Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Almost Au Fait

Long ago and relatively far away there was a groom's dinner, the memory of which has outlasted the marriage by nearly two decades. The bride was from Minnesota and her groom was Greek, which meant we had traditional fare for the wedding (which still stands as some of the best wedding food I've ever had) and a big fat beautiful Greek spread at the rehearsal dinner. Among the family-style service of salads and breads and meats and sauces stood a modest bowl of orzo and its bright red saucy companion. The sauce was pureed and I wasn't able to discern the ingredients, but it seemed to marry Italian gravy to bright Middle Eastern sensibilities.

Fast forward many weddings and thousands of celebratory dinners, and I still crave that sauce. This weekend had us Minnesotans shivering rather than grilling. It felt like the perfect weekend for a long braise of beef short ribs. It also felt like the perfect weekend for recreating that orzo and red sauce. It was.

Beef Short Ribs and Red Gravy
For the ribs:
1 1/2 pounds beef short ribs
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry red wine
5 garlic cloves, smashed

Season ribs with Dry-Aged rub and set aside for 20 minutes.

Heat large saute pan to medium high and add a few tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil. Sear ribs on all sides, about 3 minutes each side. Add broth, wine, and garlic; cover and place in preheated 300 degree oven until ribs are tender and falling off the bone, about three hours. Check the pan every hour or so and add additional broth or wine if stock reduces too much.

Remove pan from oven and place ribs and bones on heatproof plate, cover with foil, and set aside. When meat is cool enough to touch remove fat and cartilage. Recover meat with foil, and keep warm in very low oven. Pour remaining stock into degreaser. Collect garlic cloves for gravy. Add enough additional broth to degreaser so that fat line is over pour line. Set aside to cool.

For the gravy:
1 white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Garlic cloves retrieved from ribs
Degreased stock from ribs
Rib bones
4 cups chopped canned or fresh tomatoes, strained and juice collected
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Bring clean saute pan to medium high and add a few tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and pepper and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stock,bones, and juice from chopped tomatoes. Bring to simmer and reduce by 3/4 (this may take up to 45 minutes). Remove bones and discard. Add tomatoes, seasoning, pepper, and sugar. Simmer 10 minutes; puree and return to heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve beef and gravy with orzo and plenty of Asiago or Parm-Reg.

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