I've traveled all over Asia, from China to Indonesia, and I am always inspired by the local cuisines. But the food in Singapore, where I have opened a branch of my restaurant DB Bistro Moderne, especially intrigues me because of its diversity and complexity. As a seaport, this city has absorbed the influence of its native Malay culture, as well as the contributions of immigrants from China, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and many other places.
In France, a classic braise like short ribs is marinated and cooked in red wine, but the variation in this recipe shows the influence of my time in Singapore. I've replaced the wine with rice vinegar and added Asian flavors in the form of five-spice seasoning, ginger, and garlic. The meat is cooked for four hours until it is fork-tender. It is served alongside aromatic jasmine rice flavored with sesame oil, and cauliflower that has been steeped in a mixture of coconut milk, turmeric, chile, lemongrass, and ginger. I love to make this dish in midwinter, when its exotic ingredients let me fantasize about travels to faraway lands.
SHORT RIBS WITH CURRIED CAULIFLOWER AND SESAME RICE
For the short ribs:
The short ribs are best prepared a day in advance.
¼ cup Chinese five-spice powder
1 T sesame oil
2 T vegetable oil
3.5 lbs. bone-in short ribs (ask your butcher to cut a slab in half, across the bone)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 leek, washed well and roughly chopped
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup white button mushrooms, roughly chopped
6 cups unsalted beef stock
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a small mi bowl, combine the spice powder, sesame oil, and vegetable oil to make a thick paste. Rub the paste over the short ribs; season with salt.
In a large Dutch oven set over medium heat, sear the short ribs, fatty side down, for 3 minutes or until browned. Then turn the short ribs and continue searing on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove them from the pot and add the rice wine vinegar, let it reduce slightly, then add the leek, ginger, garlic, and mushrooms. Sauté for 3 minutes, return the short ribs to the pot and add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven to braise for 4 hours. The short ribs are done when they are delicate and can be pulled apart easily.
Remove the pot from the oven and let it sit on top of the stove for 20 minutes with the short ribs resting inside the liquid. Transfer the ribs to a plate and set them aside to cool. Skim the excess fat from the braising liquid and strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and let the liquid reduce until it reaches the consistency of a thick sauce, then remove from the heat. Cut the short ribs into 3-inch portions, trimming away any large areas of fat, and add the ribs to the sauce. If preparing for the next day, arrange the short ribs in a baking dish and pour the sauce over the top, turning the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, simply warm the short ribs in a 350°F oven.
For the curried cauliflower and sesame rice:
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
3 scallions, thinly sliced, green parts reserved for garnish
1 6-inch piece of lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 dried Thai bird eye chiles, seeds removed
1 tsp. salt
1½ tsp. turmeric
1 small head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sesame oil
⅓ cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Combine the coconut milk, scallions, lemongrass, ginger, chiles, salt, and turmeric in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then strain the liquid. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the cauliflower florets. Continue simmering for 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is completely cooked. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, combine the rice, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Drizzle with the sesame oil and fluff with a fork.
Serve the dish family-style, with individual bowls of sesame rice on the side. Alternatively, serve the curried cauliflower over the rice with a piece of short rib placed in the center. Garnish with the sliced green scallion tops and cilantro leaves.
WHAT TO DRINK
"This robust and warming dish calls for a fruity, energetic wine," says Raj Vaidya, head sommelier at Daniel restaurant. "To complement the aromatic Asian spices featured here, I would recommend an elegant Pinot Noir or a fruit-forward, spicy Syrah. Tyler Winery's Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012 [$36], a bright wine from Central California, has a slight incense aroma and a fruity core." As an alternative, Vaidya suggests Eric Texier's Côtes du Rhône Brézème 2012 ($22) from the northern Rhône valley. "Both of these wines have enough richness to hold up to the braised ribs, but they're also refreshing to the palate."