Balthazar’s Plat du Jour
I am a hopeless Francophile loving all things French if for no reason other than that. If it is French than it must be good. Mais bien sur!
On a recent trip to New York my husband Gayden and I visited the classis French brasserie in SoHo, Balthazar’s. I am usually resistant to his suggestion to go there every time we visit New York because there are so many other fabulous dining choices. So after days of insisting on sampling the eclectic cuisines of Shanghai and consuming soup dumplings, Italian specialities in the Bowery, Spanish small plates at Mario Batalli’s and sampling way too many French pastries, I decided to surprise him and make a reservation at Balthazar’s.
Balthazar’s serves straightforward, honest French cuisine. It is simple and not pretentious. Balthazar’s is not a “concept” like so many American restaurants.
This traditional French brasserie serves all of the standards that one would expect from a worthy brasserie. You cannot have a brasserie without French fries or frites,cassoulet, escargots, salade nicoise, onion soup gratinee, and the plat du jour. Balthazar’s lives up to this reputation and expectation.
One of the standard Saturday night plat du jour at Balthazar’s is braised short ribs.
Braised short ribs capture all of the basics of French cooking. If you can master this dish, you will have graduated to “chef de cuisine” of your home kitchen and I guarantee that you will wow your foodie friends. The meat is browned, the mirepoix is sautéed, the wine and stock is added, the short ribs are slowly braised and the juices and stock are reduced to a thick velvety rich complex sauce. There are lots of basic techniques included in this recipe that do not require too much precision and will result in satisfying classic bistro fare.
Balthazar’s Braised Short Ribs
6 beef short ribs, 5-7 lbs
2 sprigs rosemary, 6 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf and 1 celery stalk
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion roughly chopped
4 shallots peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup ruby port
4 cup red wine ( Preferably cabernet)
6 cup veal stock or beef stock
Preheat oven to 325 F. Bind each rib with cotton twine. Place rosemary, thyme and bay in between 2 pieces of celery and bind with twine. Season short ribs with 2 teaspoons salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over high flame. Brown short ribs well on both sides. Remove all but 3 tablespoons oil from pot.
Set ribs aside.
Lower heat to medium and add carrots, onions, shallots and garlic to the pot. Sauté for 5 minutes until onion are soft and light brown. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in flour to combine. Add port, wine, and herb bundle. Raise heat and cook about 20 minutes until reduced by a third.
Return ribs to pot. They may stack in 2 layers. Add stock and remaining salt. Make sure that ribs are covered with cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in oven for 3 hours. Check pot occasionally, stirring gently and making sure that ribs are covered. They are done when meat is fork tender and falling from bone. Transfer ribs to platter and remove strings. Skim fat from surface of sauce and then strain through a sieve to remove solids. (I skip this part and leave the carrots and onions in the sauce.) Bring sauce to a strong simmer and reduce by half, about 4 cups. Return ribs to pot and simmer gently for 10 minutes to re-heat.
Great served with mashed potatoes or polenta. Oh, and a spoon to gather every last drop of the sauce!