Monday, December 28, 2009

Twelve Days: In Praise of the Braise


I've always loved the langurous, lazy days of Christmas break. As a kid, I relished the snow days (christening new snow suits), the additional tv I could watch as my mom, a teacher, prepared for the inevitable company that arrived during her week off, and the playdates she arranged for me (though never called that during my kinder years in the early '70s). Today was one of those days in our household.

This morning, Thor and I hosted our good friends, Stuart and Xander. Stuart is married to one of my college friends. Her husband, George, and I happened upon one another in Chicago at the Green City Market last summer. Only a few weeks later, we learned that our sons were in the same kindergarten class. Over the year, through school, farmers' markets trips, and Purple Asparagus events, Stuart and Xander became my favorite mother-son duo. Mother and child are gorgeous and gentle, earthy and comforting. And it wasn't until dinner that I realized how appropriate it was that immediately after their departure, I began the gentle, earthy, and comforting braise of short ribs that we drank with a gorgeous Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Oh, and if you wonder what cooking method Thor embodies? The flambee, of course. What kind of cooking method are you?

Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 pounds short ribs
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
2 cups canned plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves minced
1 pinch cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Prehat the oven to 350º F. Heat the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium high heat. Dry any residual moisture from the ribs, salt and pepper them, and then brown them on all sides in batchs if necessary. Make sure not to crowd them or they won't brown properly. Remove the ribs as browned to a plate. Add the onions into the pot and cook slowly until golden about 7-10 minutes. Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the stock, tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, and herbs. Bring to a simmer, return the short ribs, cover, and place in the oven. Cook for 3 hours or until the short ribs are pulling away from the bone. Skim a good amount of the fat from the braising juices and serve on mashed potatoes, polenta, or pasta.

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