There is no greater link to my past than preparing festive food on a budget. This kind of cooking is in my bones. Generations of Lithuanians and French Canadians speak through me as I stir and chop and taste. I connect with the ghosts of family past in my kitchen with flavors and scents. I can feel my grandfather in the room, his colloquialisms echoing in my brain. If not just for one day our holiday feasts cut through the extra noise of this modern life. We return to a time when food was our only form of entertainment at home. Sure we steal glances at our phones, but only occasionally and then feel bad about it afterwards. Instead we talk to each other, we listen to one another… and most importantly, we eat.
I was struck by inspiration for this years Easter dinner by one wayward glance at the butcher counter more than two weeks ago. The sight of short ribs got my gears turning. What a perfect holiday meal to serve our guests… It hits all the marks… Easy, delicious, cheap. Once you get it in the oven your work is basically finished… Short ribs it had to be.
Let’s get to it.
Serves 4-6 Approximately 3 hours
- 3 pounds of bone in short rib (boneless is fine too. Costs more but just as good)
- 3 carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 large onion
- 4 cups of beef broth (usually one large box)
- 1 bunch of scallions or chives
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 1 small bundle of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- all purpose flour
- salt and pepper
- A dutch oven or oven safe pot
Something to remember before you start. This is going to seem like a lot of steps for a fancy meal. Don’t get nervous about it. This is easy. It is really hard to screw up. Even if you skip all these steps and just throw everything in the pot in the oven you will end up with a delicious meal. Remember, this is essentially European peasant food. Cheap cuts of meat, a pot full of vegetables and a bottle of local red wine cooked over fires or baked until it falls off the bone. This entire dish can be done a day ahead, some say it’s even better that way. It’s an ideal meal for entertaining.
First step, salt and pepper the short ribs. Then toss them in a large bag with flour and shake them up until they all have a nice even coating.
Set them aside and chop up your onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Turn your oven on 350 (175c).
Pour some oil in your dutch oven and put the heat on medium. You want enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Let the oil heat up and place the ribs in one at a time until you have single layer. With 3 pounds this will likely take two batches. Sear the ribs until they’re browned up nicely. 4 minutes or so on each side. Set them aside for later and spoon out most of the oil. Scrape the crusty bits with a wooden spoon and add your onions to the pot. Once they are starting to brown and melt down add your carrots and celery. Stir them up and salt and pepper everything. Add two of the chopped garlic cloves now.
Starting to smell good huh?
Let the mixture cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
Place the seared short ribs on top of the veggies. At this point it doesn’t matter if they’re all arranged perfectly or not, just get them in the pot.
Open that bottle of red. Buy a wine that’s drinkable but don’t spend too much money on it. A table red or a cabernet works great here. Pour yourself a half a glass and dump the rest of the bottle in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high and make a note of how high up on the pot the liquid is. Keep the lid off of the pot.
Wait for a boil. You’ve got about 20 minutes here and only need to stir a few times. Wash up the cutting board and dishes, get your counters clean.
You want to boil it until the amount of red wine has reduced by half. I tied up a bundle of the thyme and a sprig of rosemary with cooking string and tossed it in with two bay leafs and the third chopped garlic clove. Toss in a couple pinches of flour and pour in the (4 cups) entire box of beef broth.
Cover. Place in oven.
“Siri, set a timer for 2 hours please”
Plenty to do for that time. Set out your appetizers, greet your guests, work on your side dish for the short ribs. (mashed potatoes, polenta, roasted vegetables, risotto, pasta come to mind) I made a parmesan risotto to accompany mine. It came out pretty good but not good enough for me to tell you how to make it. Maybe next time.
When the two hours is up take a look at your masterpiece.
I pulled out the bones with a pair of tongs and tossed them. Using the tongs, break up the meat until it’s shredded. If the bones don’t come out easily and the meat doesn’t shred with a light touch give it some more time. Stir up the mixture and have a spoonful. Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste and put back in the oven for 30 minutes. This is when I made my (decent) risotto.
When finished, serve your amazing short ribs over your amazing side dish. Top with chopped green onion or chives. Pray for leftovers.
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