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Stick-to-the-ribs cooking

After the groundhog saw his shadow earlier this month, I had only one choice: to cook and try to keep warm and cozy in this bleak winter with no end in sight. My saving grace? Braising. I recently acquired an amazing pot from Entertaining Elements in St. Jacobs: a flame-coloured Le Creuset braising pot (Dutch oven), the same kind Julia Child used extensively in her cooking in France. Its beauty calls to me from my stove: all it wants is to slowly cook food until it is meltingly tender.

So on a recent trip to the new Vincenzo’s on King Street in Waterloo, I stopped at the new ‘Bauer Butcher’ counter to have a chat with one of their knowledgeable staff members, who can tell me exactly where all of the meat in the counter hails from. Their beef is from Kerr Farms (see www.kerrfarms.ca) and it is antibiotic-free, hormone-free, treated humanely and is exclusively Angus, just to name a few of its attributes. And when we’re craving braising, beef short ribs fit the bill just perfectly. They are a tough cut of beef, but well marbleized and require slow, low cooking in liquid to break down the connective tissues. Braised meats are finished when a fork easily slides in and out of the meat. Finally, good braising always begins with some really good browning, or searing, to begin the flavour-country process.

Experiment with the following recipe by adding different herbs and spices, and serving with everything from creamy mashed potatoes to buttered egg noodles. The only requirement is a little love in the pot and patience for that ‘fall off the bone’ moment.

Braised Beef Short Ribs Serves 6-8

  • 3 lbs thick cut beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • Canola oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4-5 cups homemade beef stock (or low sodium)**

Season the beef well with Kosher salt and pepper on both sides;

Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat; drizzle with canola oil;

Carefully add, but don’t crowd, the beef ribs (or they will simmer rather than brown);

Brown, and I mean really brown, the beef on both sides – do this in batches; reserve browned ribs on a plate;

Add garlic and onion to pot; cook to scrape up any browned bits; add red wine and cook for a couple minutes;

Return beef to pot, with collected juices, add stock (it should just cover the meat) and place lid on pot;

Simmer (small bubbles, once in a while, no boiling) for 2-3 hours or until meat is fork tender;

Remove ribs from liquid carefully and keep warm; reduce braising liquid until desired thickness and serve with ribs.*

*If there is a lot of leftover liquid, cool down quickly and reserve for another use.
**Your beef dish will be as good as your stock. If you use commercial stock use quite a bit less salt on your meat. Some butchers and other specialty shops make their own beef stock.

Chefs Kirstie Herbstreit and Jody O’Malley are both Red Seal certified chefs. Together they run the company YouCanCook2, specializing in interactive dinner parties. You can also find them cooking at Entertaining Elements in St. Jacobs, where they hold private dinners for eight people. To contact the chefs, visit their website www.youcancook2.com.

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