Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Amazing Short Rib Ragu

For me, beef short ribs are more of a pain than they are worth. Generally speaking. As a child, my Mom made a dish that I loved, called Beef with Sweet Cabbage - - - except for the fact that she used beef short ribs and there was sometimes about one bite of meat to a short rib. The dish is one that I reworked, still called Beef with Sweet Cabbage, using brisket instead, cooking the brisket and then cutting and shredding it into manageable bite sized portions. 

short ribs, tomato sauce, red wine, onions
Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta

Aside from the small amount of meat to be had on some short ribs, they are fatty. So fatty in fact, that they will leave a thick layer of fat atop any soup or stew, which then needs to be removed. Eating a "whole" short rib, with the bone and fat and gristle, well, no, that's just not going to happen. Not in my house.


A few years back my ex-daughter-in-law told me about a Short Rib Lasagna, which I went on to recreate as best as I was able. It is delicious, truly. The catch is working with the short ribs.

Okay, I have made that Short Rib Lasagna twice now, and working to get the meat out from all the fat is still a royal pain, but the meat is nice and tender, and already in bite sized morsels, just due to the way the meat is distributed in the short ribs. So, when my son's birthday was coming up and he had a nice Italian Amarone wine he wanted to drink, I said I would work on a dish that would pair with his wine. We discussed what kind of dish to use, what flavors to add, and came up with a Short Rib Ragu. I planned to serve the ragu over homemade pappardelle pasta. In essence, the recipe is not far off from the way I cooked the short ribs for the lasagna recipe, but just a few differences became pertinent to the flavor profile I wanted.

beef short ribs, tomato sauce, red wine
Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta


Key flavors I wanted to add in with the short ribs were some Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds or "heels", mushroom powder (from dried shiitakes, ground to powder then sieved), lots of onions (I chose red onions for sweetness), a head of roasted garlic, some finely grated carrot (again, for sweetness), tomato sauce & strong wine (Cabernet). In a departure from my norm, to date, I opted to oven braise the dish, instead of using a slow cooker. Fresh rosemary and thyme with some bay leaves were the main herbal flavors. Something my son wanted in the flavor profile was fennel seeds. In all my planning, I did mean to add a substantial amount of parsley, which I completely forgot, and never once did I think of the fennel seeds, though I did a light smashing of some fennel seeds which we added at the table. These certainly would have been good, added in to cook with the ragu.


It is good to make things ahead when possible, thereby giving oneself time on the day of serving. I made this dish 4 days ahead of serving. Any longer and it would be preferable to freeze until the day before it is needed. To thaw, allow to thaw in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days and then return the ragu to a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid and warm gently over very low heat, or in the oven. The roasted garlic can be made ahead. (Cut off top quarter inch from the whole garlic head, set into foil, drizzle with olive oil, crimp foil at top and roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Once done and cooled, squeeze out all the soft garlic into a lidded container, drizzle on more olive oil, cover and refrigerate until needed.)


Parmesan "heels" are the rind ends of good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These ends are hard and not usable to grate, but are excellent when tossed into a soup or stew to cook, giving flavor, but not leaving sticky cheese to coat everything. Save these rinds in the fridge, well wrapped. Cook in any soup or stew, then remove them once the meal is ready to serve.

Short Rib Ragu

Serves 10 (Freezes well)

beef short ribs, tomato sauce, red wine, roasted garlic
Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta

4 to 5 pounds beef short ribs

Oil, for browning

I head roasted garlic, cloves all squeezed out of their skins

2 large red onions, in thinly sliced quarter-rounds

1 red bell pepper, chopped small

2 carrots, grated very finely on small holed grater

1.5 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, blitzed to powder, strained

2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon red wine

2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 - 3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 - 2 Parmesan "heels" if available

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

2 bay leaves

0.5 cup of chopped parsley, optional

2 - 3 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, optional

Heat oven to 250 or 260 degrees, or whatever temperature will maintain a simmer. Have ready a heavy, large, oven safe pot with tight fitting lid, such as an enameled cast iron pot or braiser. 

Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add in a tablespoon of olive oil. Brown a few short ribs at a time, not overcrowding the pan. Turn them to brown all sides evenly. 

While ribs are browning, slice the onions and place half the onions into the pot or braiser. Add in the red bell pepper and carrots, part of the rosemary and thyme. As the ribs are browned, remove them to the pot. 

Once all the ribs have been browned and added to the pot, pour off all but a tablespoon of grease from the skillet, then add in the red wine and cook quickly to reduce by half. Once reduced, add in the mushroom powder and stir. This will want to thicken. Scrape all the mushroom/wine mixture atop the ribs in the pot, then add in all the remaining ingredients: tomato sauce and paste, remaining rosemary and thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, Parmesan heels, parsley and fennel, if using. Set the pot on the heated burner and bring the ingredients to a simmer, then cover with tight fitting lid and set in the oven for about 4 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.

Once tender, remove from oven. Remove the ribs, bones, and any pieces that have fallen off bones, to a plate to cool. Use sheets of paper toweling, set briefly on top of the stew in the pot to remove the thick layer of grease. Discard these grease-soaked paper towels. Repeat with more paper towels if needed. 

Once meat is cooled, remove the meat, shredding if needed. Discard all bones and fat or gristle. Return the meat to the pot and stir. The sauce is now ready to eat, but will taste better with at least a day's rest in the fridge, or freeze if preparing ahead. Also, this is a large amount, so it can easily be divided into two portions, freezing one and keeping one out to eat. Serve over any pasta desired.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Magnificent Appetizer for a Formal Dinner

Birthday Dinner Menu
This past weekend was my son's 47th birthday, and as usual I made a dinner. It was a fancier type of dinner, with a lovely table setting, three kinds of wine and four courses. And a menu, shown here. 

My son loves fine food, as do I, along with loving to make it. It is a true labor of love, at times, to put together this type of meal, but once it is done and we are enjoying, and everything tastes SO GOOD, then it truly doesn't matter how long it took to prepare, or how many backaches went into the mix. We all enjoyed the meal, which thankfully all turned out great.

My idea for the savory cheesecake tarts I made as part of the appetizer were based on the recipe for little individual Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes. I made the original recipe in mini cheesecake pans, but for our birthday dinner I wanted something a little bigger than "mini," plus I wanted them in a different shape configuration; wider and less tall. I have some 3½-inch diameter metal rings, originally bought for making English muffins, but to date, I still haven't made any! I have used the rings to make buns, keeping them in shape while they bake. This time it seemed they would be the ideal size for my appetizer cheesecakes. 

rosemary, brie, chevre, cheesecake, savory
Rosemary, Brie & Goat Cheese Tarts with Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables

One thing I had trouble with was the crust. When I made the original recipe, I used all-purpose flour. This time I wanted to try out a gluten free option and something did not work quite properly. I had to add, and revise as I went along. My suggestion would be to use the original recipe, cut in half.

As for the filling for these savory cheesecakes, I altered the original recipe by using Brie, Chevre and cream cheeses, with some Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. This worked out just amazingly good. To top off these appetizers, I made some Oven Roasted Root Vegetables, making about half the amount, more or less. To make them work with the smaller size of Cheesecake, I cut all the vegetable pieces into ¼-inch cubes. The shallots were cut into chunks about the same size as the golden beet, butternut squash, parsnip, and red bell pepper (not a root veg, but added for color). In keeping with the rosemary theme, I added some rosemary to the original balsamic mixture.

brie, chevre, cheesecake, tart, rosemary
Rosemary, Brie & Goat Cheese Tarts with Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables

Topped off with a rosemary sprig and a large caper berry, these were not only gorgeous, but they tasted as good as they looked. I served a NV Mionetto Prosecco Extra Dry, which paired wonderfully.

The crusts can be made ahead, formed and frozen. The cheesecakes can be made and baked 1 to 2 days ahead with no perceptible deterioration in quality.

Rosemary, Brie & Goat Cheese Tarts

Serves 6

brie, chevre, rosemary, tart, cheesecake


5 tablespoons unsalted butter

⅓ cup almond meal

½ cup +2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary

Cut all ingredients together, form into a ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to slightly under a quarter-inch thickness. Whatever size diameter container you will use for baking the cheesecakes is the size you will need to cut out the tart bases. I used 3½-inch rings with no bottoms, using the ring to cut out the base. Set them onto a parchment lined tray or baking sheet and freeze until quite firm, covered well if leaving for more than an hour.

When ready to bake, set the same rings or the tart shells onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut pieces of parchment that will line the wall of the ring and extend a bit above the top of the ring. Set the frozen crust inside the parchment. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 to 13 minutes, or until set and just starting to turn golden. Set aside to cool slightly. Leave oven on.


6 ounces Brie cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces Chevre cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon sugar

2 pinches salt

1 egg plus 2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary

Pinch Aleppo pepper or other chili flakes, optional

½ teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Most small Brie rounds come in 8-ounce packages. I remove much of the outer coating of the Brie, leaving about 6 ounces, after trimming. 

Using a hand mixer on low speed, beat together the Brie, Chevre, cream cheese and yogurt, just to combine. Add in the sugar, salt, rosemary Aleppo pepper and black pepper, then add in the eggs and yolks. Again, beat on low speed, for as little time as possible, just to make sure all ingredients are properly distributed.

Scoop equal portions of the Brie mixture into the pre-baked tart shells, lined with the parchment. The parchment will allow for easier removal later. Once filled, rap the baking sheet sharply onto a counter surface to eliminate any air bubbles from the filling. Bake the cheese tarts for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheesecakes are mostly set, with just a tiny bit of jiggle in their centers. Set aside to cool. Once baked and cooled, they can be covered and refrigerated until needed, 1 to 2 days.

When serving, preheat oven to 350, uncover the cheesecakes and set the baking sheet in the oven to warm for about 10 minutes or less. If using the rings with no bottoms, use a spatula to lift the entire cheesecake with its ring onto a plate for serving, then lift off the ring and peel away and discard the parchment, leaving a clean outer edge. Top with any garnish desired, although the little cubed vegetables baked in the Balsamic mixture paired heavenly well.

Oven Roasted Root Vegetables

Makes 4.5 to 6 cups, depending on vegetable amounts.

2 to 4 shallots, 3/4 to 1 cup depending on size, cut into small chunks 

1¼ cups butternut squash, in ¼-inch dice

1 large parsnip, peeled, cut in ¼-inch dice

1 medium to large golden beet, cut in ¼-inch dice 

1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice


⅓ cup Balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced finely

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon Zahtar, optional

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Mix all dressing ingredients in a small saucepan to melt and meld flavors. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and add in all the prepped vegetables, then pour in the dressing. Stir well to coat, then bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with the tip pf a knife. These can be made ahead and reheated just before using. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest