Close your eyes. Picture yourself at a nice restaurant. You’re eyes are scanning the menu, down through appetizers, soups, and salads, and finally landing on entrees. You see “red wine glazed Ossobucco”, “Lamb Shank Tagine”, or “Balsamic Short Ribs” and, if you’re like me, two things happen.
First, for obvious meat-related reasons, your mouth starts to water uncontrollably. Buuuuuuut, second, your eyes dart over to the price to HOLY DEAR GOD, WHAT IS THIS BEEF MADE OF GOLD? SINCE WHEN DO NUMBERS EVEN GO THIS HIGH!? You pick up and put down way too much weight to be paying these kinds of prices for this small a serving of animal parts.
The beautiful irony here is that the ingredients of all of these dishes are some of the most inexpensive around: cheaper cuts of meat, basic vegetables, and something liquid. What they’re selling you on, what you claim not to have enough of, is time. What are the really doing to the meat with this “time” Unlike the chicken recipe (which if you haven’t tried, seriously, why are you even reading. Go find a chicken and make it) where it comes out perfect just because, we know exactly what they are doing to this slow cooked meat. And it’s so simple you’ll want to pay for it again.
It works much like your hands do. When you started Crossfit, your hands had nice, soft, supple skin. The first time you did fran, or murph, your skin probably tore. You wanted to keep going, your hands wanted to keep going, they just weren’t ready. However with enough use over enough time, you turned those soft, dainty feather-grippers into the tough, calloused, barbell talons they wanted to be all along. And now look at you go. These cuts of meat work the same way, only backwards, and unlike your hands it doesn’t take weeks.
Tough cuts of meat (short ribs, ox tails, shanks, chuck, ribs etc.) are the powerhouses of the cow. They do work. Not like the tenderloin that just lounges around all day, lazy tenderloin. As such, they are packed full of tough connective tissue and collagen, which is unpleasant to eat. But it’s not collagen’s fault. It wants to be tender and delicious. It just takes time. If you get collagen up to a temperature of around 160F and hold it for a bit, it begins to melt and turn in to gelatin. Gelatin is why you can cut good short ribs just by staring hard enough. Gelatin is what coats your whole mouth with meat flavor. Gelatin is what makes things “lip smackin’ good.” We’re big fans of gelatin.
And that’s without mentioning the unavoidable benefit of braising. Sauce. By definition you literally have to braise things in liquid. So all the juices from the meat, the rendered fat, the browned bits of whatever else you added, and all of the concentrated flavors of your liquid will distill together, and, try as you might (though I’m not sure why you would), will turn into sauce. Full of meaty, caramelized, reduced goodness.
So, give it a shot. “With what stuff?” you say? It’s pretty easy:
- Go grab one of the cuts listed above, making sure you have approximately even sized pieces.
- Salt and pepper them, and place them in a pot with some onions, potatoes, fennel, carrots, whatever veggies you want. Then cover about half way with liquid: red wine, broth, beer, pureed tomato, Kill Cliff, pond water.
- Add any bonus seasonings you want: bay leaves, garlic, mustard, all spice, thyme, soy sauce, ginger, sticks, chalk, dryer lint, maybe not ALL of those, but pretty much anything.
- Put the lit on and throw it into a 325 degree oven for about 3 hrs. You’ll know it’s ready when you can pierce it with a fork and feel 0 resistance.
- Call all those friends you have, and tell them to cancel their evening plans and put on their eating pants. Don’t have friends? More meat for you.
Go home and try it; it’s almost impossible to mess up. Thank me later.