By Kipp Rix
Braising is a great way to take tough cuts of meat and turn them into succulent and scrumptious pieces of meat. There are three steps to an effective braise: First, brown the meat. Start out with a hot pot and oil. This will sear the outside of the meat and keep it from sticking to the pan. Turn the meat often to avoid burning the meat and ensuring that all sides are browned equally. Second, have a braising liquid–usually some sort of stock, but water may be used alone as well. Avoid using stock cubes, as they will tend to make the final gravy too salty when the liquids reduce. When using a commercial stock, I use one with low sodium.
The braising liquid should only cover the meat by 1/2 to 2/3 the depth of the meat. Avoid covering the meat completely with liquid, but make sure the pan does not cook dry as well. If you need to add liquid during cooking, it is best to use just water. Third, cook the meat low and slow. These tough cuts of meat usually come from muscle groups that are used often, such as neck muscles and leg muscles. These cuts of meat are tough because of the extra connective tissue. As the meat cooks, the low, moist heat breaks down the connective tissue into collagen; further cooking converts the collagen into gelatin. Also, as the muscle fibers cook, they tend to curl and expel the moisture inside the muscle fibers. As the meat continues to cook, these muscle fibers once again relax and then absorb the flavored moisture and gelatin, making the meat extra moist and tender.
For the fire chef, this way of cooking is great because once the final preparation is done and the dish is placed in the oven, the meal can cook for a long time with little attention. I like to serve the meat on top of a bed of basil pesto rice. Fix instant rice as per the instructions on the box, adding 3 tablespoons of basil pesto to the water as it boils. As the rice absorbs the moisture, it will draw in all the flavors of the pesto.
3 pounds boneless country style ribs (I prefer pork but you can use beef)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup beef broth
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons red chile powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Large package sliced mushrooms
2 packets brown gravy mix
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil until very hot.
2. Brown the ribs on all sides until well caramelized but not burned.
3. Add coffee, balsamic vinegar, and beef broth to cover the ribs by half with the liquid; add water as needed during the cooking process to ensure that the Dutch oven does not cook dry. Be mindful not to open the Dutch oven often, as the meat needs to slow cook in a moist environment for the braise to work and by opening you extend the needed cooking time.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil.
5. Remove Dutch oven from the heat and add the onion, garlic, chili powder, and paprika. Stir well to mix.
6. Place the covered Dutch oven into a preheated 275°F oven and bake for 5 hours.
7. Remove lid from the Dutch oven and add the mushrooms, oregano, and gravy mix to the rib mixture, stirring well to combine.
8. Return the uncovered Dutch oven to the oven and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.
9. Allow ribs to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving.
10. Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste.
Kipp Rix has been in the fire service for 18 years working as both a career and volunteer firefighter in New Mexico. Kipp started cooking at the age of 10 and learned his early skills watching shows like the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child. Throughout the years, Kipp refined his skills with a focus on grilling foods with a southwestern flair. In 2009 Fire House Publications, LLC released the first of Kipp’s two cook books with the second book released in 2011; a portion of the proceeds from the books helps fund donations towards teaching fire fighters Firefighter Survival “Getting Out Alive”. Kipp’s philosophy of fire house cooking is “Just because you work in a busy house does not mean that you have to settle for ordinary cooking, a crew’s attitude is directly related to the meals served!” Each of Kipp’s recipes has been Fire House tested and approved. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a crew picture enjoying this recipe along with your review; each month one entry will be selected to receive a signed copy of one of my cook books. In 2012 Kipp produced his premier episode of his cooking show, Fire House Cuisine, on the Fire Engineering network.