Thursday, August 1, 2013

Short Rib Ragu

A rich, sticky pot of meat and tomato goodness.
After two weeks of our Belize fish-and-beer diet, I was really craving something meaty and hearty. After all, fish meat is practically a vegetable.
This is really the sort of dish that evokes snowy evenings, wool socks, dark stouts, and exhausted ski legs. But I wanted it in July, when the oven shouldn't even have been turned on. Well, whatever--the stomach wants what it wants!
Any ragu takes hours to make. And short rib ragu takes an especially long time, as it involves braising meat on the bone, then taking it off the bone and adding it back into the sauce. 
But--it's still summer, so I had the whole day free. And putzing around in the kitchen braising meat is obviously the best possible way to spend an afternoon.
And this sauce is WORTH the time. It is totally, totally fabulous. Short ribs have a distinct flavor--between an aged steak and a pot roast--a meaty, melt-in-your-mouth fattiness. The tomatoes, cooked for hours, are jammy and dense; the garlic and wine have a mellow sweetness; the onions and bacon are barely detectable in the background. Absolutely delicious. I like to serve it over a big-textured pasta--like rigatoni or campanelle--with a dab of ricotta and some fresh basil. 
Oh hell yes.
This is tied with lamb ragu as my all-time favorite pasta sauce. It takes time, but it's special enough to serve for a holiday or occasion. 

Short Rib Ragu 


About 8 beef short ribs (2 grocery store packages). Make sure to get the ones on the bone. 
2 large yellow onions, diced
6 strips of bacon, chopped
half a bottle of red wine
1 bulb of garlic 
About 12 fresh tomatoes (I used a combination of roma and hothouse tomatoes)
1 can of diced tomatoes
a cup of flour
olive oil 
salt and pepper 
dash of sugar

What to do 

The first step is to brown the short ribs. A good brown crust on meat is essential to a good braise. First, sprinkle the shortribs with salt and pepper. Heat up a few glugs of oil in the bottom of the pot you'll use for the sauce. 
Dredge the short ribs in flour, then brown on all sides in the oil. You will need to work in batches. Remove the browned short ribs to a plate and set aside. 
Short ribs browning. 
Short ribs post-browning. 
After browning, leave the oil in the bottom of the pan. Dice the onions and chop the bacon--add them to the oil and cook until the onions are starting to brown, about 20 minutes. 

Your kitchen smells amazing at this point.
When the onions are soft, translucent, and a light caramel color, pour in half of a bottle of red wine. Pour yourself a glass with the remaining wine to enhance your cooking experience.
Allow the wine to boil and reduce by about half--this should take about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure to scrape up the cooked bits of bacon, onion and short rib that may be sticking to the bottom of the pot. 
Wine  reducing with onions and bacon.
While the wine is reducing, peel all the cloves of a bulb of garlic. Place them in a blender or food processor. Add the fresh tomatoes in with them and blitz everything up into a smooth puree. 

After the wine is reduced, add the tomato garlic puree to the pot. Stir to combine everything and bring to a boil. Allow to boil and reduce on medium heat for 20 minutes. 
Add the can of tomato puree, a dash of salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of sugar. Bring back to a boil and allow to boil on medium for about 10 more minutes. 
At this point, add the short ribs back into the sauce. Submerge each one. Cover the pot and place into the oven at 300 degrees. 
Leave in the oven for 3 hours and 30 minutes. (Or longer--but at LEAST 3:30). 
During this time, clean your kitchen up, enjoy the smell, and try to resist the urge to peek in the pot too often. 
After the time has passed, take the pot out of the oven and allow to cool slightly for 10 minutes. 
There will be a layer of fat sitting on top of the sauce--skim off most of it and throw it away. 
Remove the short ribs from the sauce with tongs. They will be extremely tender. Place on a plate or cutting board and allow to cool until you can handle them with your hands. 
Short ribs after braising.
When the ribs are cooled, take the meat off the bone and chop or shred it. Add the meat back into the sauce and throw the bones away. 
And---you're done!!! 
Worth the wait!
Boil up some pasta and drown it in this fabulous ragu. Tear up some fresh basil and sprinkle it on, and top it with a blob of whole-milk ricotta. 
I cannot over-emphasize how fabulous this sauce is. Make it the next time you really want to impress. 


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