I love all things Autumn! The cooler weather, the colorful leaves, football, apples, squash and warm, stick-to-your-ribs foods. My two most favorite cold weather foods: chili & short ribs. I’ve already cooked both of these dishes and I’m ready for more.
A few weeks ago I visited my favorite butcher, Vic, at What’s Your Beef butcher shop in Waxhaw. I went in, not knowing what I wanted, and poked around to see if anything inspired me. Vic was giving me a hard time, the way only upstate New Yorkers can, and then he mentioned those two lovely words: short ribs. A light bulb illuminated and I knew that I was having short ribs and polenta that night. He sent me on my way with my short ribs and his house-made breakfast sausages and I was a happy, happy girl.
Once home, I got online and logged onto Chowhound (this links to my thread) and started a thread asking for help from my Chowhound friends for braised short ribs recipes. I have plenty of recipes in my personal archives, but I wanted to try something new. I got many of good suggestions but one stood out above the rest: John Besh’s Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. John Besh is a restaurant owner and executive chef in New Orleans. He’s a C.I.A. grad and a James Beard award winner. This recipe probably produces the best short ribs you can possibly imagine. They are, of course, fall off the bone tender and the richness balanced with a touch of sweetness is just, well, orgasmic. IT IS! Serve it over a creamy polenta and you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Here’s a photograph of the dish. FYI, the plate is hand made by well known potter Bill Campbell who has a large studio/gallery in northwest Pennsylvania. I have been collecting his pieces for years and have found a gallery here in Waxhaw that sells his wares – Stewart’s Village Gallery. Incidentally, I took a pottery class at Stewart’s last spring and I learned something – I suck at pottery. I’ll stick to cooking and taking photographs.
John Besh’s Braised Beef Short Ribs
Your grandparents might have made this braised short ribs recipe. Some recipes age well.
I grew up on the Bayou and never strayed far because New Orleans has always been, and still is, a hell of a place to cook. Food has more cultural significance here. No matter where in the world early settlers came from — Italy, Spain, Senegal, Haiti — and whether free or enslaved, they assimilated into the Creole culture, embracing everything from language to cooking. That’s why dishes like gumbo and jambalaya have so many ingredients — every culture stirred a bit into the pot.
I try to deliver some of that complexity in this one-pot meal while keeping the ingredient list short by using a reduction of naturally spicy zinfandel with a touch of sugar, a combo that adds backbone and works wonders with the fattiness of the meat. There was a time when you couldn’t give short ribs away in American restaurants. It was fillet of beef this and lobster that. But as we’ve grown more comfortable — culinarily speaking — we’ve begun to identify with peasant-style cooking, the kind of food our grandparents might have made. This is one of those dishes. The ribs come from the chuck section, where the meat contains a lot of connective tissue and needs slow, moist cooking. –John Besh
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: About two hours (with little labor)
- 4 lbs beef short ribs, cut flanken style (across the bone) or English style (parallel to the bone). Flanken are easier to deal with but slightly more fatty.
- Coarse salt and black pepper
- 3 cups zinfandel
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 oz canned chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 oz canola oil
- 1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
- 2 medium carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
- 2 oz dried mushrooms, preferably porcini
1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper; be rather generous. In a mixing bowl, whisk together zinfandel, sugar, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.
2. Pour canola oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts) and place over high heat. When oil is hot, working in small batches, brown the meat. Turn each piece to brown on all sides before removing from the pot.
Tip: A sturdy pot that conducts heat well has a lot to do with the success of this dish. Get yourself a cast-iron pot. It’ll outlast you.
3. When all beef is browned and removed from pot, add onion, carrots, and celery, allowing onion to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Return beef to the pot along with wine mixture. Allow wine to come to a boil before reducing heat, skimming fat from surface.
5. After simmering for several minutes, add mushrooms. Cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
6. Once the beef has cooked, remove from pot and keep warm. Turn up heat and reduce the pot liquids until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Transfer ribs to four shallow bowls, spooning liquid over top.
John Besh is the chef and owner of August in New Orleans.
**Taken from Esquire Magazine, 10/22/07
In addition to making chili and short ribs, I finally tried my hand at canning Italian peppers. This is an old tradition common back home in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Many Italian families buy up bushels of banana peppers to make their canned Italian peppers. Locals engage in friendly debates arguing who has the best bread peppers (Italian peppers). They are a very simple concoction; banana peppers sliced into rings, salted and tossed in canning jars with smashed fresh garlic and oregano. Some folks add canned mushrooms or olives but I always preferred just the peppers. All the mom & pop Italian restaurants serve them with Italian bread and butter before your meal arrives. They are also eaten on hoagies, pizzas and salads. The best Italian restaurant back home, The Columbia Hotel, was owned by Leo & Vicky Taddeo who were good friends of my parents (Leo & Vicky have since retired and sold the place). We went to The Columbia weekly for dinner. Leo always checked my sisters’ and my hands for clean finger nails. If they were clean we were awarded with a Reese’s peanut butter cup. My Dad would sometimes take me there on Saturday afternoons. He would have a beer (or two) and chat with Leo, who would often let me go behind the bar and wash glasses. I loved washing the bar glasses and pouring sodas from the soda gun. Uncle Patsy, a bar regular, would give me a quarter and teach me Italian words.
Vicky Taddeo was kind enough to share her Italian peppers recipe with me several years ago. I never had the patience or the peppers to make them before now. Fortunately, another dear friend of mine had a huge garden this summer which produced an over abundance of banana peppers. Here is what I did with the bounty (the jars are a tad cloudy because I used table salt rather than canning salt):
If you are interested in knowing how to make these crunchy, tangy beauties let me know. I won’t give you any of mine, but maybe I’ll share the recipe with you – if you beg <wink>. I’ve got a homemade Italian boule I picked up at the farmers market and it’s lunch time, so I think it’s bread and peppers for me. Ciao!