Santa Claus made an early delivery this year.  Approximately two months ago, a cherry red Le Creuset Dutch oven - boxed and bound - found a new home in my kitchen.  She was discovered one afternoon at Williams Sonoma.  On sale.  My favorite color in the Le Creuset rainbow to boot.  Nothing to sneeze at.  It should be noted that if you are patient, you can also find Le Creuset Dutch ovens at your local TJ Maxx or Tuesday Mornings. You might need to swing by a pair of times but you will eventually find one.  Patience grasshopper.

Mine is the round, wide but shallow shaped sort.  French they say.  This size was new to me in that it was not similar to those variations of which I have seen on friend's registries.  After some deliberation, my mother informed me that this size would be ideal for a myriad of meals.  With a larger surface area, I could tackle and brown larger cuts of meat.  She also noted that it would be easier to lift than the Big Bertha variation.  You have time yet for the Big Bertha variation she said.  Start with this.  So I did.  Lovely braises were within reach. Proper stews on the near horizon. In short, my options in the kitchen quickly multiplied and new avenues opened in the culinary world. It has fast become my prized possession.

After some reading and prodding, it was decided that I would christen my new Dutch oven with a recipe never before prepared in my kitchen - Beef Short Ribs. A gorgeous, tender cut of meat.  You braise and as they say, the meat literally falls off the bone.  We had a grand time heading to the grocer in hot pursuit of short ribs.  Would we find them there? In my ignorance, I assumed we would need to pay our butcher a special visit.  I looked with baited breath.  Not surprising, there were multiple packages in the cooler.  Two options: Bone-in and boneless.  Total neophytes, we decided on a combination of the two.  We quickly returned home to inspect and prod these cuts very new to us.  I salted the meat and let it sit.  Later, I browned the short ribs and then braised them in red wine, tomato paste and all the trimmings.  The end result was beyond reproach.

The meal - from start to finish - took four deliberate hours but the end result was well worth the eager wait.  The aroma in the kitchen was incredible.  In an effort to be somewhat healthy we served the meat with a household favorite, Cauliflower Mash.  I learned of this wonderful potato substitute during the good old South Beach Diet days.  Roughly chop a head of cauliflower, steam it for approximately ten minutes or until you can slip a fork in and out.  Throw the steamed cauliflower in the Cuisinart along with salt, pepper, fresh thyme leaves, the grated rind of a lemon and if you are being mindful of calories, a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil to bind and add texture.

You can however be creative in terms of what you use to add texture.  I am no stranger to butter or sour cream or both.  This is my favorite variation.  When making Shepherd's Pie a pair of weeks back, I added an egg yolk to the cauliflower and mixed.  Sublime.  You can also add chopped leeks to a pan with some butter or oil, cook for approximately 20 minutes until soft and stir them into the pureed cauliflower.  I am usually trying (underscore trying) to watch my weight and so 9 times out of 10, we opt for olive oil.  You can also serve the short ribs with polenta.  Mashed sweet potatoes are also delicious and add nice color to the plate. Ditto red lentils prepared in broth and a bay leaf.

These short ribs make for a hearty and comforting but equally elegant meal. Mission accomplished with the Le Creuset!

Adapted from BON APPÉTIT 
Recipe by: Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward


6 lbs beef short ribs - We mixed bone-in and boneless
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 large white onions - chopped
4 carrots - chopped
3 celery stalks - chopped
1 TBS tomato paste
1 bottle of red - I used a Beringer Cab we picked up from Trader Joe's
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley (You might remember that I am not wild about the curly cousin)
1 packet or bundle of thyme
1 packet or bundle of rosemary
4 sprigs of oregano
3 bay leaves
1 head of garlic chopped in half
1 quart of beef or veal stock - we used veal
Liberal amount of kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper

Kitchen Tip

It is important to note that meat always tastes best if it is salted and peppered in advance. This enables the seasoning to permeate the meat.  Meat should also be removed from the fridge and let to sit for an hour or two before you start to cook it.  As such, ideally you will salt your meat and let it sit in the fridge over night and then pull it out to "chill out" for an hour or two before cooking.  This goes for chickens you want to roast or boil, pork you aim to brown or braise, steaks for the grill and so on.  If you do not have time, salt and pepper the short ribs and let them sit for an hour or two. 

Get Cracking

1.  Please preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Again, you know your oven best so adjust the temperature accordingly.  Heat the oil in your Dutch oven.  Once it is nice and hot (medium high heat) brown the meat on both sides.  You want a crisp exterior.  You will most likely have to do this in batches unless you have an industrial kitchen sized vessel.  Once the meat is browned, please transfer it to a plate.  Leave the short rib infused oil in the pan.

2.  Now you add the ingredients that will ignite the flavor: onions, carrots and celery.  Let them simmer and stir them around until the onions are browned. Add the tomato paste and keep stirring.  Now you add the bottle of red.  Let your partner do this.  I find it gives them a role in the kitchen. Continue to stir.  

3.  Gently return the short ribs to the pot.  Now crank up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Once you see bubbles, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the mixture has reduced by half.  This will take approximately 30 minutes - maybe more maybe less.  Just set the timer for 20 minutes and then eyeball it.  

4.  Once the liquid has been reduced, you want to add the garlic and herbs. Note, you can add the garlic and herbs directly the pan (you will strain them out later) or you can make a sachet with cheesecloth and throw it in.  This also makes for easy retrieval.  Please also add the stock at this point.  Bring to a boil again and then cover and transfer to the oven.

5.  The ribs should be cooked to perfection in approximately two to two and a half hours.  Once finished, your pot will be home to incredible meat and a flavorful, rich red wine broth.  Be sure to retrieve the herbs. They make for nasty business if you do not.  I have braces and have had to learn the hard way.  Salt and pepper the broth according to taste.  Plate up your meat with cauliflower mash, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, polenta - whatever and pour the rich sauce on top.  #ebbcooks

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