Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring is Perfect for Braised Short Ribs

Spring is a slippery girl in Oregon, always teasing us with temperatures that can swing up into the 70s then plunge south 20 degrees, often in a single afternoon. She shakes her curls and the wind picks up, scattering blossoms from the trees onto the ground. With a season like that, it's good to be able to turn on the oven and wring a little comfort out of the day until that girl settles down into her lackadaisical summer mood.

An extra step, but so worth it!

There are few if any more braise-worthy cuts of meat than short ribs, and I am happy to play to that strength, even to the point of parting with one of the few treasured quarts of roasted tomatoes left from last summer. (Can you tell I'm getting a tad parsimonious with them about now?) And one of my favorite recipes is one I've shared before but is so incredibly good and terrifically simple that I had to bring it out to play again.

So until spring quits playing hide-and-seek behind the trees just leafing out and trades in her Easter frock for a sun dress, I'll be happily braising up my own storm in the kitchen.

Short Ribs Braciole
Adapted from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

For the ribs:
1/2 c. roughly diced pancetta or bacon (about 1/4 lb.)

4 boneless short ribs (about 2 lbs.), cut into thirds

1 heaping Tbsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 28-oz. cans tomatoes, plus their juice

For the topping:

1/4 c. pine nuts, chopped roughly

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 c. breadcrumbs or panko

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Pinch each of salt and coarse-ground black pepper

3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Cook the pancetta in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes. Remove the short ribs to a plate, then add the onion to the pan and cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, mix well, and continue cooking. Crush the tomatoes over a bowl with your hands, then add them to the pot along with their juice. Bring the mixture up to a low boil. Add the browned short ribs to the pot and place it in the oven. Cover the pot tightly (you can cover the pot with a piece of parchment paper, then place the cover on top of the paper to help seal it). Check the ribs about every 30 minutes or so to make sure they're not boiling too hard. Cook until the meat is supertender and a fork can pass through it without sticking, about 2 1/2 hours.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 6 minutes or so. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the breadcrumbs or panko and continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes. Cool and transfer the mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the oregano, parsley and chopped eggs. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Remove the pot of short ribs from the oven and immediately remove the ribs to a plate, using a pair of tongs. Use a ladle to remove some of the fat from the sauce by pressing the chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so that the ladle fills only with the clear fat. (This is optional, but it definitely makes the sauce prettier—there are about 2 tablespoons of fat there.) Add 1/2 cup of water to the sauce and stir to bring it together.

Place 1 to 2 pieces of meat on each plate. Pour the sauce from the pot directly over the short ribs and sprinkle the topping generously over each dish. Can be served with polenta.

Leftovers are stunning when the meat is shredded and mixed with pasta. The topping itself would be great with pasta, too, as a variation on pangrattato.

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