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Former NFL star-turned-chef's advice for Valentine's Day: Don't rush love (or short ribs)

Addie Broyles
Austin 360
Brandied short ribs from Eddie Jackson could be on your Valentine's Day menu this year.

You can't hurry love and you can't rush the short ribs.

That's Eddie Jackson's advice for what to make for Valentine's Day dinner. 

The former NFL cornerback, "Food Network Star" winner and author of "Game-Day Eats" lives in Houston, but he is often on the road shooting food shows, such as "Christmas Cookie Challenge," "Yum and Yummer" and "Kids BBQ Championship," which he co-hosted with Austinite Camila Alves McConaughey. (He's in Canada right now where the coronavirus shutdown brings everything to a halt at 8 p.m.)

Jackson grew up in Americus, Georgia, cooking with both of his grandmothers, including one who was the head chef at a high school with several hundred students. "She made biscuits with lard every morning for those kids," Jackson said in a recent interview from Toronto. "My grandpa made his own ham ... at 5 or 6, I was in the garden and the farm picking peas and hulling peanuts. That’s how we ate. That’s how I fell in love with food."

These days, when he's in between shows, Jackson is in his backyard smoking meats or writing new recipes that are easy and approachable for people, like his spin on brandied short ribs.

Short ribs aren't as familiar to cooks as other cuts of beef, such as ribeye or filet mignon, but as long as you remember to start cooking them three hours before you want to eat, it's a dish anyone can make. 

"You have to let the cut of meat determine how you cook," he says. "Some things need to be low and slow, like a brisket or short ribs, but the mistake that people make with steaks is they don't have their cooking element hot enough. Your pan should be smoking hot before you add your meat." 

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No matter the cut, season liberally with salt and pepper. "With a good cut of meat, you don't want to putting all of these spices on the meat and cover up the flavor of the beef," he says. Use kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. In this brandied short rib recipe, Jackson uses a mortar and pestle to crack whole peppercorns to infuse the sauce with a piquant bite. 

Simmering a pot of short ribs allows all that connective tissue to soften and season the meat. It's the same with a chuck roast or brisket. Braising these cuts on the stove (or in the oven) allows you to steam, roast and simmer at the same time. The key is keeping the temperature low and leaving the lid on.

Steaks, on the other hand, cook faster than you think, especially when that pan is searing hot.

If you're not sure if a particular cut of beef should be cooked fast or slow, ask the person at the meat counter for advice. That's what they are there for, Jackson says. "We have access to so many great butchers and higher quality of meat. There's mom and pop shops. That’s who you want to be friends with."

And lastly, don't forget the sauce. 

Beef stands on its own without a sauce, but to help an everyday meal feel like something special, say, for an upcoming holiday that celebrates special people in our lives, take the time to make a simple sauce. 

With these short ribs, he makes a brandied sauce using leftover braising liquid, brandy, smashed peppercorns and a little bit of cream. "You’re going to fall in love with it."

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Former NFL player Eddie Jackson now shares recipes through his own website and Beef Loving Texans.

Chef Eddie Jackson’s Brandied Short Ribs

This is the perfect date night recipe for you and your loved one to create together: braised short ribs in a sauce made with onions, garlic, tomato paste and beef base. Once the ribs are cooked, finish the dish with a brandied sauce made with a cup of the braising liquid, as well as brandy, heavy cream and fresh crushed peppercorns. Feel free to reduce the quantity of the recipe if you are only cooking for 1 or 2 people or don't want leftovers. Plan for one or two ribs per person.

— Addie Broyles

  • 5 pounds beef short ribs (8-10 pieces)
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon beef base or 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 carrots, peeled and halved
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs oregano
  • 2 fresh bay leaves

For the brandy sauce:

  • 1 cup braising liquid
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, slightly cracked 

Heat oven 325 degrees. Season short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, add olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear ribs 3 minutes per side or until a deep golden brown. Remove ribs from the Dutch oven and set aside.

In the Dutch oven, add onions and a teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to medium heat and cook until onions become translucent. Add tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes until paste is thoroughly incorporated. Add beef base and cook for 1 minute more. Add carrots, onions, garlic and celery. Arrange ribs over vegetables, and add stock, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Cover Dutch oven with lid and place in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until ribs are fork tender. 

To make the brandy sauce, bring 1 cup of braising liquid to a simmer in a shallow pan over medium high heat. Once liquid begins to simmer, add in brandy. Cook 1 minute to allow alcohol to burn off, being careful of flare ups from gas cooktops. Add heavy cream and peppercorns. Whisk to combine. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until sauce reduces by one-third, whisking frequently. Season with salt to taste.

Drizzle brandy sauce over short ribs and serve immediately. 

— From Eddie Jackson for Beef Loving Texans