisingly I don't have an electric slicer, but found the loaf I bought came pre-sliced into thin slices anyways. If you buy a solid loaf, try freezing the loaf and doing your best with a knife.

Ingredients

For 2 servings.

1 English style beef short rib

Dry rub for the beef crust, or just salt and pepper

Pumpernickel bread

Watercress or other greens, for garnish

Finishing salt such as Maldon

For the pickled mustard seeds:

2 Tbsp mustard seeds

1 small jar

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

For the beet puree:

3 red beets

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

1-inch section ginger

1 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp chicken broth

Equipment:

Sous vide setup

Vacuum sealer (optional)

Blender or food processor

Directions

  1. 24 hours in advance, heat your sous vide unit to 144F. Season the short rib with salt and place it in a vacuum seal or ziploc bag. Seal the bag or use the water displacement method, drop it into the water bath, and place some sort of lid on top of your bath to minimize evaporation.
  2. Several hours or a day beforehand, prepare the pickled mustard seeds (they'l be better with a day to pickle): boil and drain the mustard seeds with enough water to cover at least twice to remove bitter flavors. Combine the champagne vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Drain the mustard seeds and add to the jar (making sure the jar is very clean!), then pour over the pickling liquid. These should last in your fridge for at least several months.
  3. Preheat your oven to 425F.
  4. Prepare the beet puree (you can do this ahead of time and reheat for service): peel and slice the beets to 1/2 inch thickness. Peel the ginger and thinly slice along with the garlic. Place the beet, garlic, and ginger in a foil packet, season with salt and pepper, and add a drizzle of olive oil. Loosely crimp the foil packet closed and roast for 40 minutes.
  5. When the beets are finished roasting, transfer all contents of the packet to a blender, add the butter, and 1 Tbsp of the chicken broth. Blend very thoroughly until smooth, and blend in the remaining chicken broth until you reach the consistency you'd like. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  6. Prepare the pumpernickel crisps: Cut two slices of bread as thin as possible. Invert a baking sheet, and lay a double width of parchment paper on top. Lay the slices on the paper, fold it over, and add another baking sheet or pan on top. Bake the pumpernickel slices for about 6 minutes, or until satisfyingly crispy. In my case I finished the slices on a dry cast iron pan for that final sear.
  7. Finish the short rib: when the 24 hours are up, remove it from the bag, remove the bone (the meat should separate easily), and pat the surface dry with paper towels. Season the surface very generously with your seasoning of choice (I used a Texan beef dry rub given to me by my girlfriend; use your spices of choice or just salt and pepper). Heat a cast-iron skillet to very hot, add a very small amount of high smoke point oil, and sear the short rib for about 1-2 minutes on each side or until a nice crust is developed. Remove the short rib from the pan and slice into 2 serving-size cubes, trimming excess fat from the ends as desired.
  8. Place a piece of pumpernickel crisp on each plate, and add a piece of short rib on top, adding a pinch of the finishing salt to the meat. Place a spoonful of the pickled mustard seed on the crisp, making sure to pour off excess pickling liquid. Finally add a spoonful of the beet puree to the plate and garnish with the greens.

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