I know people who won’t buy clothes online. “If I don’t like them or if they don’t fit, I have to send them back.” Calling UPS for a pickup seems like a good trade-off for not having to battle the hoards of tourists at Century 21 who are sent into a Pamplona-like frenzy at the sight of a fairly priced wallet. In fact, I’m a big fan of on-line ordering of anything. Being car-less by choice and a weekly meal planner by habit, I order pantry and household staples online (thank you Fresh Direct). I fill in the fresh bits with trips to the farmers’ market in season or the neighborhood greengrocer. One thing I will not buy online is short ribs. I have to see them to make sure I am not paying $8.99 a pound for fat and bones. Short ribs are not a lean cut to begin with, but to make sure I’m getting a nice meaty cut with minimal fat next to the bone and on the surface I have to go someplace and pick them out one by one. Usually that place is Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in the Chelsea Market. If you’re ever in the neighborhood or walking the High Line, it’s worth a trip.
Makes 4 servings
4 meaty short ribs (about 2 ½ pounds)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium leeks, cleaned (see below) and cut into ½-inch strips
3/4 pound large crimini mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps cut into 1 inch wide strips
4 whole peeled garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups red wine
4 cups (or as needed) homemade or store-bought chicken broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley or scallion greens
Trim any fat from the surface of the ribs. Rub a fair amount of salt and pepper into the meat. Pour enough oil into a heavy Dutch oven to coat the bottom. (The ribs should have room to move; see the photo.) Heat the oil over medium heat until it ripples easily over the bottom of the pan. Add the ribs to the pot and cook, turning them as necessary until all sides are well browned. Their square-ish shape makes this a fairly easy proposition. When they are browned, remove them to a plate.
Add about three-quarters of the carrot and onion and the sliced mushroom caps to the pan. Cook, stirring until very lightly browned and the onions are wilted, about 4 minutes. Scoop them out and set them aside. Add a little more oil to the pan (the mushrooms will have soaked most of it up) and heat for a minute or two. Add the remaining carrots and onions and the garlic and mushroom stems. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it more or less coats the vegetables and turns a brick red. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot. Boil until the wine is reduced by half. Tuck the ribs into the vegetables and wine in the pan (leave the lightly browned vegetables off to the side for now). Pour in enough stock to barely cover the ribs. Boil for a minute or two, skim the foam that comes to the surface, then adjust the heat so the liquid is simmering. Cook, skimming off any foam or fat that rises to the surface, until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Pluck the ribs out of the pot. Using a food mill, immersion blender, regular blender or food processor, turn the vegetables and liquid into a fairly smooth sauce. If you want a velvety, very smooth sauce, use a high-power blender or blend as best you can, then pass the sauce through a fine sieve. Pour the sauce into the pan, put the ribs back in and simmer for 1 hour.
Add the reserved browned carrot, onion, and mushroom caps. Cook until the meat is tender (and most likely separated from the bone), about 30 minutes. Discard the bones, stir in the parsley or scallions, and serve. White rice is nice on the side. So is polenta. Or mashed potatoes.
Here are a few things you can do to make this dish your own:
- Soak dried porcini (use the strained soaking liquid in place of part of the chicken broth)
- Add green beans cut into 2-inch lengths during the last 15 minutes of cooking
- Add 2 or 3 anchovies along with the tomato paste. They will add real depth of flavor without a specific anchovy taste
TO CLEAN LEEKS
Cut off the root end of the leek. All of the light green and white parts of the leek are used for cooking, so it is best to remove the dark green part while leaving the white and light green parts intact. Hold the leek by the root end at an angle with the top of the leek resting on a cutting board. With a sturdy sharp knife, shave away the tougher outer leaves where they start to turn from light to dark green, much like a carpenter re-sharpens a pencil by paring down the tip with a utility knife. It is more like whittling than cutting; you should end up with a leek that looks like a sharpened pencil with a medium-green tip. Cut the trimmed leek in half lengthwise and rinse each half under cool running water, fanning the layers as your rinse to remove the grit that gets stuck between the layers. The leeks are now ready to cut and cook as needed.