Braised Short Rib Ragu

Braising is one of my favorite methods of cooking – low and slow.  The ragu simmers for hours and the galley fills with its evocative smells. This is comfort food at its best.

No matter how diligent you are, how identical the ingredients and techniques, one day’s result may differ marginally from another’s.  I remember serving this short rib ragu one night at Newport Beach Harbor.  We had been moored at Avalon on Catalina Island for several days enjoying the unseasonal calm December weather.  But that was soon to change.  The Harbor Patrol stopped by our boat to tell us heavy winds were predicted and they wanted us to leave immediately and head for the protection of Newport Harbor.  We made the nineteen mile crossing and had just set our anchor when the storm hit.  The wind was howling and we could hear the sirens on the Harbor Patrol boats as they raced passed us to rescue boats that had broken loose from their moorings.  The wind was whipping us around violently on our anchor but we had set the anchor well and felt safe, happy to be in the protected harbor.  We had our daughter and son-in-law aboard and a couple who had just returned from a year in Mexico.  Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was the company, but that night’s ragu was the best that short rib can be …  

You’ll need:
3 pounds short ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt

Salt the short ribs and refrigerate overnight.  Heat a large casserole or braising pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil.  When the oil just begins to smoke add the short ribs, in a single layer making sure not to overcrowd the pan.

After the meat caramelizes and turns dark brown, about 5 minutes, turn the pieces of meat and cook another 5 minutes.  Remove the meat to a bowl.

In the same pan sauté the carrots, celery, onion and garlic.  Make sure you scrape all the little browned meat bits into the ragu, adding more olive oil if necessary.

Cook until vegetables are soft and light brown.

Return the meat and their juices to the pan.  Add 2 cups of red wine and simmer until the wine is reduced by half.  Stir in 1 cup of beef stock and continue reducing for another 10 minutes.

Give the tomatoes, salt, oregano and thyme a quick whirl in the food processor and add to the meat.

Cover the pan and simmer, turning the meat every 45 minutes, for approximately 3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.

You can also cook the ragu in a 325 degree oven for the same amount of time. I often use the oven on the boat to conserve fuel.

Remove the meat and bones from the sauce and when cool enough to handle shred the meat into pieces, discarding the connective tissue and bones.  Spoon the excess fat from the sauce.  Return the meat to the sauce.  Season with salt to taste.  I like to serve the ragu over homemade papardelle (wide, flat ribbons of pasta) but it is equally delicious served with polenta.

John’s Wine Selection

Served with Pasta, the Short Rib Ragu screams for a Napa Valley Zinfandel.  One of my favorites is Biale, a vineyard famous for its Zins.  The Aldo Vineyard 2003 used in the sauce and at the table is also delightful with this dish.