Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pomegranate Flanken


Even the word makes you think of tiny, Formica kitchen where a little, old woman in a housedress toils over a dented roasting pan schlepped here from the old country.

I don't own a housedress. My roasting pan is of no particular provenance. My flanken is boneless and braised in pomegranate juice. But it still takes forever to cook. So goes the world.

On the off chance that you didn't have a little, Jewish (great-)grandmother, I'll tell you that flanken is a cut of beef from the back of the ribs. Jewish cooking usually features cross sections of four ribs like this.
Cooking with the bones in makes for a slightly better flavor, but boneless ribs were on sale this week at the kosher market. I prefer the boneless flanken anyway, since it annoys me to pay for something I'll be throwing away. But if bone-in ribs are what you have (or what's on sale!), then just buy five pounds instead of four. Do you think your Bubbe would have made it out of the shtetyl if she was so picky?

Pomegranate Flanken
4 pounds boneless flanken (or 5 pounds bone-in)
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups of pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
kosher salt
black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate aerils

Day 1
  1. Adjust your oven rack to the second level from the top and pre-heat the broiler to 425. I do not recommend the convection setting here, since the blowing air just increases the likelihood of flare-ups (i.e. fires). Line a sheet pan with foil, arrange about four ribs to the area of your broiler element, and salt them to taste. (My meat happened to be kosher, so I salted it lightly. Conventional meat requires more seasoning.)
  2. Run the meat under the broiler for five to ten minutes until it develops a nice, brown crust. You'll have to use your judgement on the timing, based on your oven's size, the thickness of your meat, and whether you're cooking with gas or electric. Turn the meat over, salt the other side, and repeat. 
  3. When you've browned on both sides, remove the meat to the baking dish, and crimp one corner of the foil into a lip to pour the pan drippings into a frying pan. This gives the veggies a head start on seasoning, and minimizes the amount of fat waiting to catch fire in the oven. Season the second batch of ribs and get them started browning.
  4. Meanwhile, start sweating the carrot, celery and onion in the frying pan with the drippings. Salt and pepper them to your taste, taking into account the level of seasoning in and on your meat. After about ten minutes, the onions should be translucent. Make a space on one side of your pan, tip in a little bit more beef drippings from the second batch of ribs, and fry up the minced garlic. After a minute, mix the garlic into the other vegetables and take the pan off the heat.
  5. Arrange the roasting pan with half the vegetables on the bottom, then a layer of meat, then the remaining vegetables on top. Stick a clove, bay leaf or cinnamon stick in each corner of the pan where you'll find them easily to remove later. Pour over the pomegranate juice and water to come most of the way up the sides of the meat and cover the pan tightly with foil.
  6. Bake at 300 for three hours, removing the foil and turning the meat over halfway through.
  7. After cooling on the counter for an hour, remove the cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Cover and put the pan in the refrigerator overnight.

Day 2
  1. Break up the layer of hard, orange fat that has congealed on the top of the meat and throw it away. 
  2. Cover the flanken and return them to a 300 degree oven for two hours or more. The whole point of braised meat is that it will wait for you to be ready to eat whenever.
  3. An hour before you plan to serve the meat, take it out and let it rest for half an hour. 
  4. Remove the flanken to a platter, and cover with foil.
  5. Strain out 1 cup of the liquid and bring it to a simmer in a saucepan, whisking in the pomegranate molasses. 
  6. Dissolve the cornstarch in a tablespoon of cold water, then whisk it into the saucepan. Bring to a boil for a minute, then reduce to a simmer. You should have a slightly thickened, shiny gravy.
  7. Pour over the meat and decorate with pomegranate aerils before serving.

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