Well, another season of Top Chef Masters has passed and we think the judges made the right decision with chef Chris Cosentino. His winning dishes truly reflected his style — offal all the way. Which meant we were unlikely to make them into our dinner. K is all about the offal. I’ll taste just about anything, but I’m not too keen on making an entire meal out of heart and liver — too much for me. So we decided to go with a runner-up dish that looked delicious: Red wine-braised short ribs with potato fennel gratin (original recipe here) from chef Kerry Heffernan. And so much for cooking together! This is a make-ahead dish all the way. Here’s how to do it up for your own dinner.
The night before your dinner, marinate your short ribs.
2 lbs beef short ribs (bone-in)
1 large container beef broth (preferably organic)
1/2 bottle dry red wine (doesn’t have to be super great, but never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink!)
1 TB dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp minced garlic
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and marinate short ribs, covered, overnight.
The next day, your short ribs will have absorbed lots of wonderful flavor and will look like this:
1/2 cup celery, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup carrots, cut into large chunks
1 small onion, cut into large chunks
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
Heat oil in a large pan. Saute carrots and celery until softened and browned. Add to crock pot (aka slow cooker).
Add a bit more oil to the hot pan and saute onions until softened and browned. Add to crock pot. Add a bit more oil to the hot pan and sear the short ribs on all sides. While the short ribs are searing, pour the marinade into the crock pot. When the ribs are browned on all sides (just 1-2 minutes per side), add to crock pot. If cooking for more than 4 hours, set slow cooker (crock pot) on low. If cooking for 4 hours or fewer, set slow cooker to high.
Potato Fennel Gratin
1 small russet potato, peeled
1 large fennel bulb
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 TB garlic, minced
1 TB thyme (fresh or dried)
Thinly slice fennel bulb on a mandolin (or carefully and as thinly as possible with a knife). Thinly slice potato on the mandolin (or carefully and as thinly as possible with a knife). Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray (or butter, if you’re feeling indulgent). Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Add a pinch of salt, some of the garlic and some of the thyme, add a layer of fennel, add 1/3 of the cream. Repeat (potato, garlic/herbs, fennel, cream) until you run out of potatoes/fennel, ending with a layer of potatoes on top (and a sprinkle of thyme and a splash of cream). NOTE: Gratin can be made to this point a few hours before serving and refrigerated. If gratin has absorbed a lot of the cream, add another splash right before cooking.
When ready to serve, remove short ribs from slow cooker (crock pot), add to plate and sprinkle with chopped herbs (optional). Cut gratin into squares, salt to taste and serve.
The verdict? This was good, not great. The short ribs had a nice, mellow wine flavor and were fall apart tender. But the gratin was underwhelming. The fennel was too subtle and the cream was pretty blah — not worth the calories. We both agreed that if we’re to make gratin again, we’d do a creamy cheese sauce instead of just straight cream.
Would we make this again? We’ve braised short ribs before and we’ll certainly do it again. Red wine is a great and flavorful braising liquid and the crock pot (slow cooker) is a fantastic vehicle for this. But when it comes to gratin, we’ll go the cheesy route in the future and/or just do straight fennel.
Cheers to another successful season of Top Chef Masters! Stay tuned for some new and exciting cooking adventures!