I have written 207 Made with Love food columns for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin over the past 11 years. This one is my 208th and final. I have tried to share my passion for food with you and hope that you have learned a few things along the way. It has been a wonderful journey for me, and I have discovered a few surprising things about my family, our community and myself.
I’ve discovered that not all my family members appreciate reading about their hilarious/embarrassing escapades. I have tried explaining to them that all the literary experts advise budding writers to “write about what they know.” However, my family would prefer that I learn and write about something or someone else and keep their dirty laundry hidden in the hamper where it belongs.
Since I’ve been writing this column, I’ve noticed, while shopping at Loblaws, more than a few curious glances into my cart to see what the food writer is buying. I have to hide the Twizzlers and M&Ms underneath the kale and brown rice. Several friends have admitted that initially they were too intimidated to invite me over for dinner. I put an end to that when I told them I was so grateful to have a meal cooked for me that I didn’t really care what it was, as long as I didn’t have to cook it.
Personally, I have discovered that I love working in my pyjamas. Writing a column from home has got to be one of the best gigs out there. No office politics to deal with, no meetings to attend. It’s really a pretty sweet deal. I’ve only ever met Michael Regenstreif, my wonderful editor, once face to face.
I have discovered that I love the craft of writing. It is a wonderful outlet for my creative energy. It is through writing this column that I marshalled up the confidence to start my own food blog – www.saltandserenity.com – in 2009. I discovered a love of photography and food styling, and blogging continues to nourish my creative soul.
For my final column, I would like to leave you with a recipe that wraps you up and comforts you this winter. My perfect path to winter comfort is braised beef short ribs heaped high over a mound of mashed potatoes. This is not instant food. It takes about four hours to make these ribs, but the active cooking time is only about 45 minutes. The oven does the rest of the work. Red wine is my liquid of choice for braising. A Barolo, Valpolicella or Côtes du Rhône would be perfect.
The recipe calls for 2-3 cups of red wine, and then recommends topping up the casserole dish with water. Since a bottle of wine contains 3 cups, you can use the whole thing, and then there would be no waste. However, if you are following my comfort plan, pour 2 cups of wine into the pot and the third cup into a glass for yourself!
A little primer here on beef short ribs. We are talking about ribs from the chuck shoulder area, not the rib area. Fatty and flavourful, they are available bone-in or bone-out. Short ribs come two ways: “Cross-cut” with two or three sections of bone in each piece. These are also called flanken when sliced 2 inches thick and Miami or Korean ribs when sliced 1/2 inch thick; and “Englishcut,” made up of one long bone and a stack of meat on top of it. Sometimes these ribs are sold as “shorties,” cut into individual bone sections ranging from 1 to 6 inches long. This is what my butcher sent me when I asked for short ribs. For this recipe, I prefer the English-cut ribs. As this gurgles away in your oven, your house will fill with the most amazing aromas, and you will feel loved and cared for, I promise. About halfway through the cooking time, check on the ribs to stir them and add more liquid, if they need it. Resist the urge to stick a straw into the bubbling liquid and drink it all up. It’s that good!
BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS
Recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.
These ribs can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. Scrape off any fat that comes to the top after chilling and remove before reheating.
- 5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs (English-cut)
- Kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, peeled
- and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise,
- then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
- 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
- 2 cups water
- 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
- 2 bay leaves
Season short ribs generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
While the short ribs are browning, purée all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste.
When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the puréed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crust has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
Scrape the crust and let it reform. Scrape the crust again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat, if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.
Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups of water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done, the meat should be very tender, but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.
These ribs are delicious served with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta or even some crusty bread to soak up all the flavourful sauce.