Monday, February 11, 2008

Short Ribs by Mario, or (insert your Italian grandmother's name here)

This weekend I ventured into the masterpiece that is Molto Italiano. These are quite literally the recipes I wish my great grandmother would have written down. There’s still hope for my grandmother!
Let me preface by saying this is one of those cookbooks that usually come off my shelf at about 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when I can’t sleep and all I can think about is, what am I going to cook on Sunday?
This has become a bit of a winter tradition for me – this notion of waking up early to meticulous planning, and spending the whole day grocery shopping, prep, slow cooking and simmering, set to the tempo of Love, Actually, The Godfather or Top Chef marathons (you can tell I don’t have kids, right?)
I dabble in Batali on weeknights, but I feel better about it when I get to really concentrate on doing it right – and that happens on weekends.
So I picked Balsamic Onions and Short Ribs in Barolo. I also planned on making his Eggplant Caponata, but really just ran out of time. I pictured slurping up the leftovers of each dish on a crusty chunk of bread, but I’ll save the eggplant for another time.
So the onions cooked quite beautifully in the combination of balsamic vinegar and sugar. And the smell was even more beautiful. Pair that with the scent of short ribs slow cooking in a combination of tomato sauce, red wine, pancetta and vegetables, and you get a classic whiff of my grandmother’s house on Sunday…without the raucous conversation, that is.
I wanted to stick my finger in the sauce at every step of the game – the flavor was smooth when fully cooked and together but each ingredient brought its own tasty essence to the mix. I used a Pinot Noir instead of the Barolo (I opened a bottle the night before and wasn’t too happy with it, so I took a gamble and used it for the sauce – it paid off.)
There are nights when, I’ll admit, I open a jar and throw it’s contents on top of sausage, pasta, maybe some bell pepper and onion, and I feel okay about it. But nothing can compare to the taste of slow cooked, well loved Italian food.
When we sat down to eat I was proud to serve that same hearty, Sunday meal that my family has served for generations, but I was preoccupied with just one thing- would there be enough sauce left over for the next night? I certainly wanted to stretch this meal out, use that sauce and and tender meat in yet another meal.

Lucky for me, there was.

Short Ribs in Barolo, from Molto Italiano
6 tablespoons extra-virgin OLIVE OIL
2 pounds boneless BEEF SHORT RIBS, cut into 3-inch cubes
SALT and freshly ground BLACK PEPPER
2 large Spanish ONIONS, cut into 1/2-inch dice1 medium
CARROT, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
2 ribs CELERY, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 ounces PANCETTA, cut into 1/4-inch dice (I've tried it with bacon and it works)
2 cups Barolo or other HEARTY RED WINE (I used Pinot Noir)
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (try his recipe)

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, brown the meat all over, turning frequently, until dark golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter and set aside.
Pour the excess oil out of the pot. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and pancetta and cook until the vegetables are light brown and starting to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
Add the meat and bring back to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Transfer the meat to a festive platter.
Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and reduce to 2 1/2 cups. Season with salt and pepper, pour over the meat, and serve immediately.
Serves 4


Megan said...

I am a fellow foodie in NoVa and I can't wait to try this. I think that I could eat the onions everyday. Thanks for posting...

Check out my blog when you can

Julie said...

That looks delicious, I love the carmelization on the onions.