The reputed stimulative properties of coffee have never had an effect on me. I happen to be one of those people that can drink a hot cup of coffee right before bedtime, and then lull off to sleep as soon as my noggin hits the pillow. I don’t get debilitating headaches at work if I miss out on my morning cup of joe. And I can even have a scalding cup of java spilled onto my groin at the drive-through, and then drive off with a wink and a smile for the cashier.
OK, so maybe I exaggerated some of that a teensy bit. But truth be told, I drink coffee because I like the way it tastes, not because it’s a magical cup of pick-me-up. And aside from being a breakfast-time beverage, coffee can make for a wonderful ingredient in a number of dishes. For instance, brewed coffee can be used as a braising liquid for tough cuts of meat, and whole coffee beans themselves can be used to infuse a custard mixture for ice cream.
And since I brought back a giant bag of Barako coffee from my trip to the Philippines, I had more than enough beans to experiment with for these other coffee applications
I briefly touched upon Barako coffee before in this post, but to recap, Barako (Kape Barako) is a type of coffee bean indigenous to the Philippines. The flavor of Barako coffee is very unique in that while it is still very bold and pungent, it’s got a smoother, grassier taste to it than other types of coffees.
Taking advantage of Barako’s unique flavor, and of the leftover coffee I always seem to have in my coffee maker, I braised some short ribs in a pot of barako coffee and red wine. Braised short ribs is one of my absolute favorite dishes to make–I’ve braised short ribs in wine and sherry, in beef broth, and in beer before (not all at the same time), but I’ve never tried coffee as the braising liquid. But when I stumbled upon this recipe from Mark Bittman and the New York Times, I knew I would have a winner on my hands.
The ribs in the finished dish were wonderfully tender and moist. And although not necessarily reeking of coffee, the sauce was deeply flavored as I fudged with Bittman’s recipe a bit and added some bagoong (just a tiny bit), soy sauce, and fresh chilies to my version. Braising short ribs ain’t brain surgery, so the preparation is open to much experimentation and adaptation–feel free to throw in a dash of this and a touch of that to your liking (I’m thinking of throwing in some lemongrass, star anise and a cinnamon stick the next time I make these ribs).
Coffee also makes for a wonderful dessert as well–especially in an ice cream. To make my Barako coffee ice cream, I turned to my ever-reliable copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.
David’s coffee ice-cream needed no improvisation as I followed his recipe to a T (except of course, that I used Barako coffee). The resultant ice cream was smooth, creamy, and ever-so Barako-ey.
Of course, you don’t have to use Barako coffee in any of the following recipes, just use whatever you have on hand. But if you’ve never enjoyed Barako coffee from the Philippines, you should definitely try getting your hands on some.
Barako Coffee-Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from Mark Bittman and the New York Times
4 large beef short ribs
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 thai-bird chili(s), sliced
1 teaspoon bagoong (fermented shrimp paste found in Asian markets)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup dry red wine (I have my favorite, but any red will do)
1 cup strong brewed coffee
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
For this recipe, don’t use the cross-cut Asian-style short ribs that are cut thinly and usually have 3-4 bones in them. Instead, use the short ribs that have one long bone attached to a thick piece of meat (this is called “English-style” I think). Find the meatiest short ribs you can get your hands on. I’m always pleased with the ones at Whole foods.
Season ribs with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add the ribs to the pot and brown the ribs (get a good crust on them!) on all sides. Remove the ribs from the pot and set aside on a plate.
Add the onions, garlic, chilis, and bagoong to the pot and cook until the onions are transluscent, about 5-8 minutes. (And don’t worry about the bagoong in there, the shrimp paste is there to provide a bit of saltiness and earthiness to the dish, like anchovies would. They won’t make everything taste fishy and they will end up disintegrating into the braise, like anchovies would.)
Deglaze the pot with the soy, wine, and coffee, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Increase heat to high, and reduce the liquid by half. Return the ribs to the pot, cover, and place in the oven for 2-3 hours, turning the ribs over every hour, until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone. Taste the braising liquid and adjust seasoning as desired.
Serve ribs with steamed rice, risotto, polenta, or mashed potatoes (anything really), and then spoon some of the braising liquid over everything on the plate.
Coffee Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans (Barako if you’ve got it)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee (Barako if you’ve got it)
Warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, salt, and 1/2 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. When the milk and coffee bean mixture barely starts to simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let sit at room temp for 1 hour.
Rewarm the milk and coffee bean mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks then slowly pour the warm coffee mixture, a little at a time, into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Then scrape the warm egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom of the pot as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon or until the mixture reaches 170 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
Pour the remaining 1 cup of cold cream into a large bowl and place a mesh strainer over the bowl. Pour the custard mixture through the strainer and into the bowl of cream. Press on the coffee beans in the strainer to extract as much coffee flavor as possible, then discard the beans. Stir in the vanilla and finely ground coffee and cool the custard over an ice bath.
Cover and chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.