I'm sure everyone is getting a little tired of looking at some self-important baby food blather for the last few weeks on this blog. So let me get back to a more adult theme with this perfect recipe for the cool weather season of sweaters and big red wines: short ribs braciole from NY chef Andrew Carmellini out of his book "Urban Italian". Now I have to admit to being a little put off by the title of AC's book. Sounded a little too...what would be the word..."dorky" maybe? Dork fest or not, this book is filled with easy-to-follow recipes and simple-to-prepare plates of deliciousness. Case in point is this braciole I made a couple of weeks ago. There's a lot of soul here, and nothing shows that better than this rich, tomatoey a cut of meat short rib recipe. I adore the short rib. Along with pork shoulder it is impossible to beat for the $$ when subjected to time and heat in your favorite braising pot. This recipe says it serves four, but if it's just the two of you have at it anyway and use the leftovers, like I did, for a kickass ragu-like pasta sauce when mixed with a some homemade tomato sauce. And sorry C-boy, this food is strictly for the big people!
Wine match: I opened a sublimely good bottle of 2000 Produttori Barbaresco that was perfection. But any good, fruit-filled bottle of Barbera d'Alba would be just right to stand up to the savory beef and tomato flavors running riot here.
PDX Shopping tip: I picked up some great Painted Hills Natural Beef boneless short ribs at Sheridan Fruit for about six bucks a pound.
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Short Ribs Braciole
from "Urban Italian" by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman
"If the name of this dish doesn't ring any bells for you, you're not alone. To be honest, I never knew what braciole meant until one of my cooks made it for family meal when I was at Café Boulud. He used his grandmother's recipe: rolled-up flank steak with provolone cheese, prosciutto, and hard-boiled eggs, braised in tomato sauce. I looked for braciole when I traveled through Italy, but it was nowhere-until one day I spotted it in a butcher's window in Puglia, made out of horse. Maybe mine is a little less authentic, but instead of having to compete with the dog-food guys at the racetrack, I've done it with short ribs (and everyone loves short ribs). This dish is great in the depths of winter: real stick-to-your-ribs stuff, if you'll excuse the pun, with deep flavors balanced by the freshness of the topping."- A. Carmellini
timing: About 3 hours
For the short ribs:
½ cup roughly diced pancetta (about ¼ pound)
4 boneless short ribs (about 2 pounds), cut into thirds
1 heaping tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 canned whole tomatoes (2 28-ounce cans, about 4 cups), preferably San Marzano, plus their juice; or 4 cups crushed tomatoes, plus their juice.
For the topping:
¼ cup pine nuts, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup Crumbs Yo! or panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
a pinch each of salt and coarse-ground black pepper
2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the short ribs:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Cook the pancetta in a large, dry, ovenproof saucepot over medium-high heat until the fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
3. Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, mix well, and continue cooking.
5. 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.
6. Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven. Check the ribs about every 15 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 2½ hours.
For the topping:
1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the Crumbs Yo! or panko breadcrumbs and continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the oregano and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper and cook together for a few seconds, so everything is warmed but the parsley does not wilt.
4. Remove from the heat and then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano (not before-otherwise, you'll have a melted-cheese mess).
To finish the dish:
1. Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the ribs to a plate, using a pair of tongs.
2. 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's about 2 tablespoons' worth of fat there.)
3. Add ½ cup of water to the sauce and stir to bring it together.
4. Place 4 to 5 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. Serve immediately.