And if that’s not an incentive for you to try it, well…I’m out of ideas.
So a while back, my mother in law accidentally bought half a cow. I know you, internet reader, and I know that your first instinct is to quip, “Which half? Front or back?” Oh you witty person, you. After that, you’ll ask how someone “accidentally” purchases a half of an animal that can weigh up to 700 pounds when they really meant to just buy a quarter? I’m not sure but frankly it sounds like something I would do.
Anyway, because of that, Josh and I got a fabulous gift of a large amount of beef that we’ve been whittling down over the past couple months—ground beef, steaks, chuck roasts. And yesterday, short ribs.
I love short ribs. “But Lauren,” you say, “You love any kind of ribs.” Yes, that’s true too. And with good reason: they are delicious. Beef short ribs are the bovine equivalent of pork spare ribs and can be found cut into a variety of ways. While I don’t crave them in the same obsessive manner that I tend to crave pork ribs (hey, the pig is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy), I do enjoy them now and then in place of a good roast. They’re an excellent candidate for braising, which is not quite baking and not quite boiling. Once when I was practically swimming in an overflow of Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, I made pomegranate-braised short ribs with an ancho chile and chocolate rub. It was pretty awesome. This dish is somewhat similar, but more “traditional” and a bit less fruity. Also, I’ve replace the healthy benefits of pomegranate with the healthy benefits of a full bottle of red wine: let’s see if anyone notices!
I think sometimes people see a dish like “Wine braised short ribs” and they get nervous about what they think is supposed to be a very fancy dish but is really just peasant food, and easy peasant food at that. Take a cut of meat that’s relatively tough, cook it at medium low temperatures for a long time in a flavorful liquid bath and there you go. You can braise with just about anything, but I like using red wine because alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems it has a lot of flavor which can vary widely depending on the wine you choose, it cooks down into a nice, rich sauce and it gives the meat this beautiful dark purple color that’s just very inviting.
And don’t think you have to use expensive wine either. I picked mine up at Costco. Seriously. I was skimming through the surprisingly hefty wine collection at the nearest store in Brighton and found this 2008 Volver La Mancha Tempranillo. Before I go any further, let me state that I know almost nothing about wine and I don’t drink red wine either. I only use it for cooking. However, as I didn’t want to go with one of the super-abundant standards like a merlot or cabernet cause I wanted to try something new. So I just skimmed the labels looking for something that sounded good. Scientific, I know. I can hear you wine-snobs shaking your heads. But anyway, I picked this one because of the intriguing flavors listed for it: dark plums, black cherries, red currants, smoke, earth, pain grillé (toast), blue and black fruits, etc. I thought that sounded like a wonderful addition to a big meaty dish.
To complement it, I cooked down some leeks, carrots and garlic cloves for sweetness and body and rubbed the ribs with butter, salt, black pepper, dried basil, paprika and a bit of cumin. The side dish was simple, slightly spicy and citrus-y, to cut through the darker sweetness of the meat: mounds of leafy arugula (from Goetz farm) and white beans sauteed in blood orange infused olive oil with a bit of red pepper flake. And a baguette, of course.
It took about two and a half hours to cook the ribs, and about 5 minutes for the arugula and bean salad. The smell of the warm wine wafted through the house; it was really quite fantastic. What you get at the end is this dark, tender meat that just sort of lazily slides off the bone. It makes an excellent Sunday dinner and, if you’re lucky and there are leftovers, an amazing beef sandwich afterwards. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.
Wine-Braised Short Ribs
2 pounds short ribs, cut into pieces that will fit in your pan if necessary
3 medium carrots, diced
1 small leek, cleaned and diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried basil
3/4 tbsp paprika
1 700ml bottle of a red wine you like
Preheat oven to 375F. In a large, heavy, oven-safe pot, melt butter with olive oil over medium high heat, until the butter froths and then the bubbles die down. Add in leeks, carrots and garlic, stirring until thoroughly coated in the butter. Cook about 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until they start to cook down just a bit.
Rub the ribs with butter. Combine salt, pepper, cumin, basil and paprika in a small dish and then press spice mixture into the ribs, coating thoroughly. Make a bit of room in the center of the pot by pushing the vegetables to the sides and then place ribs meat-side down in the pan, fitting in as best you can. Cover and let sear for about 5 minutes. Flip the ribs over. Pour enough wine into the pan to coat 3/4 of the way up the ribs. Drink whatever is left.
Place a top on the pot and put into the oven. Let braise for about 2.5 hours, checking occasionally and turning meat as needed. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Warm Arugula and White Bean Salad
This will make as much as you want to; use it as a guideline, not a strict recipe.
You will need:
canned or pre-cooked white (cannellini) beans
citrus-infused olive oil (I used blood-orange olive oil)
salt, pepper and red pepper flake to taste.
Heat a skillet over a medium flame. Pour in a tablespoon of olive oil and let heat up. Toss in arugula and white beans, stirring to combine and coat in the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and pepper flakes and saute until the arugula begins to wilt down. If desired, sprinkle with a little bit more olive oil (don’t over do it) and serve. As the arugula will wilt down quite a bit the longer you cook it, aim for 1-2 cups of fresh arugula per person.