Sunday, November 2, 2008

Italian Style Braised Beef Short Ribs

November 1 was officially our first rain day here in LA.  Not exactly a cold rain day but the kind that triggers the yearning for hearty comfort food.  Long slow cooked hearty beef that nurtures the carnivore within kind of comfort food.

Costco has quite the deal on Beef Chuck boneless short ribs.  Big, thick, beautifully marbled chunks of beef.  Even though you don't get the bones and marrow to pick at as you would with a bone in variety it is still a great cut of meat.  Cooked bone-in does yield more flavor but you can compensate for that with some good beef broth.

Short ribs because of all the marbling are best cooked in a slow braise.  That means it is just covered with liquid and slow cooked until all the connective tissues dissolve away and the meat is just fork tender falling apart.  That long slow cook also means the flavor is cooked deep into the meat.

This recipe comes from a lot of different sources.  It is loosely based on a Bolognese style spaghetti sauce that I've seen made by people like Malto Mario on Food TV. The recipe also has some bits based in the classic tomato sauce my Ma makes that she in turned learned from an old Italian lady that lived by us in Iron River MI when I was really little.  

Though they called the sauce "gravy" its still good eats.  The lady's name is lost to memory at this time but this "gravy" is her legacy in the kitchen.  A side bar is that the "gravy"in this recipe is referenced in a stuffed rigatoni recipe that she gave my Mom. It is an extremely labor intensive dish, but my gawd is it good.   Look for that in the coming days.

Italian Style Braised Beef Short Ribs
  • 4 lbs boneless beef chuck short ribs
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/2 C sun dried tomato in oil
  • 2 T chopped garlic
  • 1/2 C loose fresh basil (2T dried)
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 T fennel seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 C Red Wine - use what you are serving with dinner
  • 2 pkg Beef broth concentrate or bouillon (it would make 1 C each)
  • 2 Cans diced tomato
  • 1 Can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1 T coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T bacon fat

Mix flour, salt and pepper.  Dredge beef in the mixture.  Heat large dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and bacon fat.  Heat until just smoking and add beef, do not crowd pan, cook in batches.  Sear beef  on all sides until well browned and crusted about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove cooked beef to platter on side and repeat searing with the remaining beef.

Using a food processor fine chop onion, carrot, celery, sun dried tomato and fresh basil.  Add to the hot pan after the last of the beef has been seared.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir often scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Cook about 10 minutes until onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize.  Add wine and scrape bottom of pan clean to deglaze.  Cook until wine reduced about one half.  Coarse grind the fennel seed and add to pot.  Add oregano and bay leaf.

Add diced tomato and sauce.  Add the beef boulion concentrate.  Stir until dissolved.  Add beef to the top of the sauce.  

Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 2 hours.  (You may also slow cook in 325F oven for 2 hours).

Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes. 

Don't crowd the pan while searing the meat.  Doing so will cause the meat to simmer in its own juices rather than get a deep dark sear and crust.  This deep dark sear is what adds to the intense flavor in the final dish.
Searing of the mire poi you will find that a lot of liquid is given off the vegies.  Use that liquid to help deglaze the pan and scrape up all those flavorful bits from the bottom. I little trivia for you the term mire poi is french, the italians call it sofrito.  Still the same fine diced combo of onion, carrot and celery.
A friend turned me on to this brand of liquid beef broth.  It really adds a deep rich flavor to the dish without all the added salt of the traditional little boullion cubes.
Let the meat just sit on the braising liquid, it doesn't have to be covered.  That is the difference between braising and stewing...the latter the meat is completely submerged in the liquid.

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