Friday, December 31, 2010

Forgotten post – and a New Year’s Resolution (Bourguignon Style Beef Short ribs)

Note:  I just realized that I never posted this one from October!  The recipe is perfect for New Years Day so I’ll go ahead and share it now.  And I’ll also add “get back to blogging” to my 2011 resolutions.

One of the great joys of living in a new area is having visitors to share it with. Earlier this Fall we had the chance to show off our new town to two of our best friends and former neighbors from California, John and Barbara Zachry. 

A fun stop on the Chapel Hill tour
With some help from the wonderful butchers at Whole Foods (shout out to Owen) John, Barbara, Steve and I enjoyed a “locavore dinner” featuring sumptuous grass fed Baldwin Beef short ribs, accompanied by a slightly garlicky cauliflower puree, plus sautéed mushrooms and cipollini onions – all of which were grown or raised by local farmers. Later we retired to the screen porch to enjoy the ice cream from Maple View Farm we had selected earlier that day – a process that required many samples. (And if Owen gets a shout out, so to the Maple View cows – ladies, you are to be commended.

Following this my recipe for the short ribs, which are fashioned after Julia Child's oh so famous boeuf bourguignon. They are best made a day (or even two) ahead, which makes them perfect for holidays or entertaining; but feel free to make and serve them the same day. Perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Bourguignon Style Beef Short Ribs
Serves 4


  • ¼ lb pancetta cut into ¼ to ½ inch dice.
  • 8 beef short ribs – depending on the size of the ribs, you may want to serve two each for the men and 1 each for the ladies; but I usually go for two each and see how they cook down.
  • ½ cup flour (for dusting the ribs after browning and then later for thickening)
  • 2 Tbs herbs d Provence
  • 2 - 3 Tbs olive oil (for browning the beef – the amount depends on how much fat you render out of the pancetta)
  • 2 large carrots, cut into thirds
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into thirds. Leafy tops a welcome!
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 4 – 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle good (but not priced out of the park) pino noir, merlot or even cabernet wine (or if you are buying French, get a red burgenouis)
  • 1 box beef stock. Get organic, low sodium if you can find it.
  • Kosher or sea salt; fresh cracked black pepper

 Optional, but I'd hate to leave them out:
  • ½ lb cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • ½ lb shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 cipollini onions or ½ lb white pearl onions, peeled (it helps to drop them into boiling water for 2 minutes and then place them in ice water before you peel them. If you use pearl onions, make a little criss-cross cut at the bottom of the onion first, to help them peel more easily)

(I know this looks like a lot of steps, but it is REALLY quite simple)
  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees
  • In a large Dutch oven:over medium low heat
  • Take the short ribs out of the 'fridge 30 minutes before you want to start cooking. Pat them dry with a paper towel. Season them liberally with salt, pepper and herbs d' Provence.
  • Coat the bottom of the pan with some olive oil and render the fat from the panchetta. They should be brown and crispy. Be patient. It will pay off.
  • Remove the rendered bits. Add some more olive oil if necessary.
  • Raise the hear to medium high
  • Working in batches, brown the short ribs on all sides – including the ends. You are going for a dark brown crust. Remove each batch to a large platter or paper lined surface.
  • When the ribs are all browned, dust them with flour. I usually take this opportunity to add some more salt, pepper and herbs d' Provence. These puppies are going to cook for a long time, they will need the help.
  • Now add the onions, carrots and celery. Let them get slightly soft as you stir them around and get up the brown bits.
  • Remove the veg and put the beef into the pot.
  • Put the veg, the thyme and bay leave atop and around the meat.
  • Add the bottle of wine – yes all of it
  • Now add the beef stock to just cover the beef.
  • Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and put it in the oven.
  • Cook for 1 hour
  • After an hour, check the meat, stirring and flipping as you go.
  • Lower the heat to 250 degrees, put the Dutch oven back into the oven
  • Cook for 2 more hours. (I like to check it now and then to make sure that all the liquid hasn't evaporated. For some reasons this happens now and then. If the meat is fork tender at the 1 ½ or 1 ¾ hour mark you can remove it early. But a bit more time won't hurt and if you are not sure it is tender, don't rush it.
When the ribs are fall off the bone tender, remove them from the oven.  Move the meat to a platter and throw away the veg, sprigs of thyme, bay leaf, etc.

Next to get rid of the extra fat and thicken the sauce...
  • Put the Dutch oven containing the sauce on a medium to high heat and bring it to a boil, this will help bring the fat to the top. 
  • Now for my own little trick – turn off the heat and place 2 or 3 paper towels, one at a time, on top of the liquid. They will absorb the fat. Just lift them up with tongs and toss into the trash. Pretty cool, hug?

 Then thicken the sauce...
  • Simply take ½ cup of the liquid and put it into a small bowl, whisk in 2 – 3 Tbs of the left over flour from before. If it is too thick,add more liquid, or even a bit of water. This will make a thick “slurry” that you stir into the sauce to thicken it.
  • Now raise up the heat again, and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes to reduce the volume and reach the consistency you like. 

At this point, put the short ribs and the reserved panchetta back into the sauce. You can now either reheat them for serving or let the whole thing cool down and refrigerate for up to two days.

If serving later, remove the Dutch oven containing the short ribs and sauce and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then heat in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the meat is heated through.

 Cipollini Onion Side Dish
I like to serve this dish with sauted ciapolini or pearl onions and mushrooms. (just saute the onions in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme until they are slightly soft, then add some broth and steam until a knife can be inserted and removed without resistance. Then remove and keep warm while you saute the mushrooms similarly (without the broth). Then combine and divide amongst your guests.

Additional Side Dishes
A braised dish like this is often accompanied by mashed potatoes, pasta or even risotto – but with a meal this rich, I like to make a simple puree of cauliflower that has been boiled until tender with garlic cloves. Add a little butter and half & half (or plain Fage Greek yogurt), salt and pepper and you won't feel as stuffed at the end of the night!