There is so much that goes into the raw products available at grocery stores across the country: farmers tend the land, workers harvest ripened produce, truck drivers transport the goods, stockers process and organize everything. For many months of manual labor, we are spoiled to simply take our pick from the shelves of food readily available. And then you think about the animals we eat, not only is there even more time and labor that goes into our vacuum-sealed packages of butchered cuts, but actual lives are at stake. As cooks, whether in a fine dining atmosphere or a simple Sunday supper at home, we should all be aware that there is so much more that goes into our food than the labor of love we put forth. I’ll get off my pedestal now, sometimes I like to remind myself to value the fruits, vegetables, and meats that are readily available to me.
With snow on the ground and sub-freezing temperatures here to stay, it is the season for comforting, hearty braised dishes. Braised foods are a showstopper, often some of the most impressive and appreciated recipes, yet they are actually some of the easiest to prepare. Cook it low and slow, forget about hitting perfect temperatures, and plates are piled high with melt-in-your-mouth tender meats and vegetables, loaded with whatever flavors were incorporated in the pot. Not only that, but braising meats is a great way to use really affordable tough cuts of meat and turn them into a succulent dish, and it makes your house smell great!!! There really is no downside to braising.
I made short ribs for the meat eater and mushrooms for the vegetarian and while the cooking time is slightly different between the two proteins, everything else is exactly the same. These are both actually better the next day, making them a wonderful dinner party dish, simply heat it up and serve. As always, season with salt and pepper throughout and finish to taste at the end.
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs or Mushrooms: 2-3 servings with choice of protein
- 4 bone-in short ribs, depending on size
- 2 lb whole cremini
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery, diced
- 1/2 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 cups red wine, I used Malbec
- 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, depending on protein choice
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 sprigs fresh parsley
- olive oil
- salt and pepper, throughout and to taste
Preheat oven to 325. In a medium or large Dutch oven, whatever is just big enough to fit the short ribs or mushrooms in one snug layer, put over medium high heat for several minutes. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, and sear the short ribs or mushrooms on all sides, without overcrowding in the pan. Sear in batches if necessary. Remove the short ribs or mushrooms and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Saute the vegetables until they are just starting to get color, then deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and red wine, use a wooden spoon to get any bits of flavor from the pan. Reduce the liquid by more than half. Return the short ribs or mushrooms to the pan, then pour in enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the protein by 3/4th. Tuck in the parsley and thyme sprigs, cover with a lid, and place in oven.
For the short ribs, turn after 1.5 hours in the oven, remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to get a nice browning on the outside, the short ribs should braise for 3-4 hours, depending on the size. A fork should very easily slide into the meat, but it should not totally fall apart.
For the mushrooms, turn after 45 minutes in the oven, remove the lid for the last 2o minutes to get a nice browning on the outside, the mushrooms should braise for about 2 hours, depending on the size. The mushrooms should be very tender, but not mushy.