I like to think of myself as a woman with a lot of friends. A lot of new ones that I have met as an adult and a very select few (four to be exact) who have been around for everything since I was a teen. All the fun times and the struggles.
We know everything about each other and have forever, and it never matters, we are always there. Most of the time laughing and making fun of each other in the way only people who genuinely love you can do. We are as much family to one another as our actual families. We have never missed a birth or a death or a birthday for each other or our kids, really. When I am at my most unflattering in life, they are the first people I call, because it doesn’t matter how hard I am crying or how ridiculous the reason I am crying, or how hurt I am or how screwed up I have made a situation in life, they are right there, drinks in hand, Mexican food (full of play dough…that still has not worked its way out of me) and even the occasional cigarette (gasp).
Last week one of us (not myself) had a hip replacement – geriatric style. So I got us all together for a last supper as I called it…last supper as in, last supper before one of us gets a bionic body part…if only it could be bionic boobs or bionic abs…I will be all over that shit someday. So will the rest of my girls I think.
Theses short ribs are one of my best dishes, comforting, rich and homey. Perfect to linger over with endless bottles of wine laughing until our ribs hurt, which is exactly what we did. They are delicious and can be made entirely ahead, in fact I think they taste better this way. Simply cook the day before, cool in the dish and put it in the fridge. The next day the fat will have risen to the top and hardened in to a shell and you can pick it right up out of the dish. Awesome.
Barolo braised short ribs (with a side of marrow bones thrown in)
About eight beef short ribs pat dry and salted and peppered, (I use roughly one bone in rib per person and one boneless per person, the boneless nicely breaks up in to the sauce to make more of a ragu and give you more substance as store bought short ribs often are skimpy on the meat, but you want the bone for flavor)
One large beef marrow bone (get it from the butcher at your grocery store and trust me you will thank me later)
About three carrots diced small
About three celery stalks diced small
One onion finely diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Beef demi-glace, a small spoonful (This is my secret ingredient in just about everything I cook, though it is unnecessary if you don’t want to spend the money. It is simply stock that has been reduced to a thick, rich paste, and when you heat it up, it melts into a glorious concentrated flavor. It costs me a fortune from Williams Sonoma, like $30/jar, and I always keep chicken, beef and mushroom types on hand, the beef and chicken last me about 6 months each the mushroom about a year, but I don’t even care, it is my favorite food splurge. I have seen some version of this concentrated stock/bullion in the grocery store, but it is the saltiest thing I have ever tasted. I am not using it to add salt.)
An entire bottle of Barolo red wine (I used to only be able to get this at the Italian store, but I have been getting it at grocery stores nowadays. I had braised shanks in a restaurant once and they were absolutely incredible, I asked what they used for braising, and they said only Barolo wine, and I have gotten the best results with this by far. If you don’t have any, can’t find any or don’t want to spend extra money, it’s about $25/bottle, just use about ¾ bottle of cabernet and a cup of beef stock and a ¼ cup of water)
A whole garlic clove (leave it whole)
Salt and pepper
First heat the oven to 325.
In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed sauté pan (that isn’t nonstick) heat a little olive oil and butter on high heat. You want a really good sear on the meat so by mixing butter with olive oil, the butter can hold a higher temperature. When the pan is good and hot add the ribs so they are all flat not on top of each other, either all at once or in batches depending on the size of the pan and the number of ribs. Brown the ribs on all sides until they are dark and caramelized. Also add the marrow bone briefly to brown
Take the ribs out and drain off some of the fat and turn the heat to medium, and add the vegetables and a salt and pepper them, and cook until softened and a little caramelized. Then add the tomato paste and the demi-glace and cook for about a minute or so. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.
Turn the heat back up to high and immediately begin slowly (very slowly) adding the wine, and be extra sure scrape off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, they will come up easily when the liquid hits them. Bring to a boil and add the garlic clove (you will take it out at the end, it will end up lending a gently flavor of garlic to the dish) and then place all the meat and the marrow bone back into the dish, pushing them toward the bottom so they are covered a bit with wine and vegetables. Cover the dish and put in the oven for roughly four hours. Check on this every hour or so after two hours and if the liquid seems too reduced add a little water and/or beef stock. After four hours check the meat, all the gelatinous fat should be melted off and the meat should be falling apart. Sometimes I have cooked this for five or more hours, depending on how many times I open up the oven and check and how fatty they are. Check the marrow bone as well, the marrow should have shrunk and be very soft.
When they are finished take out the ribs as best as you can, leave the small bits that have fallen off. Strain the liquid into a gravy separator (this will put the fat at the top and leave you with just the sauce) and pull out the garlic clove and the bay leaf. Add the vegetable back to the pan and put the sauce back in and bring to a boil on the stove. Scoop all the marrow out of the marrow bone and whisk into the sauce. This not only adds incredible richness and beef flavor, it also acts as a thickener to the sauce. Marrow is absolutely one of my favorite things to cook with, it adds an additional element to a braised dish without any additional effort, as it cook right alongside the meat. Reduce the sauce to desired consistency and add the ribs back in, gently breaking up the boneless pieces to create a thicker ragu-like sauce. Add the parsley at the very end
If you are cooling for the following day, skip this last paragraph, pull out the garlic clove and the bay leaf, and cool to room temp and put in the fridge overnight. The following day before cooking take the fat shell that has solidified off the top, this will leave you with just the saucy goodness and the meat. Take the meat out and bring to a boil. Scoop the marrow out of the marrow bone and whisk into the sauce. Then reduce the sauce and add the meat back in until it is heated through.
Serve on mashed potatoes, gnocchi, other pasta or polenta. You will be happy you went the extra mile with this dish. I promise. It is that good.