January 27, 2013

Braised Short Ribs

I was going through the Garlic Press archives the other day when I realized that I hadn't posted a single recipe for short ribs. How was this possible? Short ribs are one of my very favorite winter meals. They're rich and tender and flavorful and they make the house smell amazing.

Once I realized my lapse, I did what any dedicated blogger would do. I went right out and got some short ribs. (I know, the sacrifices I make for you guys.) The weather couldn't have been any more cooperative. Bright, sunny, and 20 degrees. The kind of weather that demands that you have something bubbling away in the kitchen.

Start with the short ribs. You can see they have plenty of fat. Take the time to trim off as much fat as you can. It'll make a huge difference.

Season the ribs with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Let them sit for a little while.

In the meantime, prep the rest of your ingredients: carrots, celery and onions.

Now heat the oil in a large cast iron pot. Sear the meat on the meaty sides until it's a nice, deep brown. Do this in small batches. If you add too much meat at once, it will steam and not get brown. 

Remove each batch of meat once it browns.

In the same pot, saute the veggies until they are nice and tender.

Add the balsamic vinegar, port and red wine. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it down to concentrate the flavors.

Then add the short ribs back to the pot, along with the beef broth. Bring it to a boil, then tightly cover and put it in the oven. Let it simmer away for the next few hours.

When you take it out of the oven, the meat should be fork tender, and the liquid will have thickened up a bit.

Now, remove the ribs from the pot. Fish out any bay leave and thyme sprigs.

Blend the sauce with an immersion blender. (The recipe said to strain the sauce, but I decided to puree the carrots, celery and onion into the sauce. It worked nicely as a thickener and gave it some more flavor).

Boil the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens up to a consistency you like.

Add the meat back to the sauce along with the pearl onions. Heat it all up.

Serve, along with French bread, rice or mashed potatoes to soak up the delicious sauce.

Braised Short Ribs

Recipe adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

5 to 6 lbs beef short ribs, fat trimmed off
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme 
4 whole sprigs thyme
1 Tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced celery
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups port
2 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup hearty red wine
6 cups + 1/2 cup beef stock
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 package frozen pearl onions, defrosted
1 Tbsp butter

1.    Season the short ribs with 1 tablespoon thyme and the cracked black pepper. Use your hands to rub the spices into the meat. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

2.    Take the short ribs out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking, to come to room temperature. After 30 minutes, season them generously on all sides with salt.

3.    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

4.    Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat for 3 minutes. Pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil, and wait a minute or two, until the pan is very hot and almost smoking. Place the short ribs in the pan, and sear until they are nicely browned on all three meaty sides. If necessary, sear the meat in batches. Do not crowd the meat or rush this step. When the ribs are nicely browned, transfer them to a plate to rest.

5.    Turn the heat down to medium, and add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme springs, and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the crusty bits in the pan. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables just begin to caramelize. Add the balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine. Turn the heat up to high, and reduce the liquid by half.

6.    Add the stock and bring to a boil. Arrange ribs in the pot, lying flat, in one layer. The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs. Tuck the parsley sprigs in and around the meat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Braise in the oven for about 3 hours. When the meat is done, it will yield easily to a knife.

7.    While the meat is cooking, put the defrosted pearl onions, 1/2 cup red wine, 1/2 cup beef broth and 1 tablespoon butter into a sauté pan. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the liquid has reduced down to a glaze coating the onions. (Sorry, I forgot to photograph this step!)

8.    Once the ribs are done cooking, let them rest 10 minutes in their juices. Then transfer them to a baking sheet.

9.    Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the pot. Blend the vegetables into the sauce with an immersion blender. (Or transfer to a blender and then pour the pureed sauce back into the Dutch oven). If the broth seems thin, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce it until it reaches a consistency you like. Taste for salt and pepper.

10. Add the ribs and pearl onions back to the sauce. Reheat and serve.

Serves 6

January 14, 2013

Black Beans and Rice

These days when I'm looking to make something fast and nutritious, I find myself turning more and more frequently to beans.

If you've got the time, dried beans deliver better flavor and texture than canned. But they require soaking and a long simmer to make them tender.

Canned beans are convenient. Give them a quick drain and rinse and they're good to go. In this recipe I combine them with veggies and rice. The dish is substantial enough for dinner. It's a tasty accompaniment to Mexican food. And served at room temperature, it makes a great side dish for barbecues.

Chop bell pepper and onion. Feel free to get creative here. You can use carrots, celery, or any other vegetable that will hold its shape when cooked.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil.

When the veggies are tender and golden, add the rice. Stir for a minute until it's coated in oil.

Now, for some flavor, add a packet of taco seasoning mix. You could also add a combination of chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt. Stir until the rice and vegetables are well coated in the seasoning.

Add water. Vegetable or chicken stock also work well.

Finally, toss in the beans. Again, this recipe is very customizable. Add any kind of beans you like -- kidney, pinto, navy, etc. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then turn down the heat and let the rice simmer, covered, for 17 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for at least five more minutes.

When you remove the lid, the rice should be cooked through. If it's not, sprinkle a little more water on top, cover tightly, and heat on low for a few more minutes.

Serve! If you like, sprinkle a little lime juice on top.

Black Beans and Rice

Recipe by The Garlic Press

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups rice
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tsp salt, or to taste
3 cups water (or any combination of water, chicken stock and vegetable stock)
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
lime, optional

1.    Heat olive oil in a 4-qt pot. When hot, add onion and green and red bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and onion is golden and translucent.

2.    Add rice. Stir well until the rice is coated in oil. Add taco seasoning and salt. Stir well until taco seasoning coats rice and vegetables.

3.    Add water and beans.

4.    Bring mixture a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, turn heat to low, and simmer for 17 minutes. Turn off heat and let the pot sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.

5.    Serve, with a squeeze of lime.

Serves 4 as a main dish; 6 to 8 as a side dish.

January 7, 2013

Weeknight Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce


Yikes. It's only January and I'm already behind. I thought I had things under control. December ended pretty quietly. We celebrated Christmas in New Jersey at my parents' house. Then we came back up to Boston for the last few days of winter vacation. We assembled some Ikea bookshelves. Went through piles of paperwork. Did loads and load of laundry. I even cleaned the humidifiers for God's sake.

But then it was January 2nd. And school started up. And work. And after-school activities. And before I knew it, it was January 7th and I hadn't managed to update my blog.

So really, this recipe fits right in with my current state of mind. I want to slow down. But I just don't have time.

This recipe is a fast take on a traditionally slow-cooked meal. A proper Bolognese simmers on the stove for hours. Over all that time, the onions, carrots, celery and ground beef melt into the hearty wine and tomato sauce. A splash of milk tenderizes the whole thing. The resulting sauce is rich and creamy and very comforting.

This recipe comes pretty close. I mean, let's face it. You're not going to get the same sauce in 30 minutes that you would if you let it simmer for four hours. So if you have four hours, make a traditional Bolognese. But if you don't -- if, like me, you want to come home on a Monday evening and have some pasta with a sauce that's close enough to a real Bolognese -- then make this. You won't regret it. And maybe you'll even have time left over to knock something else off your To Do list.

Cook beef until it starts to brown.

Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. (I accidentally added the tomato paste here too, but it all turned out alright.)

Stir until well combined.

Add wine.

Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper. This is where I should have added the tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer.

Once you've got your pasta boiling, finish the sauce. Add basil.

Then heavy cream.

And give it all a good stir.

Add the cooked pasta.

Stir the pasta into the sauce. Add a handful of grated Parmesan.

Buon appetito!

Weeknight Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground sirloin
4 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb dried pasta
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.    Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute.

2.    Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined.

3.    Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

4.    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the box.

5.    While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

6.    When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well.

7.    Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Serves 4 to 5