Cast Iron Pans Cast iron pan owners swear by them for their even dispersal of heat and non stick nature. However, iron is not as happy go lucky as other metals. Initially, the pan must be seasoned with vegetable oil in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for at least an hour. Each time you heat the pan with oil, it will season till it obtains a beautiful dark color. Don't wash off the black patina thinking it is dirty. In fact, never use soap or scour the pan or you will remove the essence of the pan. Dry your iron pan on the stove with medium heat but watch it so it doesn't burn.
I love braised short ribs. Taking a tough piece of meat and cooking it to tender perfection so the meat just barely falls off the bone is an act of love. Then there's the decadent sauce that's been flavored by the beef, red wine, onions, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs. Top it off with some mashed potatoes and you have a hit at your next dinner party. I say dinner party because this dish is easy to make ahead of time so you aren't running around with your head cut off when your guests arrive.
The first step is to sear the short ribs on all sides, even the ends. Heat a Dutch Oven with a thick bottom over medium high heat. While it's heating, salt and pepper all sides of your short ribs. Add some oil to your pan when you think it's ready and if it starts to smoke, you can start browning your ribs. This is going to take a couple minutes on each side but it's so worth it. Those browned pieces of meat will add so much flavor to the sauce. Searing also locks in the meat juices, preventing dried out meat that tastes like cardboard.
My Mother always told me the most flavor was in the celery leaves. Researching on the internet I discovered "mama always knows best". The most intense flavor is contained in the tops of the celery which most people toss in the garbage when they are cutting celery sticks to go with their chicken wings. I like to save them for special recipes like soups, sauces and braising short ribs. Along with the onions and carrots, they form the holy trinity for so many cuisines including French and Creole.
Cook the vegetables on medium high heat with the oil rendered off the ribs. Salt and pepper the vegetables while they are cooking. Don't worry too much about the size of the vegetables as they will be simmering for a couple hours and discarded at the end. A rough cut will suffice for this recipe. When the onions are starting to brown, add the flour and tomato paste. Mix for a few minutes and then add the red wine and ribs. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat to medium and reduce the wine by a third for about 30 minutes. Stir and scrape the bottom every once in a while to prevent burning.
Add the beef broth, herbs, mushrooms and garlic to the pot and bring to a boil again. I like to wrap the mushrooms and garlic in cheese cloth. In the case of the garlic, it's faster than removing all the skins. Just cut the head in half and wrap in the cheese cloth and tied with Butcher's Twine. With the mushrooms, I like to include them in the sauce so I need them separate from the other vegetables. I also tie the herbs in a bunch with butcher's twine so it is easier to extract. Cover the dutch oven and place it in the a 350 degree oven for approximately two hours.
Remove the dutch oven and test that the bone is easily removed from the meat. Remove the ribs, herbs, garlic and mushrooms from the sauce and strain the sauce to separate the onions, carrots and celery. Don't throw away the vegetables just yet! I like to squeeze all the juice out of them into the sauce using a strainer and a large spoon. Lastly, remove any oil on the top of the sauce with a spoon. If you have the time, let the sauce refrigerate over night and the oil is easy to remove. The salt is fairly conservative in this recipe so you may need to add additional seasoning to the sauce.
Make some mashed potatoes to serve as the base for the short rib. I have a recipe for roasted Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes that's just as sinful as the these short ribs. Place a rib on each bed of potato, cover with sauce and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
The wine you select for the sauce doesn't need to be expensive but it also shouldn't be cheap. Use something you have tried before and think tastes good. I like to use a Cabernet Sauvignon in the ten dollar range.
Red Wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon - drink the other half bottle while making this dish)
Parsely (Fresh - loosely packed on stems)
Thyme (Fresh - loosely packed on stems)
Oregano (Fresh - loosely packed on stems)
Rosemary (Fresh - loosely packed on stems)
Bay Leaves (Dried)
Prep Time: 3 hours
Sear the Ribs
Salt and pepper the meat on all sides and sear over medium high heat in a Dutch Oven. Set aside.
In the same dutch oven with the rendered oil from the fat, sauté the onions, celery and carrots.
Add the tomato paste and flour and stir for a few minutes. Add the wine and ribs and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and reduce wine by 1/3 for about 30 minutes.
Add the Rest
Add all other ingredients. Wrap garlic and mushrooms in cheese cloth. Tie herbs together with Butcher's Twine. Bring to a boil again.
Cover the dutch oven and bake for approximately two hours at 350 degree Fahreneit. Meat is done with bone can easily be pulled away from meat.
Remove the ribs and mushrooms and set aside. Strain the sauce to remove the vegetables, garlic and herbs. Squeeze the vegetables through a strainer to retrieve all the hidden juices and add to sauce. Remove oil from top of sauce with spoon.