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Mar 31, 2012 10:28 PM

April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, Cook This Now: Winter

Please use this thread to discuss the chapters in Cook This Now, Winter: January; February; March, pages 7 - 94.

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  1. Chile Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs (pg. 46)

    This is one of the most visually unappealing dishes ever. When it's cold, it's dun brown. When it's hot, it's dark brown. It's all brown, all the time. But, it is the polar opposite in terms of taste. This is unbelievably delicious. Rich, creamy and just popping with flavors.

    To start, brown the cubes of meat in coconut oil (first time for me using coconut oil.). I think the meat did brown better with coconut oil and it smelled better then usual. I browned in two batches and added the chopped garlic, jalepenos, shallots, and ginger to the browned meat. I was supposed to add cumin seeds but totally spaced. I found the jar of cumin seeds later when I was putting everything away. After sauteeing the beef and aromatics for a few minutes, add a can of coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, salt/pepper and 1/2 cup of water. I may have also forgotten the s/p but I don't remember. Braise in the oven for about 2.5 hours.

    So, a few notes. The oven braise was at 325. After an hour, when I went to flip the meat, I noticed that it was bubbling a lot. So, I turned the oven heat down. I also braised for longer then the 2.5 hours (maybe 3 hours) since I turned the oven down to about 300. I made this the night before so I could skim off the fat before serving. I served this with jasmine rice and didn't garnish with the chopped cilantro or scallions. I served this with roasted cauliflower. Also, Clark recommends making this in a 5 quart dutch oven. I used a 4.5 Le creuset and had to brown the meat in two batches.

    So, the taste, the lime zest and lime juice subtley popped throughout the dish. It just gave the entire dish a little something extra. I highly recommend this dish before spring hits.

    28 Replies
    1. re: beetlebug

      Beetlebug, did you make short ribs from 150 Best and if you did, how do you compare the recipes? Did you actually make ribs? You said "brown the cubes" and this confused me.

      1. re: herby

        I didn't make the short ribs from 150 best. But, the recipes are different from each other. Clark's recipe is with boneless short ribs, cut into chunks. It's more beef stewish but with a coconutty goodness. It all became a melt in your mouth kind of dish.

        1. re: beetlebug

          I have some boneless beef stew meat to use up (not shortribs, I think it's cubes of chuck). Do you think that would work in this recipe? I am not in the mood for a classic beef stew at this time of year and have been trying to think of another way to use up the meat.

          1. re: Westminstress

            I think the boneless stew meat would work well. I usually use chuck for these stews but the boneless short ribs were on sale and about the same price as chuck. Maybe braise for a longer time to get the stew meat to be really tender?

            1. re: beetlebug

              Thanks, I think I'll give it a shot this weekend. One more question, what kind of chili powder did you use, and did you deseed your jalapenos? What was the spice level like at the end? I like spicy but my toddler doesn't so I'm trying to tone things down from what I would normally do.

              1. re: Westminstress

                I used some kind of Penzey's blend for the chile powder (chile 9000 maybe? or 3000?). Anyway, it had cumin in it which made my accidental omission of the cumin seeds less noticeable.

                I didn't de-seed my jalepenos and I didn't taste any spice. But, I also have a high tolerance for spice. I don't think it's a spicy dish though. That coconut milk kind of cuts through and melds everything together.

                  1. re: Westminstress

                    Keep in mind that seed have very little spice - whatever is rubbed onto them - the main hottness is in the flesh of the pepper.

                    1. re: herby

                      Wow, that is not my experience (nor what I've always read). Seeds and ribs seem to hold a lot of the capsaicin heat in my experience, and cookbooks routinely tell you to remove the seeds unless you want more heat.

                      And re jalapeños, unfortunately these days many are not spicy; I always taste them before deciding how much to use or whether to use the seeds and often as not, the flesh is as mild as a green bell pepper but if I use the ribs and seeds, I get some heat.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Totally agree on jalapenos. 10-15 years ago I would have used one and noticed it. These days I feel I have to use at least a serrano to get the level of heat I like.

                      2. re: herby

                        Forgot to mention that membranes have tons of heat - maybe this is why many cookbooks advise to take seeds out so that the membranes will come out too. Just rinse and taste a seed - super mild with unpleasant texture:) I almost always take seeds out because I do not want their texture in a dish leaving membranes in for the heat.

        2. re: beetlebug

          braised with the lime juice and lime zest already in the sauce? wow, that's different.

          1. re: qianning

            It really was and that lime quality definitely came through in subtle way. It just blended so well with the coconut milk and aromatics.

            1. re: beetlebug

              interesting, i would have thought the lime juice and especially the lime zest would get bitter with slow cooking.

              1. re: qianning

                Not a hint of bitterness, just tanginess. I think, in the past, I've put in long strips of orange zest in with braises. This lime zest I grated so it just disintegrated into the braise.

                1. re: beetlebug

                  Now that I think about it lots of Thai curry pastes contain lime zest, so I don't know why I thought it wouldn't work.

          2. re: beetlebug

            So I am finally reporting on the Chile Coconut Braised Beef [Stew], and I am happy to say that it was a huge hit!!! As beetlebug reports, really a great dish. And very nice for early spring in the NE, when the nights are still cool and spring veggies aren't ready yet, but you still want to eat something bright and fresh tasting.

            Beetlebug does a great job describing the technique so I won't repeat that here. I subbed boneless beef stew meat (which I had in the freezer and wanted to use) for the short ribs, and that substitution worked out great. I used ancho chile powder and did not deseed the jalapenos and the final result was just a little spicy, which was good for us. I used a 51/2 quart dutch oven and browned the beef in one batch in peanut oil. I was actually wishing I browned in two batches because the meat threw off quite a bit of liquid and therefore didn't brown that well, but in the end, I don't think the lack of browning made much of a difference, so I would say just go ahead and brown all the meat at once and don't worry about it.

            I made a couple deviations from the recipe, which I don't recommend. I didn't use a full can of coconut milk because I wanted to save a little bit for the peanut sauce which I plan on making next week. And I didn' t add the half cup of water because the beef threw off so much liquid during the browning stage that by the time the dish was ready to go in the oven, it looked like soup - literally drowning in liquid. I was worried that if I added more liquid it would never reduce. Like Beetlebug, I thought the braising temperature was a bit high and turned the oven down to 300, and I let it go for about 21/2 hours. Well, when I checked it at the 21/2 hour mark, all the liquid had bubbled away and the coconut milk was very thick and solid and almost burning! So I stirred in the 1/2 cup water that I should have used in the first place, and luckily I caught it just in time, so no harm done. At this point the beef was very, very tender so I decided to call it a night and put it in the fridge to have later in the week.

            I have to say that when I tasted the sauce upon pulling it out of the oven, I had my doubts. I found the lime flavor unpleasantly dominant, and I was thinking that I would need to add some brown sugar and fish sauce to balance the flavors. But when I pulled it out of the fridge a few days later, all the flavors had integrated and the dish was completely delicious with no brown sugar or fish sauce needed! I'd never braised beef in coconut milk before, and I just loved how tender and succulent the beef became. The stew was a bit dry so I ended adding back in the coconut milk that I had previously reserved, and I served it with cilantro but no scallions, and I would definitely add cilantro if you have it, both for flavor and for color. Also, if it isn't obvious by now, I would recommend using the full amount of liquid called for in the recipe, and watch the pot carefully near the end of the braising time. I had intended to serve the stew over rice, but it wasn't that saucy, so I skipped the rice and we had it with ovenbaked sweet potatoes and bok choy sauteed with garlic and ginger, and these were just fine as accompaniments.

            In the end, everyone loved this dish. My husband said that if he was served this dish in a restaurant, he would be very impressed, and he asked me to definitely keep the recipe and make it again. My toddler said that it was "too spicy" but that didn't stop him from eating two big bowlfuls of it. And I liked it a lot too.

            1. re: Westminstress

              Thanks for reporting on the stew meat substitution. I had skipped over this because I haven't had much luck with short ribs here. I think I'll save this for when I need a mood lift on a chilly, rainy April day.

            2. re: beetlebug

              OK all you experienced rib cooks... I have a question.
              In spite of many years of cooking, I have no familiarity with ribs. I hear ribs, and I imagine people gnawing on bones with fatty knobs at the end (something from childhood cheap Chinese restaurants, I think). So I have never cooked ribs. But I wanted to cook this dish, after reading the raves. We order meat from a local free-range ranch, I just checked the box that said "beef short ribs," no further info. They arrived yesterday, bone-in. Can I do this recipe with bone-in ribs, or should I save the ribs for something else, and pick up some other boneless meat for this dish?

              1. re: L.Nightshade

                I think it would work fine with bone in short ribs, since all braising-type meats are basically interchangeable (at least they are according to Tamar Adler, and believe me I have felt better since I read that!). When the short ribs get really tender they fall off the bone, so you could always remove the bones after cooking and chop the meat into smaller pieces before reheating and serving. Short ribs are quite fatty so I would definitely plan on cooking in advance so that you can skim the fat. Cooking time should be more or less the same, 21/2-3 hours.

                1. re: L.Nightshade

                  L.Nightshade, if you have not cooked your ribs already, please try the recipe from 150 Best on p.166 - I just had my last frozen portion (with mashed potatoes) last night and OMG delicious:)

                  1. re: herby

                    Oooh, thanks Herby, a wealth of riches now...
                    I got a note form Melissa Clark where she gives me some ideas about using the bone-in ribs, and also refers me to another recipe:
                    The ribs are currently frozen, and we've been working on the ducks, so I'll have some time to weigh the advantages.

                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      Make sure to report on whichever one you make - I am standing by 150 Best as my go to ribs:)

                      I was considering making these ribs instead of brisket for this year seder but instead went with 150 Best pomegranate brisket - a disaster! I will never again deviate from my T&T brisket recipe but will make short ribs next year hoping that all meat eaters will rejoice:)

                      1. re: herby

                        What is your T&T brisket recipe?

                2. re: beetlebug

                  Chile Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs, page 46.

                  I ended up with bone-in ribs instead of boneless for this recipe. With advice and encouragement from Melissa Clark (and Westminstress), we finally had these ribs last night. Beetlebug describes the process above, so I won't reapeat that. Here is the advice I received from Ms. Clark:

                  "So I think the recipe will work, but you probably don't have enough meat. The bones weigh a lot. How much meat did you get?

                  Also you'll probably have to use more liquid (water should do it) to fill the pot. For any kind of braised meat - bone in or out - you need the liquid to come about halfway up the meat (then you turn it so all parts get submerged in the simmering liquid at some point, and it all cooks evenly.

                  The amount of liquid I give is for boneless, which is flatter. Bones take up more space. Also they add some fat because of the marrow they leach (which is delicious). I highly suggest if you try this recipe, you make it a day ahead and let it chill in the fridge overnight so you can take off the fat, or it might be greasy.

                  Also if you add extra water to the liquid, you might have to cook the sauce down at the end. After the meat is done, remove it from the pot, then simmer the sauce on the stove until it reaches the right consistency (this is to taste so stop when it pleases you)."

                  I started the process the previous day, with an eye to lifting the solidified fat off of the liquid. My bone-in ribs were only two pounds total weight. But there were just two of us, so that was fine. I used the full amount of all the other ingredients, in a somewhat smaller pot, in order to bring the liquid up halfway on the meat as suggested. The only slight modification I made in the ingredients was with the chile peppers. The Nightshade house has a policy of mixing peppers. We feel that gives more depth and complexity to a dish, as opposed to the heat from a single chile. I used a combination of jalapeno, serrano, yellow, red anaheim, thai bird, and a smidge of habanero, to equal the approximate bulk of two jalapenos. All else went in as written.

                  The small amount of meat was quite done at the end of two hours. I separated the meat from the liquid and refrigerated both. The following day, the fat was lifted out in a smooth, hard disc, and the meat and liquid were reunited and heated. I probably could have reduced the sauce a bit more, or at least served it over rice, but I was carbed out from the prior night's pasta, so Mr. NS sopped the sauce with bread, and I happily ate it with a spoon.

                  This is a fine and fragrant dish, the chiles mingle splendidly with the lime and coconut. It is brown, as beetlebug states, but the red chiles, cilantro, and scallions livened it up quite enough. Definitely repeatable and guest-worthy.

                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                    Going to have to make this one LN... I get great shortribs from a butcher here, bone in, cause that is what I like (that marrow richness!).

                    Thanks for sharing. May get to this Friday. Will report back.

                    Love the idea of coconut and lime with beef. Intriguing. Thanks for sharing the mixed peppers philosophy. Makes much sense!

                  2. re: beetlebug

                    Chile Coconut Braised Beef [with Spinach] (pg. 46)

                    It's been a cold, wet weekend with a chance of snow tonight, so I thought this would be just the dish to lift our spirits given the raves so far. Following Westminstress's report, I used regular beef stew meat instead of boneless short ribs. I only had about a pound of meat, but kept everything else the same because I wanted plenty of sauce (my Dutch oven is also large, so I was worried if I cut down I wouldn't have enough liquid). After we tasted how good it was, I wish I had went ahead and bought another pound of meat. I followed beetlebug's suggestion of reducing the heat to 300F. I had a bag of spinach in the fridge from our CSA box that looked like it needed to be used, so after a little over 2 hours in the oven, I wilted the spinach in batches into the sauce on the stove top over low heat. I thought the spinach added a nice bit of color to the dish and gave plenty of extra opportunities to enjoy the sauce. My scallions were past their prime, so I only garnished with cilantro. This dish is a definite repeat and perhaps next time I'll be able to get some boneless ribs. I'd like to try it with the suggested garam masala variation as well.

                    1. re: beetlebug


                      p. 46 – I tabbed this recipe for the COTM and finally I’ve gotten around to making it! My book has all the notes from those who have gone before me and big thanks to LN for sharing Melissa Clark’s feedback on bone-in ribs as they are a house favourite here and were the only option for this recipe in my case. I made the dish early enough in the day to allow enough time to refrigerate it so I could remove the fat prior to serving. Instead of having to increase the liquid I opted to keep the sauce ingredients the same and reduce the volume of meat. I chose 4 bone-in short ribs that weighed a little over 2 lbs. I imagine the bones accounted for at least half the weight. MC offers an alternate preparation and suggests using Madras Curry Powder for a Curry-Coconut Rib dish and that’s the route I took. If I had one nit with this recipe it would be that the curry flavour wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked it to be. My curry powder was purchased within the past 3 weeks at a merchant I trust so I don’t believe that was the issue. I’ll definitely up the ante next time around. I’d also agree with Westminstress, when I removed my dish from the oven I too thought the sauce had too much tang though things did seem to mellow out somewhat later in the day after the dish had rested in the fridge. I served this atop steamed Basmati rice. mr bc isn’t a fan of coconut milk and he liked this dish. I love coconut-based curries and I liked it as well. With more curry (and maybe less lime?) I could love this. I’ll make it again. I’d also add, I really do love this cookbook. Often I find myself saying “I’ll have to add this into the rotation” when I cook from various COTMs but with MC’s books, it actually happens. Many of the recipes from this COTM have become house favourites and favourites of friends for whom I’ve prepared them.

                    2. Crispy Roasted Cabbage, Pg. 88

                      Made this roasted cabbage as part of a St. Patrick's Day dinner and I posted my report in Beetlebug's preCOTM thread:


                      Beetlebug made it first and her report is just above mine.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Gio

                        Crispy Roasted Cabbage – p. 88

                        Oh so delicious!! Thanks so much to those who have covered this before me. Not much to add except my own experience. Tonight our protein of choice was MC’s Quick Grilled Flanken (or Flank Steak in our case). I took my inspiration from that Asian-inspired marinade and basted my Savoy cabbage with sesame oil that I’d infused with garlic and a little Sriracha. This made for such a perfect pairing. Truth be told I could have feasted on this cabbage alone. Totally tasty!
                        Or, as mr bc (aka mr cabbage-hater) said: this doesn't even taste like nasty cabbage and it doesn't smell like garbage either. I like it!

                        Steak review here:

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          So MC has converted cabbage and tofu hating husbands. Not bad work.

                          I love cabbage - going to have to try this one, and love your asian take on it.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Thanks LM, we have 2 slices left over so I mixed up some soy sauce w a little sesame oil and some rice wine vinegar and we'll both be calling it salad for tomorrow's lunch! I honestly loved this and can imagine making it just to have for take-to-work lunch. So delicious!

                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                            That cabbage looks awesome, BC. I have been wanting spring and summery things to match our beautiful warm weather here, but I do have half a cabbage neglected in my crisper. I was thinking about a coleslaw, but your browned cabbage looks so savory. And an asian spin makes it seem more season appropriate to me somehow...

                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              Crispy Roasted Cabbage

                              Your delicious pictures made me grab a cabbage when I was at the store this morning. Well, that and the fact I love any vegetable roasted, but am especially fond of roast brassicas. I bought a regular green cabbage and I'm sad to say mine didn't turn out like yours at all. I don't know if it was my oven temperature, a too light hand with the olive oil or what, but mine would not brown. It ended up only browning and burning around the edges where the thin leaves separated and were more exposed. I'm not saying it was bad, but it was just cabbage.

                              1. re: sarahcooks

                                Oh I'm sorry this disappointed sarah. I wonder what happened with the browning? The only thing I did that I don't recall whether or not the recipe directed me to do was to use parchment paper. I tend to use that when I'm roasting things w a potentially uneven surface since the paper tends to adapt whereas the metal pan does not.

                                  1. re: sarahcooks

                                    I never thought of using parchment paper for roasting! You're saying that it facilitates browning? What a good idea. But I would worry about the paper potentially burning--or does this not happen because of the juices, etc.?

                                    1. re: Goblin

                                      I love it for browning because it does a good job of getting in nooks and crannies and simplifies clean-up. In my experience, most parchment has a heat tolerance of 450F and I have some that is 500F. I've never had an issue w it burning.

                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        I always use aluminum foil. Such easy clean up!

                              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                BC, that doesn't even look like cabbage anymore! I bet I could completely freak out the Frenchman by serving this for dinner. About as far from French treatments of cabbage as I could get.

                                Love it - going to look for my book in the kitchen, and buy a savoy cabbage:)

                                1. re: gingershelley

                                  Oh do it gs...I can't wait to hear what he thinks! mr bc even suggested it would be good when he grills his next steak! I hope it tricks the Frenchman....keep us posted!!

                            2. Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cinnamon, and Olives over Polenta, page 76.

                              I made this yesterday, but we've been having internet trouble, so I'm posting today. When I woke up yesterday morning everything was white with snow! A good day for a braised dish.

                              beetlebug describes the process for making the dish and reviews the outcome here:

                              And the entire recipe is also available on Clark's blog here:

                              This was a simple one, and only one pot was used for cooking. The house filled with wonderful aromas while it cooked. I used green beldi olives, and the flavor of olives and rosemary predominated. The anchovies were not evident, but they lent their usual oomph to the other ingredients. The polenta is the perfect foil for the strong flavors. A lovely dish for a cold evening.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: L.Nightshade

                                Looks and sounds delicious LN. mr bc isn't a fan of polenta so perhaps I'll serve his atop mashed potatoes. Looking fwd to trying this one.

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Not a fan of polenta, what a sad state of affairs! It would be OK on mashed potatoes, I think. Perhaps even over noodles. But I hope you make some on polenta for yourself!

                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                    I know, very sad isn't it. No grits either and I LOVE shrimp & grits. It's a textural thing for him. Such a shame. Luckily he has other redeeming qualities!! ; - )

                                2. re: L.Nightshade

                                  Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cinnamon, and Olives over Polenta, page 76

                                  It's still not feeling like spring here, so I made this for dinner today. When the bf came home (poor guy had to work today), he was breathing in heavily due to the intoxicating aroma. He's not a huge tomato fan, but it went over well. I greatly enjoyed the dish as well. It's not quick, but it is easy.

                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                    Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cinnamon and Olives over Polenta, p. 76

                                    I made this wonderful stew earlier in the week -- a fantastic warming dish for the waning days of winter/chilly early spring. I won't review the process for making the dish, which is well described above. This dish was good when first made, but wow! the leftovers were incredible. The brininess of the olives infused the whole dish after a rest in the fridge, and it was just very, very good. For dinner tonight I plan to shred the remaining meat into what's left of the sauce and serve it all over pasta -- and I'm sure it will be wonderful again.

                                  2. Coconut Rice and Peas – p. 49 (February)

                                    I’m a sucker for anything coconut so this had immediate appeal. A very simple prep. Coconut milk and water are brought to a boil before adding brown rice and simmering until tender. Mine took about 50 mins. The idea is to add green peas at this point and stir in to incorporate and heat through. I made the rice on the weekend and left the “pea adding” for tonight so I just heated up the rice in a wok and tossed in the peas prior to serving. I should note that I couldn’t seem to resist my urge to add a little Thai flavour to this dish. I added 2 chopped Thai bird chilies to the coconut/water mix along with a little garlic and the zest of a lime. I spritzed lime juice over top prior to serving (alongside some grilled chicken). This was good but not outstanding. I found the rice to be a bit stodgy . . . even when it was freshly made. My coconut milk was very thick so this may have been a factor.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      Coconut Rice and Peas, p. 49

                                      I made this to go with the Vietnamese Steak and Cabbage Salad from the April chapter. I thought it was just OK. I used white rice instead of brown, about 13/4 cups water and 1 tbsp of frozen creamed coconut. Usually I cook rice covered by the absorption method or in lots of boiling water and I find both methods superior to this one, which resulted in some grains soggy and some crunchy at the time I expected the rice to be done. (Note I just added a bit more water and cooked it longer, and all the grains did eventually cook through -- but the rice was not as fluffy as I like.) I will keep looking for my perfect coconut rice. I have to say my spouse and daughter loved it though.

                                    2. Garlicky Broccoli Rabe pg. 328

                                      Not sure why but I hadn't bought broccoli rabe in ages, when marketing this week the broccoli rabe just looked fantastic, so into the shopping basket it went. What to do with it? The usual saute w/ garlic or the other usual saute w/ sausage and garlic and serve over pasta? Went flipping through this month's COTM's (and a few other books) and came up with, saute it w/ garlic or saute w/ sausage and serve over pasta!

                                      I went with the latter. MC's directions are clear and her timing is spot on, my only deviation was to drain the sausage before adding the garlic, chili flakes and broccoli rabe, and in place of her water I used white wine to de-glaze the pan. Perfectly nice quick dinner, sometimes you just can't argue with the classics.