Short Rib sandwich blog

Photos by Donna

[I’m on a blog break from 5/17 through 5/31, so I’m putting up favorite food posts from the archives.]

It began with pickles. I’d bought a quart of small cukes to pickle with tarragon but I wasn’t thinking as I made the brine.  I wanted some spice in there so I added black peppercorns.  Then, here is the not thinking part, I put in a load of coriander seed, then the tarragon, but as I smelled the brine coming up to heat, it was clear that pepper and coriander would completely overpower the tarragon, and simply don’t belong together.  So I removed the tarragon.  Donna arrived just then and said, “Mmm, smells good in here. Like corned beef.”

Having ruined the brine for the pickles (using the standard 5% brine ratio from Ratio, bien sur), I thought let’s put it to use with what pepper and coriander were made for.  I’d bought some short ribs intending to cure them with a dry rub to see how that worked, but now that I had a brine with corned beef seasonings, it would be a pickle instead.  I’d bought them specifically to make corned beef/pastrami, normally made with brisket.  But briskets are big and expensive and I wanted small portions. Also the brisket nowadays is so lean it can become dry. I wanted to use a well marbled cut, and short rib seemed perfect. (I thought I was being particularly clever, here, making corned beef out of short ribs, but apparently Asianjewishdeli has been doing it for months! Rats!)

Short ribs on board blog The fact is, you can corn any cut of beef if you want, doesn’t have to be brisket. The key ingredient is the pink salt, sodium nitrite, which keeps the meat vivid red even after cooking, and gives the beef its distinctive corned-beef flavor. So I simply added a half teaspoon of that to the brine, chilled it and submerged several boneless beef shortribs in the brine and left them for a few days.

I love the smoky spicy flavor of pastrami (corned beef coated in black pepper and coriander and smoked). To get this effect at home, without relying on a smoker, I grilled them over a hot fire. After grilling, they needed to be tenderized which we do by slow cooking. Corned beef is typically cooked in court bouillon, but I wanted to keep all the flavor in the abundantly seasoned meat.  So I wrapped them in foil with a little water to make sure the environment was moist and cooked them for a few hours in a 200 degree oven.

The result: exquisitely juicy, flavorful pastrami that’s easy to do at home.  Several steps, yes, but all of them easy.

How did I prepare the pastrami? Neo-Reubens.  Pastrami, sauerkraut, gruyere, with a mayo spiked with sriracha sauce, sandwiched between English muffin halves and cooked in a skillet.  English muffin makes the perfect portion size for such a rich sandwich, we had with chips and beer.  The hardest part of this preparation was waiting for Donna to finish taking the picture so we could eat.

There’s a complete corned beef recipe in Charcuterie, which includes mustard seeds, allspice, mace, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, all of which are fantastic, but all I used for this brine was peppercorn, coriander, garlic, pinch of ground cinnamon, and chilli flakes, and importantly 1/2 teaspoon of pink salt for about two cups of water (if you don’t know about pink salt, there’s more info at the bottom of this post). Pickle your beef for a few days in the fridge, coat with a mixture of equal parts peppercorns and coriander seed roughly cracked or chopped, grill them, then slow cook in foil as described above.  After tasting these, I can’t imagine ever using brisket again. Corned beef short ribs are fabulous.


16 Wonderful responses to “Homemade Short Rib Pastrami”

    • Mary

      I’m halfway through culinary school, and I will tell you that there are 2 kinds of people in my classes (both students and chefs): those that weigh 350+ lbs, and those that don’t — those who stay physically active outside of the kitchen, and those who don’t.

      Knowledge of nutrition, portion serving, and moderation have a lot to do with it, too. One rather large woman once made coleslaw (with both oil and mayo, I think) on deep-fried potatoes. Those were her canapés. She told me she cooks like that all the time.

      The balance between eating and exercising is key 🙂

  • Natalie Sztern

    I think Michael should auction off a lunch or dinner at his house for Breast Cancer Research….i would actually put in a bid and fly down…

  • Ben

    I made this recently, and thought it might be useful to add that if you are looking to do short ribs, it’s best to use meat from the short plate. I got mine from the bottom of the chuck (chuck roll), because it was the only way that butchers would sell to me without charging for the bone weight. Very rich and flavorful, but not as marbled or tender as meat from the plate, which is what comes to mind for most of us when we think short ribs.

  • Mary

    Hi Michael! I just wanted to let you know that I got “The Making of a Chef” the other day and am hooked. I’m not only a culinary student going into semester 3 of 5, but a writer and am close to finishing the final draft of my novel, so I really appreciate the voice,character, and details that you have put into your work.

    I’ve also learned that a lot of your experiences are similar to my own, however, I think Chef P has more class than one of the chefs at my school — my instructor has screamed in my face, once threw a sytrofoam cup at a student, and once flipped the bird to a student during lecture.

    But I guess, as a writer, this is the sort of thing I live off of — that, and samples of variations of NY strip steak 🙂

    Keep up the writing! I look forward to reading more of your work.


  • Karen Downie Makley

    This looks fabulous! And I love the fact that you changed horses midstream to deal with what you had in front of you (I love it because that’s the story of my cooking life!). I am totally making this some lazy weekend.

  • bunkycooks

    This looks incredible! Why would we ever choose to order this out in a deli ever again? I know that it may be a time consuming preparation, but I am sure there is no comparison to this corned beef!

  • Fran

    Oh my, you had me at pastrami! I would never have thought of this, it’s genius! I picked up a package of short ribs today with no real idea of what I would do with them to take a break from the usual and this sounds like the perfect change.

    I can’t wait to try it.

  • Eddi

    The folks at Cooks Illustrated say very explicitly that you don’t need pink salt to make corned beef–and, in fact, I make it every year without, and it’s fantastic. It turns brown, but man, it tastes good.

    Given that the brining/curing is only going on for a week, I don’t think there’s a need to bring the nitrates in (they wouldn’t convert to nitrite that fast anyway, would they?) for safety, is there?

  • Lannae

    Oh, what a fabulous idea, short ribs, not brisket. I have been unable to find an appropriate brisket to make my own pastrami. I will now use short rib! Thanks, this is great.