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Food & Entertaining

Flavors of Fall

Author: Karen Fernau
Issue: October, 2016, Page 42
Photo by Grace Stufkosky
Autumn appetites crave smoky Southwestern comfort foods

Chef Christopher Collins looks to the calendar, not the outdoor thermometer, for inspiration. And for him, October is officially time to make and enjoy hearty fare.

“We’re all ready to trade that seared ahi tuna salad we’ve been eating all summer for beef short ribs and Arizona-style grits—something that says fall and cooler weather is on the way,” says Collins, chef and owner of Grassroots Kitchen & Tap in Phoenix and Scottsdale and Twisted Grove Parlor + Bar in Scottsdale.

With culinary talents inherited from his father, Wally Collins of Wally’s American Pub ‘N Grille in Phoenix, Collins knows just how to invigorate autumnal eating. He wakes up summer-dulled taste buds with slow-roasted brown sugar- and chili-rubbed beef ribs that are finished with a honey-hoisin glaze. He pairs the sweet and smoky ribs with white cheddar and jalapeño grits, a dish patrons were initially reluctant to order when he opened Grassroots in Scottsdale five years ago.

Giving the Southern staple a spicy Southwestern twist was the key to winning over Valley diners. Today, the coarsely ground corn kernels are the restaurant’s signature dish and the most popular side on the menu.

In the spirit of Octoberfest, Collins suggests pairing the dish with Pueblo Vienna Lager from McFate Brewing Co. in Scottsdale. Pueblo, a Mexican-style Vienna lager brewed with corn, begins with a crispness and finishes with a smooth, malty flavor. The light, toasted notes balance the sweetness of the ribs and fire of the grits for a delicious meal.

Chef Collins’ Braised Short Ribs.

Serves 4

8 pieces short ribs
½ cup bacon fat or olive oil
1 cup brown sugar rub
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
4 ounces tomato paste
2 cups red wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon thyme
2 bay leaves
3 ounces short rib glaze

Brown Sugar Rub
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon celery salt

Short Rib Glaze
2 cups short rib jus, strained and fat removed
½ cup hoisin
½ cup honey

Christopher Collins, chef and owner of Grassroots Kitchen & Tap and Twisted Grove Parlor + Bar, serves up savory fall flavors in his braised short ribs and white cheddar and jalapeño grits (right). A smooth lager, such as McFate Brewing Co.’s Pueblo Vienna, complements the dish’s robust profile.
For brown sugar rub, mix together all ingredients and set aside.

To prepare braised short ribs, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat dry short ribs. Coat all sides of each cut with brown sugar rub. Heat a large pot on medium-high heat and add 4 tablespoons of bacon fat or olive oil. Be careful not to bring heat to a high temperature or the sugar on the short ribs will burn. Working in small batches, brown the top and bottoms of the short ribs, transferring browned cuts to a clean braising pan. Once all meat has been browned and removed from the pan, add remaining fat or oil to the pan and turn to high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery, and sauté for 10 minutes until soft. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom of the pot, releasing the charred flavor of the ribs. Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes while stirring well. Add tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add red wine, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then pour over short ribs. Cover the pan with two layers of foil. Bake in oven for 3 hours. When finished baking, remove the pan from the oven, open one corner of the foil and cool on a countertop. Remove short ribs from braising liquid. Strain braising liquid and reserve for glaze.

For short rib glaze, add strained jus to a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then reduce by half (about 20-30 minutes). Add hoisin and honey and mix well. Brush glaze onto short ribs before serving.

Chef Collins’ White Cheddar and jalapeÑo Grits

Serves 4

1 cup white or yellow grits
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
4 ounces white cheddar, shredded
½ cup jalapeños, diced, no seeds

Add heavy cream and chicken stock into a pot and heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Slowly add grits while whisking. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20-25 minutes, whisking grits every 3-4 minutes to keep them from sticking to the pot. Remove from heat and add cheese a little at a time while whisking until completely incorporated. Stir in jalapeños. Serve immediately.

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