The holiday season is upon us and, above all, that means spending time with family, reflecting on the blessings of years past, and enduring the horrors of dry, tough, stringy meat. Although I am fortunate to have great cooks as parents, many of my childhood memories of holiday potlucks were punctuated by the disappointment of a perfectly good beef brisket or plate of short ribs that had been annihilated into shoe leather at the hands of a well-intentioned friend or relative. The only saving grace was my high tolerance for the spicy, sinus-clearing power of horseradish sauce, which made the beef possible to gnash down, quickly chased by a cup of grape juice (or a clandestine glass of Manischewitz).
As is commonly the pitfall with Thanksgiving turkey, cuts of meat that are only cooked once a year often lack the care and improvement that come from frequent iteration. And although I’m perfectly happy to eat beef short ribs and brisket year-round (especially when barbecued), many family traditions reserve this cut for holidays and special occasions. The trick to preparing a tender, succulent piece of beef is to break down the significant connective tissue without overcooking the meat so much that it dries out; the physics at play are involved, and are often overlooked in the chaos of holiday preparations.
Sous vide techniques, however, make it easy to cook beef perfectly, every time. By holding the cut at a low, precisely controlled temperature for a very long cooking time, you can achieve both perfect doneness and fork-tenderness with no need for basting or fastidious thermometry. And, cooking sous vide leaves your ovens empty, so Aunt Jeannie has space to warm her casserole before the family buffet line forms.
At your next family gathering, up the ante by bringing a beef brisket or plate full of short ribs cooked perfectly sous vide. And don’t forget the wine, for the kids’ sake.
Tips and Substitutions:
- This recipe is inspired by traditional Jewish fare, but is not meant as a replacement for an Orthodox Seder meal, as according to Kosher laws, meat and dairy should not be mixed. If you are looking for a stricter Kosher meal, try serving the ribs with our Constructed Veal “Cream” (see page 5·33) or Crispy Beef and Shallot Salad (see pages 6·108 and 5·47).
- We are fortunate in Seattle to be able to buy fresh wasabi root at local markets. If you can’t find fresh wasabi, try using our recipe for horseradish foam (see page 4·284). Alternatively, substitute wasabi paste for fresh wasabi.
- Make sure to trim any silverskin and excess fat from the meat before vacuum sealing it.
- When cooking sous vide meat for days, as in this recipe, we double-bag the meat to provide extra protection against leaks. Vacuum-seal the meat as usual, and then place the sealed bag inside a second bag and vacuum seal again.
- The ribs will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. To reheat them, place them in a bath set to the original cooking temperature and let them come to equilibirum.
- Because these ribs keep so well, we like to make enough that we have leftovers. We used some of the leftovers from our video shoot to make an impromptu beef stroganoff.
- To carve, turn the slab of ribs on its side, run the knife down the bones, and then trim off any undesired fat.
- It is fine to substitute beef stock for the jus, but we don’t recommend using the juice from the ribs. That juice doesn’t taste very good after being cooked sous vide for so long.
- If you can’t find Manischewitz, you can spike the jus with a red port.
- A handheld immersion blender works if a rotor-stator homogenizer is not available.
- Agitating the wasabi with metal activates its intensely hot flavor and aroma. We use a metal microplane to grate it.
- Take care to hydrate the xanthan gum fully before you place the mixture in the siphon. If the gum is hydrated incompletely, the texture will not be as silky as it should be.
- If you do not have a whipping siphon, you can make the whipped cream with a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
- We like to serve this dish with Seattle Food Geek’s latkes.