Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Caveman Cuisine: Roasted Beef Ribs
"In the early twentieth century, Louis-Camille Maillard happened upon what came to be known as the Maillard reaction when he was trying to figure out how amino acids linked up to form proteins. He discovered that when he heated sugars and amino acids together, the mixture slowly turned brown."
How would you describe the quintessentially perfect piece of meat? Undoubtedly it would be moist, with juices and fat retained and flowing within the flesh. It would also be meltingly tender, surrendering to the tooth with seductive resistance. Would you also say that this perfect meal would be coated with glycated amino acids? Of course, you wouldn't actually say that, but you would definitely be thinking about it.
Discovered in the early 20th century by Louis-Camille Maillard, the Maillard, or "browning", reaction involves the combination of proteins and sugars in the presence of high heat. The result is one of the absolutely essential elements of a perfectly cooked piece of meat. An aesthetically pleasing and gustatorily sublime crust. (Our desire for this meaty crust may even have its roots in our very evolution!)
Summoning the holy trinity of meat (tender, crusty, and moist) may at times be daunting. The journey fraught with dry or insipid clods of cooked flesh, but do not fear. For I have come to guide you upon the path. It is but one path among many, but I assure you that it will lead to salivation.
For our purposes, we will choose a piece of meat that offers several distinct advantages.
One: Lots of fat and connective tissue. These are important as they will lubricate the meat from within as they melt.
Two: Must be eaten with hands. The banner of this site reads "Live Caveman". Enough said.
Three: Delicious. I want my food to taste like what it is. Tasting "like chicken" is not an option.
Four: Cheap. As an affordable cut, it allows room for errors and repeated experimentation of a single effort runs afoul.
We will also be cooking the meat using a three stage process.
One: An initial high-heat sizzle. This gives us an opportunity to develop browning compounds on the meat while it is still relatively cool, sparing the juices inside. (For this same reason, an initial high heat "sizzle" in the oven would make the Thanksgiving turkey a little more toothsome rather than waiting until the end to brown the bird.)
Two: A low and slow roasting period. This allows the temperature of the meat to gradually increase towards the center, sparing moisture while liquidizing fats and other tissues.
Three: A final rest before carving. Sufficiently resting your meat will allow juices to redistribute through the flesh as well as allowing for a little more time for the internal temperature of the meat to even out. Rest your meat at room temperature. Allowing it to sit in the oven, even if the oven is off, will continue to cook the meat and defeats the purpose.
Note: Proper execution of this cooking process is also made much easier by using a large skillet that can transition from the stove top to the oven. In other words, no plastic or Teflon cookware!
2 1lb racks of beef ribs (~2 ribs each)
Coconut oil or some other highly saturated fat (ghee, tallow, etc.)
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 white onion (sliced into rings)
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp yellow mustard
3 medjool dates (diced)
Heat a large oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat your ribs with coconut oil and when the skillet is hot, place the ribs fatty-side (the "top") down in the pan. Season the underside of the ribs generously with sea salt and black pepper. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees while you let the ribs sizzle for ~5-7min.
Turn the ribs over and season the browned side with salt and pepper. Remove the ribs from the pan and add sliced onions. Set the ribs on top of the sliced onions and place the entire pan in the oven.
After one hour, carefully remove the pan from the oven (use mitts!) and set the meat aside. Allow the meat to rest for at least 5 full minutes before carving. The meat will be medium-rare and perhaps a touch bloody in the center. If this scares you, there are some chicken recipes on the Caveman Cuisine page.
While the meat rests, you may want to try creating a sauce from the pan drippings. Put the pan over a burner at medium heat. Remove the onions and add white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits. Add mustard, black pepper, and chopped dates. Bring the sauce up to a high simmer while continuing to stir. Add the onions back in. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a small amount of water, or even better beef stock.
Carve the ribs by slicing parallel to and between the bones with a sharp heavy knife.
Serve with plenty of napkins!
If you dug this recipe, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This epic tome (calling it a book would be doing this work a disservice) details every nuance of the meat eating experience from the philosophical implications of carnivory, to tips on butchery, and everything else from farm to table and nose to tail.