Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last Friday I was at the grocery, wandering around looking for something good for dinner. On Friday we always splurge a little -- it's always an at-home dinner, but we try to make it something yummy. I saw 2 packages of nice looking short ribs and it reminded me of a recipe I'd had for John Besh's short ribs (to DIE for). Short ribs it is! 

John Besh is Chef and Owner of a restaurant in New Orleans called August. It's really hard to get into, but if you are going to be in the city I suggest you call ahead and make your reservations. It's the perfect mix of old world Creole cooking, and new food trends. 

Part of what makes the food in New Orleans great is that the city is made of so many different cultures. After all these years, they all make the same dishes now, but each nationality has added it's own unique flavors to the mix -- and that is why the food is so special, and why you just can't find it anywhere but in New Orleans. There are so many ingredients in foods like jambalaya and gumbo because so many different families from so many parts of the world have added a little something here, and a little something there. Something else I love about New Orleans food is the types of ingredients they use.  It's so often peasant-style food -- comforting and full of love. Ingredients like greens, and beans, gumbo and jambalaya. And short ribs. Oh, I'm well aware that short ribs cost a fortune these days, but they we're not always the superstar they are today. They used to be the garbage cuts. Only recently have items like swiss chard and short ribs started making the menu of upscale restaurants but now they are definitely a trend. And I have had a lot of short ribs at a lot of restaurants. As long as they're tender, they're usually quite tasty. But the thing is, they all taste the same. That was until I made John Besh's. 

Serves: 4

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About two hours (with little labor)

4 lbs beef short ribs, cut flanken style (across the bone) or English style (parallel to the bone). Flanken are easier to deal with but slightly more fatty.
Coarse salt and black pepper
3 cups pinot noir
1/2 cup sugar
6 oz canned chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem
2 bay leaves
3 oz canola oil
1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
2 oz dried mushrooms, preferably porcini

Season short ribs with salt and pepper; be rather generous. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the wine, sugar, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.

Pour canola oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts) and place over high heat. When oil is hot, working in small batches, brown the meat. Turn each piece to brown on all sides before removing from the pot.

When all the beef is browned and removed from pot, add onion, carrots, and celery, allowing onion to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Return beef to the pot along with wine mixture. Allow wine to come to a boil before reducing heat, skimming fat from surface.

After simmering for several minutes, add the dried mushrooms. Cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

I cheated slightly. I used a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking time. It shaved about 25 minutes off the total cooking time. I could have cooked it faster, but I knew it was important that the wine have enough time to work on flavoring that meat, so I had it on super-low. It was late. I have a toddler. I was hungry. Cut me some slack. 

Once the beef has cooked, remove from pot and keep warm. Turn up heat and reduce the pot liquids until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I strained mine, although it was not required in the recipe. I just thought a smooth sauce would be more my preference than a chunky one. You do what you want. 

Serve ribs in shallow bowls, with the liquid spooned over the top. People, this is absolutely the best short rib recipe I have ever had in my life. 

Oh, something note worthy - the original recipe calls for zinfandel. When I made these with pinot noir, they were better. It definitely gave them a unique flavor, rather than than the traditional zinfandel. It's very robust like zinfandel, but just more flavorful in my opinion. Something about the flavor of pinot noir -- it has such an earthy, mossy, nutty flavor. I used Echelon pinot noir, it's my favorite. It's usually around $15 a bottle, which is a steal for pinot.

This will be the last post from me for about 2 weeks - we're off the Maui! Grand Wailea, here we come :D  I'm sure I'll come back with lots of pictures!