Seated at the counter that faces the cozy kitchen, my dining companion and I fixated on our main course, the 24-hour short ribs, as we made our way through it. We were having dinner in Santa Barbara, Calif., in a fantastic restaurant named Julienne, when bemusement, if not only bedazzlement, set in as we tried to make sense of what we were experiencing. Yes, we love and eat beef short ribs as much and often as the next guy does. But, this plate is wildly different.
On the outside, the ribs look as enticing as you’d expect any good short rib dishes to. Bafflement begins when you cut into the rib. Suddenly, you start questioning your senses: You feel as though your knife is running through some very tender cut, not unlike prime ribs. Not to mention you are now bewildered at the sight of a rosy-pink interior, when what you were anticipating was a rich dark-brown color that normally comes with long, slow cooking. You can’t help but wonder: Is it possible that short ribs cooked only to medium-rare yield a tender texture like a steak? Well, there's only one way to find out. You pick up a piece with your fork and taste. Sinking your teeth into the caramelized crust, your palate registers that concentrated richness of meat flavor right away. Next comes your appreciation of its crispy, crackly texture, which, by all means, contrasts brilliantly with the juicy tender beef underneath it. Short ribs could do that? Imagine the enlightenment that hit me that evening.
David Chang of Momofuku, who operates some of my favorite restaurants in New York City, has published a 48-hour short ribs recipe in his acclaimed cookbook. It involves cooking the ribs in sous vide method for a full two days. That poses a couple of issues for me. One, usually I don’t start to cook until I get hungry, so I don’t really have the stomach and patience to wait 48 hours for my next meal to come about. Two, I don’t have an immersion circulator in my kitchen, so attempting the sous vide method is definitely out of the question. But do I really want to give up just because I’m not equipped to cook my short ribs at a constant temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours straight?
In this case, I’m willing to settle for less. I know that without the proper length of cooking time and equipment, I will never be able to create the same excellent results the professional chefs out there do. But as an avid cook, my challenge is to streamline a professional recipe to something simple and convenient enough to make at home whenever I have a craving for those delicious short ribs. I’ve found that cooking them in the oven at a low temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit for just eight hours yields some very tender and juicy meat that somewhat resembles what I tasted at Julienne. Remember, only the oven has to work eight hours; you don’t. If you use a food processor, the actual preparation and active cooking takes only half an hour. If you broil or sear the ribs before you serve them, you will get that wonderful crust that any meat lover lives for. The bonus is that you'll have a pot of rich beef stock left over, good as sauce for any dish or for cooking your next batch of short ribs. Try it on a weekend!