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Thick-cut short ribs acquire tender perfection in stew

By Betty Shimabukuro

LAST UPDATED: 3:50 a.m. HST, Apr 6, 2011

Until a few weeks ago I hadn't met a slow-cooker beef stew that I could love. Turns out I was trusting in the wrong recipes and the wrong cuts of beef.

Here's the correct answer: short ribs. After several hours of cooking they emerge at just the right tenderness. Other cuts I've tried were always a little (or a lot) too tough or dry. At any rate, not worth writing home about.

Back in January, when I launched my "Slow Ono" quest for local-style recipes for the Crock-Pot, Joanne Naai sent in her stew recipe, made with short ribs, Okinawan sweet potatoes and taro. It meets all my requirements — island flair, fuss-free preparation and deliciousness.

Naai says she simmers the stew overnight and uses it in the morning to make omelets, so she calls it Breakfast Beef Stew. "Everyone seems to wake up hungry, and the house also smells wonderful early in the morning!"

I've made a few adjustments and given it a new, more multipurpose name. Unless you don't eat beef, I strongly suggest you try this one. It'll make you all warm and happy inside.

A few notes: You need thick-cut short ribs, not the thin type meant to make Korean-style kalbi. If you don't see any at the meat counter, press that buzzer and summon the butcher. Chances are you can order some up.

Also, with this recipe I discovered the supremacy of tapioca starch over cornstarch as a thickener. Thanks to a couple of readers for that suggestion. I had never gotten good results thickening with cornstarch in the Crock-Pot, so in previous recipes I've suggested thickening juices on the stove. Tapioca starch makes it simpler and saves dirtying another pot. First, tilt the crock and skim off as much fat as you can. Then stir in your tapioca slurry and turn the heat up to high. In a few minutes you'll have a nice gravy.

Tapioca starch is sold in most supermarkets right next to the cornstarch. If it's not there, try the Asian section.

"Slow Ono" continues on the first Wednesday of each month. Check in May 4 for another edition.

Short-Rib Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Taro

3 pounds beef short ribs, about 1 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large onion, halved and cut in wedges
3 stalks celery, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1-inch lengths (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large Okinawan sweet potato, peeled and cut in chunks (about 3 cups)
1 medium taro, peeled and cut in chunks (about 3 cups)
1 cup beef broth
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup red wine
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
1/4 cup water

Sprinkle ribs on both sides with salt and pepper. Cut into pieces between each bone.

Place onions in bottom of slow-cooker. Top with celery and garlic, then ribs, then carrots, sweet potato and taro. Pour broth, tomato sauce and wine over top. Cook on low overnight, or at least 7 hours, until meat is tender.

Transfer meat and vegetables to a bowl. Tilt slow-cooker and skim fat. Dissolve tapioca starch in water. Stir into juices in pot and turn slow-cooker to high for a few minutes to let juices thicken into a light gravy.

Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary. Return meat and vegetables to slow-cooker. Serves 10.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (not including additional salt if necessary): 450 calories, 28 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 16 g protein
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813.


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