I never came across short ribs during my nine years in Australia, but since I’ve been back in New York, I’ve seen them constantly – maybe not as much as sliders, those mini burgers that have spread across NYC faster than swine flu – but they’re up there.
So when I spotted the “Short ribs in Barolo” recipe in Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook, I was kinda excited to give them a go – besides, I’m reading Heat and Bill Buford just went through these babies in detail in the last chapter. It being Father’s Day on Sunday, I though it was a beaut of a recipe to cook up for Dad.
I’ve been away for most Father’s Days for the past decade, so I needed to do something special. Plus my mother will only eat her meat well-done, so rather than suffer the indignation of slaughtering beautiful beef to death, a braise seemed like the perfect compromise. But all would not go according to plan…
So I prepared a home-cooked tomato sauce the day before, then bought a couple of pounds of quality, boneless short ribs from Whole Foods in Chelsea (love these guys – just about every other decent butcher in the city is closed on Sundays), and shlepped it all to my parent’s house in Jersey where I would put it all together. Which was fun, considering I’ve got a crappy electric stove in Hoboken in a claustrophobic kitchen. The folks, in comparison, have a massive six-burner stove with a big granite island in the middle, double ovens and so much storage space I’m constantly exploring cabinets searching for simple things like graters and peelers.
Before I go on to bore you with details, here’s the ingredient list:
- 6 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 lbs boneless beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch cubes
- 2 Spanish (red) onions, 1 carrot and 2 celery stalks, each cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 4 oz pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch dice
- 2 cups Barolo
- 2 cup basic tomato sauce
The execution was straightforward enough: I browned the meat in a Dutch oven and removed it, then chopped the veggies and sweated them in the pan with the pancetta cubes, added the tomato sauce and the wine (top-notch gamay instead of the overkill of Barolo), and slow-cooked it all for an hour and 45 minutes. The recipe didn’t say whether or not to cover the pot, so I left off the cover, figuring all that the alcohol from the wine had to evaporate somehow.
And the result? Well I’d love to say that it was the best Father’s Day meal ever, but what came out of the braise were fairly chewy short ribs: the meat was far from being fall-apart, and there was so much fat present, we had to perform surgery to get to the meat. I figured much of the fat on the short ribs would render during the long cooking time, but it just wouldn’t go away. Someone call Jenny Craig.
So I’m asking any of you keen home chefs or culinary pros reading Gosstronomy: where did I go wrong? I followed the recipe verbatim, with the exception of the wine, which shouldn’t matter too much, as long as it was a quality red (besides, in Heat, Buford says Babbo uses a cheap merlot anyway). What’s the best call for getting fall-apart, beautiful, non-lardy short ribs? If not for the beautiful crusty bread from Wholefoods, the can’t fail parmiggiano mash potatoes, sauteed spring asparagus, and a good bottle of Chianti, I would’ve been sunk.
One hunch may be the cooking method. I spotted a different version of the same dish from the Babbo cookbook, which puts the ribs in the oven for two hours instead of into the stovetop Dutch oven. Another difference is that the Babbo recipe also calls for ribs on the bone, and adds chicken stock for more liquid. That may make a different, but I’m curious if any Gosstronomy readers have tried similar long braises and have their own thoughts and advice.
So got erudite recommendations to share? Post it in the comments, let’s fix this recipe by community and enter yourself into the Gosstronomy Cunlinary Hall of Fame.