About a month ago, I posted yet another contest on this blog imploring readers to submit recipes with the chance to win a free CBTL Kaldi single serve coffee machine. The rules were simple: enter a coffee or tea-inspired dish, and the winning recipe (as judged by an elite panel of tasters) would win the machine.
I received a lovely selection of submissions, and ultimately, I decided to whip up two dishes: Crystalis77’s Short Ribs Braised in Coffee Ancho Chile Suace and Noreen’s Garam Masala Pork Skewers. Both recipes piqued my curiosity with their inventive uses of coffee, and while I was hoping to incorporate at least one tea-based recipe or one dessert item into the mix, I decided that for my sanity I would merely make two dishes.
Results and winners after the jump…
I start off by tackling the short ribs. Before I can do anything, I must soak some ancho chiles in hot water. Not a problem. I feel pretty good about this.
Oh look. Here I am prepping some brewed coffee with my handy CBTL Kaldi for the recipe. How appropriate!
On my admittedly messy stovetop (you luckily can’t see the bright yellow stain inflicted by a previous turmeric-lentil spillover disaster), I heat up some oil in a heavy pot.
I take a massive step forward in my efforts to reduce the Hoarders-like state of my freezer by unearthing six pounds of frozen short ribs, which I have since defrosted and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.
In goes the meat. Browning ensues.
About five or six minutes later, I begin flipping the meat. The crust is beeeeauuuutiful; although, sadly the camera doesn’t quite capture it. What a SEARING indictment. (Get it?)
When both sides are golden brown and crispy, I remove the meat to a plate. The recipe actually calls for two different pans and all sorts of silliness. I keep it simple with one pot.
In a blender I combine some vital ingredients: the soaked chiles, onion, garlic, chipotles (yum!) and some of their adobo sauce (yum x 2!), maple syrup, lime juice, and salt.
There’s the blender. Looks like a simple task to mix this stuff together, but my blender is actually a Magic Bullet, and I’m beginning to question the blender attachment’s worthiness. I wind up in this horrific state wherein the blades whirr around and do nothing while everything else just hangs out above it. Took five minutes of prodding with a spatula to puree all this stuff. Doesn’t seem right.
Eventually I do make the puree, and what a glorious puree it is. I wind up stir-frying it in the pot amidst all the leftover fat from the beef. Healthy!
Our soon-to-be braising liquid: coffee and the chile-infused water from the earlier.
Future home to braised short ribs.
Time to summon the meat.
Look at that crust. Just LOOK at it. This is making me want to cook up a steak.
The beef and its juices return to the pan. Time to commence Operation: Braise the Roof.
The liquid comes to a boil. I cover the pot and stick it in the oven, which is at the curiously high temperature of 350 degrees. I’m to cook the meat for three to three and a half hours…
With the short ribs temporarily out of my hair, I can focus on the pork skewers. Here the marinade: peanut butter, dark soy sauce, and garam masala. Color me intrigued.
Already smells divine.
Here’s some pork I sliced up for the skewers. I forget the cut I used, but I asked the butcher at Whole Foods what would work best, and he provided it for me. All I can remember is that it was NOT shoulder.
Some of my graceful handiwork.
Here’s the pork all slathered in the marinade. Into the fridge it goes…
I check the short ribs about fifteen or twenty minutes ahead of schedule. They are DEFINITELY done. The sauce has reduced down, and the meat is fork tender. Good thing I was so prudent to check early. Way to go, ME.
Next up, I pour all the ingredients for the skewer sauce (garam masala, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, coffee) into this container. Time to take this party on the road…
The ribs also go in a to-go container. The official tasting will occur at the abode of one Lisa Timmons.
Fast forward twenty minutes, and we’re ready to get into the thick of it. Here I am about to pour the contents of this Gladware into a saucepan. Sly is on camera.
Lisa seems to register horror at my sauce transfer.
Next, it’s time to thread the marinated pork onto (pre-soaked) skewers.
I carefully observe Lisa’s technique as mine is clumsy and terrible.
Me: “How about this? Does this look right?”
Lisa: “For crying out loud, it’s just a skewer.”
The skewers take up residence on Lisa’s broiler pan.
It’s messy work, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.
More skewers on yet another broiling pan.
Lisa gets to work loading the pans into her high-tech toaster oven. She doesn’t mess around.
What a happy broiling captain!
Me, standing around, being relatively useless at this point. I think I was reheating the short ribs in the microwave.
Speaking of the short ribs, here they are. They look like turds but smell like heaven.
The skewer sauce is pretty much ready.
After about five minutes, the skewers are perfectly browned and cooked. Mouthwatering.
In an effort to provide some sort of veggie side dish for all this meat, Lisa endures a red-pepperSASTER in the kitchen.
This actually made us quite happy as it reminded us of our friend Malibu Judie, who never exits a kitchen without causing some sort of mild pandemonium. We felt like she was there with us in spirit.
But seriously, these skewers? I mean…
We are in for some good eats…
Sly, meanwhile, enjoys some impromptu yoga.
Lisa’s greens appear to be ready. Time to eat!
Adorable dishes are ready. One for each of us plus Lisa’s boyfriend.
I go in for a taste, egregiously holding my fork incorrectly all the while. Shameful.
Seriously, why am I holding the fork that way? I am a BOOR.
Thank God I corrected myself.
Nom nom indeed! Both these dishes were pretty excellent. First let’s start with the short ribs. They were perfectly moist and full of flavor. The sauce was rich and complex (and not spicy at all, should that be a concern for people). The coffee presence wasn’t strong but well integrated nonetheless, lending a nice bitterness to the dish. I particularly enjoyed the flavor profile. So many braises and stews hail from the European tradition, which means that there’s a vague similarity to them all. Don’t get me wrong — a bourguignon or a pot roast are great, but I thoroughly appreciated this Southwest / Mexican take on a braise.
Ultimately, everyone across the board felt this was an unmitigated success. Plus, it was a cinch to make (despite my blender issues). As braises go, this one definitely should find a way into your repertoire.
Then we had the pork skewers. Could a lowly skewer compete with a complex and interesting braise? In a word: yes. The skewers were heavenly. First off, the marinade ensured that the meet was full of bold flavor even without the sauce. The fragrant qualities of the garam masala mixed with the nutty and salty peanut butter and dark soy sauce made for a great flavor base, but it was the sauce that really stole the show. We just could not get enough of the stuff — slathering it on whatever pieces of pork we could find. It also didn’t hurt that the skewers were cooked perfectly. The broiling directions were absolutely on point, and as a result, we were left with succulent, juicy pork that was kiiind of irresistible.
In the case of the skewers, the coffee only came into play in the sauce, but that’s not to say it was an afterthought. The coffee managed to transform what could have been a sweet, salty mess into something amazingly balanced. Even crazier, it introduced chocolatey notes (ugh, I can’t believe I just wrote “chocolatey notes.” I am really getting pretentious). The point is this: we could not get enough of the sauce and the skewers.
So which dish to choose? We loved them both. Some could say we were even torn like Natalie Imbruglia (she GETS it).
In the end, we went for the dish that we instinctually craved a bit more; the dish that we found ourselves clamoring for seconds and thirds. Admittedly, I had seconds of both, but I definitely was hot to trot for one more than the other.
And the winning dish that appealed to our taste-buds on a most primitive, glorious level was unanimously…
Noreen’s pork skewers!
Congrats Noreen, you won! Great work! Please email me at bsideblog at gmail dotcom, and I will have Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf send you the machine.
Noreen may have won, but I really do encourage you all to try both recipes, and they were truly delicious.
Great work, people!