On February 19th, we had our second installment of Studiofeast Sunday. While we still love the big, weird events that we’ve been known to throw, last week also reminded us how great it is to cook for a small group of people in a really intimate setting. We had a great group of dinner guests with whom we shared a good laugh with, but we also had an conversation about one of the dishes we served and the technique involved in the preparation.
Of the five courses we served, one standout was the 72 hour short rib we served with white bean, fennel, and carrot. The ribs were locally raised and sourced from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, then sugar cured overnight, sealed with olive oil in a vacuum bag, and cooked in a water bath for three days. The result is a medium done rib that’s insanely tender due to the time in the bath, which breaks down the connective tissues and collagen. It tastes amazing and is a great application of low temperature cooking with sous vide.
Comparing it to a traditional short rib is apples and oranges. I love both, but the texture of the sous vide version is truly unique. A traditional rib is cooked well above the “well done” temperature of beef for just a few hours, but it ends up being great because of the wealth of connective tissue, fat, and the braising liquid that is typically included. The modern short rib, on the other hand, is cooked at 60 degrees Celsius (140F), which is considered “medium.” If you were to cook a short rib at this low temperature for the same duration as a traditional rib, the collagen and fat wouldn’t have enough time to break down and you’d have a really tough piece of meat. But, time and temperature work together and in the modern technique, the time is extended greatly to compensate for the drop in cooking temperature.
In a traditionally prepared rib, the individual strands of beef shred apart easily, but the meat is technically well done. The modern rib however, has a structure that resembles sliced steak, yet it’s ridiculously more tender due to the long cooking time and broken down fat. While traditional and modern low temperature methods both yield great results, you cannot achieve a unique texture quite like this without employing sous vide. This technique, in my opinion, is an evolution in how we approach the short rib and produces a distinctly different result than what we’re accustomed to with this dish.
In the end, all that really matters is the taste, and I think the ribs went over unanimously well that night. We even got a pescatarian to eat short ribs for the first time and she loved them. I take pride in turning someone onto the dark side like that and will continue to do so 72 hours at a time.
Thanks to Jessica Lawrence and Brian Quinn for being our gracious hosts, pairing the wines, creating the cocktail, and taking photos. You were the glue for this Studiofeast and we couldn’t have done it without you both! Check them both out at Alchemist of Spirits.