Weddings are awesome, but so is the wedding food, especially if it includes smoked and braised beef short ribs. Congratulations Jen and Matt Stone. I just got back from an awesome wedding weekend celebration between two of my best friends. The rehearsal dinner was at Tra Vigne, a restaurant staple in the Napa Valley area and made famous by Michael Chiarello. Jen’s a pastry chef, so she knows here food and the entree she selected, the smoked and braised beef short ribs stole the show. Combining smoking & braising is one heck of a one-two combo.
Smoked and braised beef short ribs
Braising and smoking are two techniques that helps transform once inedible cuts of meat into incredibly tender and flavorful eats. At Tra Vigne I experienced enjoying a meat that was smoked and braised. Never before have I tasted a dish in which both techniques were deployed on the same protein. The lingering smokey taste introduced suchdepth and made the dish all the more primordial. The lingering concentration of the smokiness was spectacular with the short ribs & polenta.
I’ve thought about the cooking process to achieve this. I’ve searched online and have come up with a few hypotheses. Unfortunately I do not currently have access to a grill or a smoker, so to play around with my ideas will have to wait. It is also double unfortunate that after some Googling, I was unable to find an exact recipe on Chiarello’s smoked & braised short ribs. He is good at playing for keeps.
There are a couple of ways I think to achieve the subtle yet present smoke to the braised short ribs:
- Have a smoker going with a combination of woods and other burning agents. It is my assumption that grape vines and other local Napa Valley goods are used to create the smoke. Grape vines make for what seems like initially a harsh smelling fire, but great smokey & lingering flavors on meats. Plus it is Napa Valley and everyone loves their locavorism there. After some time (15-30 mins), the short ribs are moved into the braising liquid pot, covered with the lid, & finished in either an oven or simmered on low heat for a few more hours.
- Like a tradition braise, sear the meat in a smoking hot pan and cook in in a braising liquid. Well before the meat is tender and complete, remove the meat from the braise and finish it in the smoker.
- Rather than using a tradition smoker, use a very hot grill that is lite not by gas but coals and/or wood+vines. Because the Tra Vigne short ribs were in a brine and loaded with sugar, throwing them on a flaming grill will instantly char the meat and create a smokiness taste to them – even though they were not officially smoked in a smoker as in a tradition BBQ sense.
- Cheat and use liquid smoke, learn more here
Recipe of Tra Vigne’s smoked & braised short ribs
I’m still not sure if this is the real deal, but here is a recipe of Tra Vigne’s short ribs. I’m not sold this is the smoked and braised recipe in its entirety, but I’ll let you be the judge too. For the recipe at Napa Valley Flavors click here
It is interesting to note a brine is used for the short ribs. This is an intelligent way to impart a bit more flavor (in this case sugar, juniper berries, and bay leaves) in addition to further tenderizing the meat to keep it moist and succulent. This is a fantastic idea as I normally do not brine my short ribs and save brines for poultry and pork. Mazel Tov!