One of the most amazing feelings, for me, is that of achievement. The sheer feeling of accomplishment in and triumph over an endeavor or obstacle is what makes any challenge that much more rewarding. Oddly enough, I have to admit my biggest challenge at the moment is that of grief, or overcoming it. Like this twist on a classic French Beef Burguignon, grief can be complicated and tedious , making anyone reluctant to confront and undertake the matter at hand. Although preparing Short Ribs Burguignon may not be as inevitable as the feelings of grief within a person’s lifetime, if you are like me and constantly seek thrill alongside self-cultivation, you can’t desist committing yourself to making, or attempting to make, the most complicated dishes you know to attain that blissful feeling.
That, or you try to avoid it for as long as possible until it comes back at you, smack-dab in your face. Either way, there comes a time when you need to do something about it, whether it be going out to have someone prepare that intricate and advanced dish that you obsess about and crave for or, making it yourself (for better or worse) and learning from it.
I chose the latter: to try, maybe fail, but definitely learn. I know I’ve lightly touched upon the fact that recently, I’ve been going through a lot. It’s been overwhelming, to say the least. I momentarily lost sight of what was important to me, what drove my passions, and what kept me going as an individual. Over the course of the past couple months, I chose to deal with a break-up, a move, and changes in my life by not actually dealing with any of them, or anything else for that matter. I have found that such blunt changes tend to be followed by sharp ache and prolonged remorse. Hence, I avoided everything and everyone at all costs instead. Namely, I chose to run away from myself – my thoughts, my feelings, my problems. Facing them was and admittedly still is a painful process. I mean, c’mon, I even made the conscious decision not to cook, bake, or blog much over the past month. If that isn’t a clear indication that something may have been wrong, I don’t really know what is.
But, thankfully I’ve come back to what grounds me. Slowly, but surely, I’ve become reacquainted with my cutting board, my mixing bowls, my whisk, pots, and measuring cups. These are my friends, I remind myself, they have never let me down. My re-encounter with them consisted of cooking the oh-so-laborious-but-totally-worth-the-effort Short Ribs Burguignon and baking an old-time favorite: peanut butter brownies. With baby steps, though, I’m learning to lean on my other friends as well – that is, with the help of cheap wine, fancy at-home dinners, and yes, peanut butter brownies.
And hey, soon enough, I know these baby steps are going to bring me back to that once familiar feeling of victory. Thanks to this recipe for Short Ribs Burguignon, I had a mouthwatering preview of it.
For short ribs
4 (8-oz) pieces bone-in beef short ribs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (14-oz) can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice, puréed
in a blender with juice
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
4 cups brown veal stock or 1/2 cup Demi-Glace Gold concentrate (concentrate requires a dilution ratio of 1:8; 1/2 cup concentrate to 4 cups water)*
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 tablespoon Banyuls vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
20 pearl onions (5 oz)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Banyuls vinegar or red-wine vinegar
2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth (16
4 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 thick bacon slices (preferably applewood-smoked; 1/4 lb total), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces**
8 medium fresh white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
Braise short ribs:
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 250»F.
Pat beef dry. Heat oil in a wide (12 inches in diameter) 3- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown beef on all sides, turning with tongs, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Add chopped carrots, onion, and garlic to oil in pot and cook over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup puréed tomatoes (reserve remainder for another use) and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add wine and boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.
Add veal stock, thyme, bay leaf, vinegars, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to sauce, and bring to a simmer. Skim fat from surface, then add beef along with any juices accumulated on plate and cover pot with a tight-fitting lid. Transfer to oven and braise until beef is very tender, 4 to 5 hours.
Cook vegetables while beef braises:
Blanch pearl onions in a wide 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan of boiling water 1 minute, then drain in a sieve. When just cool enough to handle, peel onions with a paring knife, trimming root end just enough to leave onions intact.
Heat butter in dried saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook onions, stirring occasionally, until brown spots appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, then add chicken stock and carrots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and boil, if necessary, until liquid glazes vegetables.
While vegetables are simmering, cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and bacon is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to vegetables in saucepan.
Transfer a short rib to each of 4 soup plates and keep warm in oven. Pour sauce through a medium-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids, then skim fat from sauce. Boil sauce, if necessary, until thickened and reduced to about 3 cups. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 2 cups sauce to vegetables (reserve remaining sauce for another use), then spoon mixture around short ribs.
Note: Ribs can be braised 1 day ahead and cooled completely in sauce, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Remove solidified fat from dish before reheating. This is actually a great way to get rid of nearly all of the excess fat.
* Couldn’t find veal stock or demi-glace, so I used good ol’ beef stock. Worked just fine.