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French Fridays with Dorie: Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port

So it’s Friday again. Time for a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table for French Fridays with Dorie. This week, Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port were on the menu. This was another hearty dish that suited the cold weather.

Short ribs are a relatively new addition to our eating repertoire. Howard has made them several times in the sous-vide contraption he rigged up from old lab parts ordered on eBay. His version is very scientific (that’s what you get when a molecular biologist plays in the kitchen). It involves cooking the browned short ribs, vacuum-sealed with sauce, in a 133-degree Fahrenheit water bath for 72 hours. More on that another time.

Dorie’s version is a low-tech, but equally delicious, version, braised in the oven for a few hours. Short ribs need a slow cook to become tender, but the oven does its magic and the meat become fork tender. It just falls off the bone.

The recipe called for 12 ribs / 9 POUNDS of short ribs to create 6 servings! I’m finding Dorie’s serving sizes to be quite generous. At the market, 8 ribs weighed 4½ pounds, which seemed like enough for our house. I didn’t change anything else in the recipe, just used fewer ribs.

Bella Smells Short Ribs

First, I browned the meat under the broiler. It smelled great, and Bella (the dog) thought so too. Then, I cooked a variety of sauteed vegetables (onions, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, and parsnips) along with a bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, rosemary, celery leaves, star anise, and bay leaves) in a whole bottle of red wine (I used a bottle of Australian Shiraz) and some ruby port. After I added the meat and covered it with beef broth, the whole dish needed to bake for three hours.

I left Howard in charge, and I went to the movies to get in a pre-Oscar viewing of The Fighter. The movie mostly takes place in the nearby city of Lowell, but the first date scene with Mark Wahlburg and Amy Adams was filmed in the town where I live, Lexington, including a scene in the theatre where I went to see the movie. It was an enjoyable movie. To me, Christian Bale, as the crack-addicted brother, stole the show.

I’m definitely glad I made this dish the day before serving because there was a lot of fat that solidified when it chilled overnight. Chilling made the step of removing the fat quite easy.

I made a celery root and potato puree from another French cookbook I like. In French, it’s called Purée de Pommes de Terre et Céleri-Rave Lyonnaise, which sounds much fancier. It was a perfect match. The earthiness of the vegetable mash complemented the winey sweetness of the ribs.

The only challenge was that I like my mashed vegetables pure and unadulterated by gravy. The sauce for the short ribs was delicious BUT… it pooled in the center of the plate, polluting the puree, at least, to me. I have the same issue at Thanksgiving when my strategy is to separate the turkey from the mashed potatoes by putting the stuffing in between. That way the gravy which I do like on the turkey and stuffing doesn’t touch the potatoes. I came up with an ingenious solution. I ended up putting the sauce in a cup for dipping, which worked out quite well.

There was lots of extra sauce. Never wanting to waste a good thing, we freezed it in ice cube trays for Howard’s next sous-vide short rib concoction or maybe to throw into a soup or stew.

Dorie recommended garnishing the short ribs with a gremolata with garlic, orange zest, and fresh cilantro. I found the gremolata to be sharp and bitter and, though I tried it the first night, I didn’t use it on the leftovers. Without this flourish, the dish had a very “brown” appearance that called out for something to make it prettier. I didn’t bother, but maybe just some chopped cilantro would have done the trick.

I think this just wasn’t the most attractive dish, which might be why the cookbook’s photo for this recipe was of the raw ingredients. I know that when selecting my own photos this week, they just weren’t very appealing. Anyway…

I’m looking forward to reading about what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Maybe you’ll even want to cook along with us on Fridays.

As a bonus, here’s the recipe for my accompanying vegetables, if you’d like to try it yourself.

Purée de Pommes de Terre et Céleri-Rave Lyonnaise
From Marlena Spieler’s The Vegetarian Bistro
Serves 6-8

2 pounds all purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ stick (4 Tbsp) butter
¼ cup sour cream
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and celery root to the pot and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain the vegetables and mash with a potato ricer (or a hand-held masher). Add garlic, butter, and sour cream and stir until everything is combined well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday Short Ribs

We had another snow storm this weekend, 8 inches this time. That was nothing compared with what hit my sisters got further to the south: 20 inches in Maryland, and a foot or more in Philadelphia.

On Saturday, we snuck up to Maine for the day. We had planned to stay the night, but the weather wasn’t consistent with our plans. We wanted to check on things at the house, particularly the flying squirrel infestation. The house was in better shape than I expected. We only stayed a few hours. Time enough for look unsuccessfully for entrance points for the squirrels, replace the generator battery, and take Bella for a walk in the snow.

We got home in time to meet Laury for her birthday dinner. She picked a Nepalese restaurant in Allston – Mt. Everest Kitchen. None of us had ever tried Nepalese food before. It was excellent, especially the oven roasted lamb and vegetables that Howard picked.

Howard made a great dinner on Sunday. We had some short ribs in the freezer, one big package that we got at a farmers’ market in Maine plus one from Chestnut Farms. Coincidentally, the cover photo on a recent (October 2009) issue of Bon Appetit was of short ribs, providing the necessary inspiration. Officially, the recipe was called Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine Gravy and Swiss Chard. We had all the ingredients in the fridge. Howard also made mashed potatoes. I made substituted kale and collards for the Swiss chard accompanying the ribs. Almost of the vegetables were from our CSA share. It was a very local meal.

The rich vegetable sauce provided the perfect comfort food for a snowy evening. I liked the earthiness of the vegetables. I also liked that the vegetables were pureed in the food mill. I’m not wild about turnips, so it masked their presence in the dish.

Howard has made short ribs several times using his sous vide apparatus. The prevailing opinion (well, two votes, mine and Howard’s) was that the short ribs have much better texture with Howard’s sous vide technique. Of course, that takes much longer than the afternoon, days in fact. But the slow cook in simmering water tenderizes all the fat and the meat just melts in your mouth. Next time, he’ll try to adapt the recipe for the very slow cook. More on that another time.

Bella on the couchBonus photo: Here is our “Devil Dog” Bella, perched on her favorite vantage point, watching Howard shovel snow. Bad dog. She knows she isn’t supposed to be on the couch.