We are back in Ireland after a great trip to Colorado, Arizona, and California. We enjoyed Mexican food in all three states, and we didn’t even have to make it ourselves! And we were only back a couple of weeks before we were craving it again, with nowhere to find it except at home.
We had some short ribs in the freezer, so we thought, Why not Mexican? A little research turned up several saved recipes for short ribs cooked with chiles. In a February 2008 recipe from The New York Times, Mark Bittman braises them in dried chiles and coffee. A 2003 Gourmet magazine recipe, based on a dish by Robert Del Grande of Houston’s Cafe Annie, also braises the ribs in dried chiles and coffee. In the PBS series Mexico — One Plate at a Time, Rick Bayless offers up a short rib recipe using fresh roasted poblanos.
With Ireland’s dearth of fresh chiles, we usually work only with dried. But we returned from our trip with a suitcase full of roasted and frozen poblano and Hatch chiles (more exciting than Christmas!), so we came up with a version using both fresh and dried. We liked the idea of coffee so we used that, too.
The meat and sauce were fabulous. We decided to serve the short ribs on Creamy Polenta, an idea inspired by the Gourmet recipe, and Pam’s sous vide version worked perfectly. The combination of the meat, sauce, and polenta tasted almost like a deconstructed tamale.
We garnished the dish with some homemade queso fresco. We’ve included a recipe for this light, fresh cheese for those of you who can’t find it locally. Even if it is available where you live, it is very easy (and cheap!) and fun to make so you may want to try it.
The meat and sauce could be served many other ways, such as over mashed potatoes or in sopes, tacos, or burritos. We accompanied the meal with a Margarita made using an Alton Brown recipe suggested by a friend. A little labor intensive but really good.
- Preheat the water bath to 140°F (60°C).
- Place the ancho chiles in a bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes to soften. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the soaking liquid.
- Transfer the softened ancho chiles, poblanos, garlic, onion, shallot, lime zest, chipotle chili and adobo sauce, oregano, salt, coffee, agave syrup, and Worcestershire sauce to a blender jar. Taste the reserved chili soaking water and if it is not bitter, add to blender. If the water is bitter, substitute ½ cup plain water. Purée until smooth.
- Divide the short ribs between two large zip lock food bags. Add half the chile mixture and a piece of cinnamon stick to each bag. Seal the bags using the water displacement method.
- Cook for 24 to 36 hours.
- Remove the bags from the water oven and quick-chill in an ice-and-water bath if you don’t plan to serve the ribs immediately. We refrigerated the meat for a couple of days and thought the flavor improved a bit.
- Remove the meat from the ribs. Strain the sauce into a saucepan and add the meat. Heat and check for seasoning. Serve over creamy polenta with queso fresco and quartered limes.
Makes about 4 cups
- In a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, combine the milk and salt. Place over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid reaches 190°F (88°C). Remove the pan from the heat. Gradually add the vinegar, stirring gently.
- Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir gently (some curds should form).
- Place a double thickness of cheesecloth in a colander set in a sink. Carefully pour the hot mixture into the colander to separate the curds from the liquid whey (see Note). Allow the cheese to drain for 15 to 20 minutes to remove any excess whey.
- Gather the cheese curds and transfer to a small bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
- The cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The recipe can be easily halved.
Note: The whey can be discarded or saved to be used in place of water or milk in baking (bread, pancakes, muffins, pizza dough, and so on). It can also be mixed with kibble for your dogs; ours love it.