Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buffalo Short Ribs - Sous Vide

Whisper Mountain Ranch in Oak Glen, not too far from our home, has been advertising buffalo (or bison) meat for the last several years. They have a small herd of buffalo in that area that is grass fed. I called them recently and arranged to meet them so that I could purchase some meat. 
Buffalo photographed in a captive herd in Colorado.
One of the things that spurred me was Rachel's acquisition of a sous vide cooker that she let me borrow. Food cooked sous vide is sealed in an airtight plastic bag and placed in a water bath at a regulated cooking temperature over a long period of time. The cooking temperature used is much lower than in normal cooking. The result is food cooked evenly, both inside and out, even if the food item is irregularly shaped or very thick. In the case of meat, the cell walls don't burst which helps it retain its moisture, and keeps it from getting tough, but the connective tissues are hydrolyzed into gelatin which makes it more tender. The downside is that the cooking temperature is not high enough to brown the meat. So the meat cooked sous vide is typically grilled or seared briefly afterward, at very high heat, to develop the crust flavors and texture provided by browning. I've read that this method of cooking is particularly good for wild game that has little fat and when over-cooked gets very tough.
sous vide cooker
I got a three pound package of short-ribs which I was told needed to be cooked a long time because they would be very tough. The cooker came with a contraption that would allow me to bag the food myself, but I was running short of time that evening and just opted to leave the food in the bag it came in. The downside to that is the recipe I got suggested putting in spices and marinade that would be with the meat during that cooking time. My short ribs were by themselves, without any additives. 
I found a recipe for beef short-ribs that called for cooking them at a temperature of 140 degrees for 48 hours. I was blown away by the length of the cooking time. I know beef ribs are fattier than buffalo ribs, and probably should cook longer, but I decided to go with that cooking time. I got the ribs in the cooker about 9:40 p.m. on a Tuesday night. The idea of eating them at 9:40 p.m. on Thursday night did not appeal, so I pulled them out four hours early, about 5:30 p.m. 
Ribs in water bath on a rack inside the cooker.
The temperature hovered close to 140 degrees the entire time, sometimes half a degree higher, or half a degree lower. 
The cooked ribs were kind of bizarre. Blood and other juices were floating around in the package. They still were highly pink, but I figured after 44 hours of cooking they must be pretty cooked. I kept the blood and other juices and made some mushroom soup out of it several days later. 
Cooked ribs still in the plastic bag.
Cooked ribs are quite pink and lots of blood and juices came out of the bag.
I put olive oil in a bowl and then put quite a bit of coarse salt in with it, then brushed it all over the ribs. I put in too much salt. Then I put them on a very hot outdoor grass grill, all four burners on high, and cooked them on two sides for two minutes each. They darkened up quite a bit. 
Ribs rubbed with olive oil and coarse salt.
Ribs after browning on the grill.
The end result was quite good. I think the additional four hours would have been good, and probably longer, even better. They were a little salty, but the flavor and texture of the meat was great. 
Rib showing nice pink meat and fat inside.
Beautiful rib meat.
I think if I'd sealed them in plastic myself with seasonings and then cooked them a little longer, they would have been that much better. As it was, they were quite good and I look forward to trying some more sous vide cooking in the future.

1 comment:

  1. For as raw as they look, they tasted about medium rare and were amazingly tender.