Weeknight Short-rib Stew

Hello after a long hiatus! I'm writing this from the kitchen table in my new home in rural England, where I've lived for just over a month. It feels surreal to even type that phrase, let alone realize it, but it's true -- I've been drinking tea and substituting "z's" for "s's" (cosy, organising, etc) for long enough for this new life to feel a little bit normal. 

What isn't so normal for me, however, is the early darkness that winter brings so far north. Living in Hawaii for the last four years was an amazing exercise in the art of year-round summertime, and I got more than my fair share of sunshine. Now, it starts getting dim around 4 p.m., and although it's a major change of pace for me I find that I'm enjoying the new rhythms of wintertime life. Cosy (cozy!) evenings in with warming food and the glow of twinkle lights seem so much more indulgent when it's frigid out of doors. Couple that with the fact that almost all of my belongings -- my well-stocked kitchen, included -- are still packed up on a barge en route, and it's not hard to understand why I've been making a lot of easy, one-pot meals lately. 

This recipe was inspired by that necessity, by the desire to eat a warming meal on a cold, windy night, and by the great local products available at the market. I do most of my shopping at a tiny farm shop down the road from my village, where beautiful veggies and free range eggs are in abundance. There isn't a huge selection to choose from, but there is still plenty: leeks, cabbages, acid green romanesco with its pleasing geometry, carrots, potatoes, apples, onions and shallots, brussels sprouts still on the stem, butternut squash, all varieties of locally produced raw cheeses, and a great butcher counter to boot. I went in with the idea of making coq au vin for dinner tonight -- I was inspired by the need to use up a bottle of red wine -- but the beef shortribs caught my eye instead. 

Some basic veggies would bulk up the recipe, and the addition of new-to-me celeriac would add a punch of novelty. A long simmer in the red wine would help break down the collagen in the short ribs, making for a velvety, sumptuous sauce, and I'd serve it all with some roughly mashed boiled potatoes. Fifteen GBP later, my shopping list complete, I headed home to start cooking and...to make my first-ever Instagram Stories video

For anyone visiting the blog from Instagram, I want to thank you for your patience as I learn the IG Stories ropes, and I want to beg your forgiveness for the type-o in today's post. And below, as promised, is the recipe: 

 

Braised Beef Short-Ribs with Winter Vegetables and Red Wine

~2 lbs. beef short-ribs (3 large pieces)

1 carrot, large dice (~1 c.)

5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 large onion, diced (~2 c.)

1 globe celeriac, large dice (~2 c.)

1 tsp. sugar-free fish sauce 

1-2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

The better part of a bottle of red wine

1 c. water

Several sprigs of fresh thyme

Olive oil

 

Salt the short-ribs on all sides and set aside. 

Smash and peel the garlic cloves and set these aside while you dice the onion. Heave a generous amount of olive oil over medium-high heat. Ideally, your pot will be a heavy-bottom, cast-iron French oven, but if yours is also packed away on a barge you can use any large pot with a lid. 

Gently add the short-ribs to the hot oil in the bottom of the pan, allowing for plenty of room in between the pieces. This avoids "crowding the pan," and the meat browns instead of steams. Keep an eye on the meat while you process the rest of the vegetables. When the meat is ready to flip it will release easily from the pan. 

Once all short-ribs have a golden brown crust on al sides (the key to which is a lot of oil and patience(, remove to a plate to rest. Reduce the heat to low and add the onions to the pan, using a wooden spoon to simultaneously push them around in the fat and to scrape off the caramelized bits (called the "fond") from the bottom of the pan. Once translucent, add the garlic, carrots, and celeriac. Stir until the garlic is fragrant. 

Increase the heat again to medium-high and pour in the wine, using the wooden spoon again to vigorously scrape any bits from the pan. Once the wine is bubbling, nestle the short-ribs in amongst the vegetables, and toss in the thyme. Add another pinch of salt, the fish sauce, and the water. Cover and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer for at least 3 hours. 

Check the tenderness of the meat and vegetables at the 2-hour mark. If the meat is releasing from the bone without argument, increase the heat slightly and let the stew simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes until reduced. If stew isn't finished yet, continue cooking with the lid on for another hour before uncovering and reducing. 

Before serving, remove the thyme sprigs from the stew. Take off any short-ribs meat that hasn't released from the bone and this back to the stew. Serve as desired -- plain, as a stew; over cauliflower mash; with boiled potatoes...

Yields four generous servings.