On this particular cold and drizzly Sunday I decided to make a large pot of short ribs, the epitome of cold weather food. My father gave me this recipe a few years ago after he made them for us while we were visiting my parents. As a quick aside, I should note that I grew up in a household where both of my parent's are exceptional cooks. First of all, my father is a retired surgeon and I am pretty sure has better knife skills then any professional chef on television. Secondly, like any good scientist, he is very precise when he is following a recipe for the first time. Only after he has finished and tasted the final result of his first attempt will he sit down and give it an in-depth analysis. Then he will make notes for changes to try the next time he cooks the dish, often only making one change per attempt so as to test each "variable" (i.e. ingredient) independently. I often tease him that he approaches cooking like he did medical research. He concedes that this is true, but is quick to point out that, as a result, our whole family loves his recipes.
Luckily for me my father had already fully vetted this recipe before passing it on, so all I had to do was follow his instructions to a "T". I read the recipe thoroughly before I began and then followed each step very carefully, trying to replicate his exacting standards. The preparation of the meal was actually quite simple. There was lots of chopping vegetables, browning meat and adding liquids to a dutch oven. It took time, but as long as I kept an eye on everything it was hard to mess up. My favorite part came after I had put the pot in the oven and gorgeous smells of herbs and broth wafted through the apartment for most of the afternoon. Once the sauce was thickened and the short ribs complete I prepared a simple green salad and spooned the broth and meat over fresh egg noodles. The result was delicious. The sauce was a perfectly balanced blend of red wine, beef and vegetables. It tasted like a french minestrone, the olives lending a delicious salty touch to counteract the sweetness of the carrots. The ribs were so tender that the meat shredded at the touch of the fork tines and simply melted away in my mouth with each bite. In fact, it was so tender that our daughter, who only has four teeth, excitedly ate several fistfuls of meat and noodles with no trouble whatsoever.
Like all good Sunday dinners I am pleased to note that the leftovers were extremely easy to keep and we were able to eat them for dinner on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday I simply reheated the whole dutch oven in the stove and served the meal again, this time with mashed potatoes. Then, on Tuesday, we shredded the remaining meat and ate it on fresh slices of baguette with a side of cheese and a salad. In times like these I think it is also worth noting the smart economics of this meal. Short ribs are a relatively inexpensive cut of meat compared to, say, a tenderloin, and when prepared properly they can last you for at least three (!) dinners. So, thanks Dad, for sharing the recipe. And thank you also for all those winter weekends you had to keep me entertained indoors, I now have a whole new level of appreciation for your patience.
Dad's Short Ribs Pronvencale for Sunday Dinner - adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2002
4 lbs. meaty beef short ribs (but I've used up to 6 lbs. with this recipe if you need to serve lots of people)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 T. dried Herbes de Provence
2 c. red wine
3 c. beef broth (I use bouillon cubes)
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes, with juices
1/2 c. water, if needed
16 oz. baby carrots
1/2 c. Nicois olives, pitted
1. Preheat the oven to 325.
2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Sprinkle the ribs with Kosher salt and pepper, add ribs to the pot and brown well, turning often. About 8 minutes per batch. When complete, transfer ribs to a large bowl.
3. Add 2 T. olive oil to the pot, add onion, chopped carrot and celery and cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are soft. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
4. Add garlic, flour and herbes de Provence, stir for 1 minutes. Add wine and 2 c. of broth. Bring to boil over high heat and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
5. Add tomatoes with juices. Return ribs with accumulated juices to the pot, and, if needed, add enough water to the pot to just cover the ribs.
6. Cover pot tightly and transfer to oven. Bake until ribs are very tender, about 2 hours 20 minutes. You'll see how tender they are when the bones fall out of the meat.
7. When this is complete add remaining 1 c. broth, baby carrots and olives to the pot. Continue cooking for 15 minutes, until carrots are very tender.
8. Remove from oven. If you want to, remove the ribs and carrots, and boil the sauce a little longer on the stove to thicken it slightly. Season it all with salt and pepper.
9. Pour sauce over freshly cooked egg noodles, add ribs to each plate and serve.
Naptime Recipe Props: A Sunday dinner that will last for three nights is well worth the effort. This is a tried and true recipe that you could even serve at a dinner party if you wanted to.
Naptime Stopwatch: This recipe takes about 2 1/2 hours or more to prepare. It is not hard, but it takes a lot of chopping, browning and stirring. I watched it very carefully while it was in the oven, not wanting the meat to come uncovered at any point. Set aside a lot of time on the weekend to make this and you will be glad you did.
Naptime Reviews: To find a meat dish that both a husband and toddler will eat is no small feat. Our daughter at the meat and noodles by the fistful and my husband, well, he could have eaten the entire thing by himself!