For some reason the concept of patience has resonated with me today in many ways. Finally, I woke up to a day where I could lounge around in sweatpants and slippers, and needed to find something to roast in the oven immediately. I’ve been craving a day like this all throughout October. Here it is, the last week of it, and after many upper 90 degree days this month, it finally came—the wind began to blow, and a sharp breeze filled the house as it passed through the open windows. Slowly braised short-ribs came to mind.
Nothing says patience like these ribs. You’ll begin to anxiously pace around, waiting to turn over the ribs during their jarring sear in the pan. Turn them too soon or fuss around with them and you miss that caramelized, golden crust—so essential to the flavor. It’s also necessary to allow the careful concentration of flavors of the soffritto (carrots, celery, onion, garlic) as it melds with the reduction of red wine. Let it be, let it be. The longer the layers of flavors develop, the better! And at last you become forced to stop stirring it and close it away tightly in the hot oven for 3 hours. Talk about separation anxiety! At hour 2 1/2, it is time to take off the lid and let it again reduce so you can drizzle the concentrated remains over some mashed yukon gold potatoes, or perhaps fresh egg noodles….. ugggh patience!!
My recipe is an adaptation from chef Anne Burrell. I chose to add a half can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes (luckily, I had some left in the fridge) instead of Anne’s reccomendation for 1 1/2 cups of tomato paste. Not only does that seem like sooo much paste and would make the sauce probably unbearably rich (if that’s even possible), I also realized I only had about a couple of tablespoons of it handy! However, the improv move seemed to work in my favor. Also, I chose to replace her 2 cups of water with 2 cups of beef broth. The idea of adding water to something like this is reminiscent of the stale and flavorless pot-roast of my youth (sorry Mother…). Oh, and don’t EVEN think about subbing some boneless chuck for the bone-in ribs. If you want a beef stew, then fine. Do what you will. But with the bone comes the flavor and a tenderness that is out of this world. Here’s my modified recipe!
: Slowly-Braised Short Ribs :
- 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
- 6 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1-2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup canned crushed tomato (about half of a 15oz can)
- 2 cups hearty red wine (such as cabernet sauvignon)
- 2-3 cups beef broth
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
Season each short rib generously with coarse sea salt. Coat a dutch oven, or any pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with 4 tbsp olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and sear very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
While the short ribs are browning, puree the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in a food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with about 2 tsbp fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown over medium hight until they are tender and begin to caramelize, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook 3 minutes more. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the brown bits. Then add the crushed tomatoes. Lower the heat a bit and reduce the mixture by half.
Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups beef broth or until the broth has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more beef stock, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid over mashed potatoes or egg noodles!