Sean O'Toole's Braised Short Rib-Stuffed Morels

milk braised pork

Photo © Sara Remington courtesy of Viking Studio, The Wild Table

It's so hard to choose a favorite stuffing from all the years of great ones. At past years' morel parties Staffan Terje's (Perbacco) lardo-wrapped veal stuffing following Tom Worthington's (Monterey Fish Market) blood pudding stuffing, followed Toni Moore's Greek lamb stuffing, and on and on. Even in this cavalcade of morel wonders, Sean O'Toole's ( Torc Restaurant, Napa ) short rib stuffing just thrilled me. My coauthor, Sarah, has simplified Sean's ambitious recipe a bit for us earthling nonchefs.

The unexpected Asian flavors in the short ribs, combined with the gray morels' own beefy flavor, make my mouth water even now. Other big morels from Iowa or anywhere can work for this too.

Serves 4 to 6; makes about 2 cups stuffing

for the short ribs:

3 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons pure olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, cut into ½-inch dice

¾ pound shallots, thinly sliced

1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise

¼ cup coriander seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

3 lemongrass stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ bunch fresh cilantro

1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 cup dry white wine

½ cup soy sauce

1 quart beef broth

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Season the short ribs all over with salt and pepper. Place them on a rack set inside a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

While the short ribs are roasting heat the oil in a large braising pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is how, add the fennel and shallots, Place the garlic halves in the pan, cut side down. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and starting to caramelize. Remove from the heat and set aside until the short ribs finish roasting.

Place the coriander seeds and black peppercorns in a mortar and crush them slightly with a pestle. (Or place them in a resealable plastic bag, open, and crush with the bottom of a small saucepan, being careful to contain the coriander seeds and peppercorns.) Place the lemongrass, cilantro, and crushed coriander and peppercorns on a 10-inch square piece of cheesecloth. Roll up and secure tightly with string, Place the bundle in the pan with the vegetables.

When the short ribs are roasted, place them in the braising pan. In a large bowl, combine the rice vinegar, white wine, soy sauce, and beef broth. Add to the braising pan and return the pan to the heat. Bring to a boil. Fit a piece of parchment paper on top of the short ribs and liquid to cover. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on top of the parchment, gently pushing the foil down until it is directly on top of the parchment paper and tucked up against the sides of the braising pan, Seal the edged securely nu crimping the foil around the edges of the pan. Place in the oven. Turn down the heat to 375°F and cook for 2½ hours.

Remove the short ribs from the braising liquid, Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a container with a lid. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bones and clean off any tough connective tissue or excess fat. You should have about 2 cups. Refrigerate the broth and meat, covered, until ready to use.

To finish:

Reserved short rib meat

½ cup reserved braising liquid, fat removed

¼ cup finely minced scallions

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger

2 Thai or small serrano chiles, seeded (optional) and finely minced

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1½ teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, or more to taste

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

20 to 24 large gray morels, cleaned

Pure olive oil

Prepare a grill to medium heat.

:

Finely dice the short rib meat. Place the braising liquid in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Add the meat, stirring to moisten it completely. Stir in the scallions, ginger, chiles, cilantro, rice vinegar, and salt. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar and/or salt as needed. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more braising liquid. Cool slightly before proceeding.

Place the stuffing mixture in a piping bag with a tip small enough to fin inside the morel mushrooms.

Place the tip inside the mushroom and gently squeeze the piping bag, being careful not to overstuff it to bursting.

Lightly brush the the morels with oil.

Place the morels on the grill and cook, turning them as they brown, for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until the morels are cooked and the stuffing is heated throughout, 8 to 12 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Tips and Techniques

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper a day ahead to give them even more flavor.

You can sauté the mushrooms in a pan instead of grilling.

Creating a tight seal with no airspace between the braising liquid and the parchment and aluminum foil makes for a more concentrated, flavorful braise.

Chilling the braising liquid overnight allows the fat to rise and solidify, making it easy to remove the next day.

Substitutions and Variations

Wild dried morels and dried grey morels can be rehydrated and stuffed for this recipe.