Whitetail Short Rib Sopes with Roasted Squash and Poblano Cream
Words fail me. This dish is rich, earthy and difficult to describe. The beer-braised whitetail short ribs are succulent and decadent. The roasted butternut squash is sweet and hearty, and the poblano cream sauce provides the perfect complement of smokiness with a touch of heat. Served together in small Mexican masa bowls called sopes, they make a mouth happy.
For the Poblano Cream Sauce
- 3 poblano chiles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, halved
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 tomatillos, shucked, stemmed and quartered
- 3/4 cup 2% milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Mexican crema
For the sopes
- About 2 1/2 pounds whitetail short ribs (12 ribs) cut into pairs of ribs (or beef short ribs, but cook them 30 minutes longer)
- 1 dried Pasilla chile, ground in a food processor or coffee grinder
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 to 2 bottles of Mexican beer (I used Victoria)
- 1 large butternut squash
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 12 prepared sopes
- About 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
- Lime wedges for garnish
Cast iron Dutch oven
Heavy aluminized steel sheet pan or other grill-safe pan
To prepare the sauce, roast the poblanos over the open flame of a cooktop burner or on a grill over high heat for several minutes, until blistered and blackened all round. Place them in a bowl and cover with a plate to steam in their own heat.
While the poblanos are steaming, add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and onion. Cook until softened and brown around the edges. Reserve.
Scrape the charred skins off the poblanos. Remove the stems and seeds.
Combine the poblanos, garlic and onion mixture, tomatillos and milk in a blender. Process until smooth.
Melt the butter in the skillet and whisk in the flour. Whisk constantly until lightly browned. Pour the contents of the blender into the skillet and add the crema.
Whisk slowly until bubbling. Remove from heat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Reheat before serving.
To prepare the sopes, set up the grill for indirect cooking at 300ºF.
Season the ribs with the dried Pasilla chile and salt (reserve any leftover chile). Place the Dutch oven on a cooktop over medium-high heat to preheat. Add the canola oil and wait for it to shimmer. Brown the short rib pieces on as many sides as possible, working in small batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Stand all the pieces on edge and pour in the beer until it comes halfway up the pieces. Throw in any remaining chile. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the indirect zone of the grill. Cook with the hood closed for 3 hours.
Once the short ribs have begun braising, cut the butternut squash into small pieces, discarding the seeds and the shell. Toss the squash in olive oil to coat. Spread into a single layer on a heavy, grill-safe baking sheet and season generously with salt. Place the baking sheet in the indirect zone of the grill for the final 2 hours of braising time. Roast until the squash is browned at the edges and soft. You may wish to turn the pieces over and move them around a couple of times during the 2 hours, but keep the hood closed as much as possible.
At this point, you can put everything on hold until the next day. If desired, refrigerate the short ribs in the covered Dutch oven. Let the squash cool before transferring to an air-tight container and refrigerating.
When it is time to continue, gently warm the squash and reheat the sauce.
Heat the sopes according to the package instructions.
Remove the short ribs from the Dutch oven and grill directly over a hot fire to crisp up the outside (and to reheat, if applicable).
Remove the bones from the short ribs and tear the meat into small pieces. Top each sope with whitetail and roasted squash. Spoon on some poblano cream sauce and sprinkle with queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!