Modernist Foodie

Food escapades in modernist cuisine

Ancho Beer Braised Short Rib Tacos

Tonight I made some bomb ass Mexican-inspired braised short ribs, and it couldn't have been simpler. Usually most recipes for braises require you to sear the meat over the stove before simmering on the stove or roasting in the oven, but I avoided that mess altogether and the results were still outstanding - the secret is using minimal liquid and moderate temperature for sufficient time in the oven. Three hours at 325 degrees F gets the meat fork tender and also triggers the Maillard reaction on the meat, giving you that dark brown coloring you're looking for.

Here's the recipe:
  • .5 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used Harpoon IPA)
  • 2 oz dried ancho chiles (stemmed, seeds removed, and soaked a little warm water)
  • Half head of garlic smashed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • .5 teaspoon cinnamon
  • .5 teaspoon clove
  • .5 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • one medium-sized spoonful of tomato paste
  • 1 large onion (sliced in half inch slices)
  • 1 pack of beef short ribs (I got mine for BJ's)
  • Cabbage, red onion and carrot slaw - get the recipe here

Add all of the ingredients, except for the onion and short ribs, in a large Dutch oven pot and mix to combine.

Layer the slices of onion on the bottom of the pot.

Place the short ribs on top of the onions.

Cover the pot, and cook in a 325 degree F oven for 3 hours.

When they come out of the oven, the short ribs will look like this - nicely browned.

Remove the short ribs to a plate, and then finish the sauce. Skim off any fat that pools at the surface and discard the bay leaves. Place all of the pot contents into a blender - I used my trusty Vitamix - and blend until smooth.


Meanwhile, use two forks to shred the short ribs, and add the shredded meat back to your Dutch oven.

Dump the blended sauce back into the pot and combine with the meat. Heat gently to warm.

Finally, build your tacos! Take a heated, softened corn tortilla, add some of the delicious short rib meat, and top with the veggie slaw, chopped cilantro, and crumbled Cotjia cheese. Enjoy!

Cabbage, Red Onion and Carrot Slaw

Whenever I visit my favorite neighborhood Thai restaurant, I always order a green papaya salad. I've always wondered how they get such nice, uniform julienned cuts of papaya. The last time I went, I happened to get a glimpse of the chef preparing it and noticed she was using what appeared to be a peeler with a special blade.

I went home and searched on Amazon for "green papaya peeler" and this - the Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler - came up as the first search result. I decided to give it try, and it turns out it was exactly what I needed. For $5.65 plus free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime, this product is an absolute steal. I'd say I have decent knife skills, but julienning a bunch of vegetables, whether it be carrots or daikon, is a tedious, time-consuming task. This tool eliminates a lot of the headache. I've only had it for a week, and I've already used it a bunch of times. It's becoming one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

I used my special peeler for julienning some carrot for a pickled slaw that I paired with a Mexican-inspired ancho chile and beer braised short rib dish for tacos. The recipe for the slaw is basically a combination of shredded carrot (1 medium), cabbage (half a head) and red onion (half of a medium sized) - I used the peeler to cut the carrot and a mandolin for the latter two. Combine the vegetables with 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 cup of cider vinegar, .5 cup of water, 1.5 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Let the slaw sit in the pickling liquid for a few hours and then drain before serving. Don't worry about including the onion, as it becomes very mild through the pickling process.

Fried Brussels Sprouts, Fish Sauce, Garlic, Chilis

Growing up as a kid, I never really liked eating Brussels sprouts. However, as an adult, I certainly have acquired a taste for them. I usually oven roast or sauté them in a pan on the stove top but I must say that my absolute favorite method of cooking them is deep frying - yes, deep frying!

The exterior leaves get somewhat crispy and caramelized, and the flavor is deep, rich, and extremely savory. They are great on their own with a sprinkle of salt, but if you really want to put them over the top, dress them in a spicy thai-inspired vinaigrette with fish sauce. You might think fish sauce is unusual but it's not much unlike the Italian bagna cauda sauce, which uses anchovies.

Here's what to do:

  1. Pre-heat a deep fryer to 375 degrees F - I use the Waring Pro DF280 but if you don't have a dedicated deep fryer, alternatively you can use a dutch oven or large pot. To measure the temperature of oil, make sure you do so safely and use a thermometer that can measure high temps like a Taylor Thermocouple
  2. Slice the brussels sprouts in half
  3. Once the frying oil is up to temp, drop them in and fry for 2-3 minutes until brown and caramelized
  4. Remove from fryer and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil 
  5. Prepare thai vinaigrette by finely chopping thai bird chilis, grating a few garlic gloves using a microplane, and combining with fish sauce.
  6. Dress the brussel sprouts with the vinaigrette and enjoy!

Rancatore's Ice Cream

Rancatore's Ice Cream
1752 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420
(781) 862-5090

This past weekend my wife and I drove up to Burlington to grab some groceries at H-Mart. As we headed home, we drove through Lexington and decided to make a pit stop in the town center to grab coffee. We ended up randomly passing by an ice cream shop called Rancatore's and decided to stop in. There's a decent flavor selection, but what caught my eye was the "Tiger Milk" flavor. I asked the girl behind the counter what this flavor was all about, and it turns out they soak frosted flakes in the milk/cream and what's left over is the "tiger milk" that they use to make the ice cream. Momofuku Milk Bar's cereal milk flavor immediately came to mind, and my mind was set as to what to order. We ordered a small size (which actually isn't that small and comes with two scoops), so we also tried the hazelnut cream. The ice cream is dense and rich with a chewy consistency. Both flavors were excellent but I was really enamored with the tiger milk. I can't wait to go back!


755 Beacon St, Newton MA 02459
(617) 244-4445

Having spent my childhood and teenage years growing up in Newton, I can attest to the dearth of restaurants and the sad state of dining affairs that was in Newton for many years. Within the last year and a half, that has changed dramatically 
More and more legitimate restaurants (not you Appetito!) are opening in Newton like Farmstead Table, Waban Kitchen, and Sycamore. You no longer have to trek into the city to get a first rate meal.

In the Newton Center space formerly occupied by the butcher John Dewars & Co, Sycamore opened last year under David Punch and Lydia Reichert. Both chefs have solid pedigrees with experience at Ten Tables and Craigie on Main, respectively. The restaurant focuses on meticulously sourced meat and produce with respect for local traditions. They take ingredients of utmost quality and let them shine in creative, unexpected combinations.

My wife and I have only been once so far, but we'd love to go back. Here are pictures of some of the dishes we tried on our first visit.

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