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 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.
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
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.