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HOME WITH THE LOST ITALIAN: Succulent braised beef short ribs bring both to Christmas meal

Braised short ribs are presented with mashed potatoes and carrots.
 Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Braised short ribs are presented with mashed potatoes and carrots. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

I have wanted to add Tony’s Braised Beef Short Ribs to my repertoire for years, but this succulent dish is so full of flavor and was such a hit at Sarello’s, our former restaurant, that I, a simple home cook, wasn’t confident I could produce the same results, in spite of Tony’s insistence otherwise.

However, after making them twice last week in preparation for this column, I am delighted to report that Tony was right. Making beef short ribs is a simple process, and one that is greatly enhanced by the practice of mise en place, a French culinary term meaning, simply, putting everything in its place. Instead of jumping right in and cooking, like many home cooks do, take the time to get everything ready before you start cooking.

Lay out all of the ingredients and equipment you will need, dice your vegetables, dredge the ribs in flour, preheat the oven, and read through the recipe again, from start to finish. This simple bit of preparation will ensure that no steps are missed, thus making the process more efficient and enjoyable.

Beef short ribs are an affordable alternative to other cuts of meat, and we bought ours, bone-in, from Meats by John and Wayne in Fargo, our favorite local butchers. You can also find them in most grocery stores, but when we’re planning a special meal like Christmas dinner, we want the quality and expertise that a specialty butcher shop offers.

Most butchers have the short ribs already cut with one long bone spanning the length of the cut, but for presentation, Tony prefers short ribs that are cut so that there are two or three short bones spanning the width of the cut. It doesn’t really matter how you slice it — the ribs will taste great either way.

Braising the short ribs in liquid over several hours ensures that this typically tough cut of meat is transformed into the tenderest, fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth beef I have ever tasted. The short ribs are dredged in flour and then seared on top and bottom over medium-high heat until browned.

The ribs are cooked with a medley of ingredients that build both the flavor and aromatics for the dish, including a classic mirepoix (meer-pwah) of diced carrots, celery and onion, as well as both beef and chicken stock, red wine and fresh herbs and spices. I use a Dutch oven for this dish, but any deep, oven-proof pot or baking dish will work.

Once the ribs are cooked, strain the liquid and reduce it to create a sauce that is silky smooth and positively delectable. We serve the short ribs and sauce over our Perfect Whipped Potatoes and top them with a sprinkling of gremolata — a brightly flavored mixture of citrus zest, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil that awakens the palate and perfectly complements the rich succulence of the ribs.

To save time, assemble the ribs and refrigerate them overnight before roasting, or fully cook them and refrigerate for up to 3 days before reheating and serving. Tony’s braised beef short ribs are mouth-wateringly delicious, comforting beyond belief and the perfect dish for Christmas dinner.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com. More recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Serves: 4 to 6

3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs, bone in (about 8 ribs)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided

11/2 cups yellow onion, medium-diced

1 cup celery, medium-diced

1 1/2 cups carrot, peeled and medium-diced

1/2 cup white wine

2 quarts beef stock

1 quart chicken stock

1 handful fresh parsley

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups dry red wine (cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel)

4 ounces tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the cornstarch slurry

2 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons water

Gremolata to garnish

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium or large garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the gremolata: In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until combined; cover and keep at room temperature or refrigerate for several days until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before serving.

In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, combine the flour with the dried oregano, basil and thyme; set aside.

Sprinkle the top and bottom of each short rib with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dredge each piece in the flour mixture until evenly coated, shaking off any excess flour.

In a Dutch oven or other deep, oven-proof baking dish, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat until hot. Place the short ribs in the pot and sear on top and bottom until browned, about 2 minutes per side — you may need to work in two batches to complete. Remove browned ribs from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil and the diced carrots, celery and onion to the pot and sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and translucent, and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a medium, heat-proof bowl.

Add the white wine to the pot and deglaze over medium high heat, scraping any brown bits from the bottom, about 3 minutes.

Return the short ribs and vegetables to the pot, and add all of the remaining ingredients. All ingredients should be fully submerged in the liquid; water may be added if needed. Stir just to combine, cover pot and place on the lower middle rack of the oven; roast for 2 hours.

Remove the cover and continue cooking the ribs for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is just about falling off the bone. Remove pot from oven and reduce temperature to 200 degrees. Transfer ribs to a baking dish, cover with foil and return to 200 degree oven to keep warm.

Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the liquid into a medium saucepan; the vegetables may be discarded or kept and served with the ribs. Cook the liquid over medium-high heat until reduced by half, at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, create the slurry by combining the cornstarch and water until smooth. Once the liquid has reduced, add the slurry, starting with one tablespoon, and whisk constantly to thicken until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, adding more slurry as needed. Remove pan from heat when desired consistency is achieved.

To serve, place braised short ribs over whipped potatoes and drizzle generously with the sauce. Add a sprinkling of gremolata over the short ribs to garnish.

Sarah’s Tips

–Use bone-in short ribs for best flavor.

–To save time, prepare the dish in advance and refrigerate overnight before roasting, or roast up to 3 days in advance, refrigerate and reheat before serving.

–The sauce may be refrigerated and reheated before serving.

–For gluten-free version, skip the flour-dredging and just brown the meat in oil.

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