March is becoming predictable here in Chicago. The snow has melted and one spring-like day urges us to pack away boots, dust off golf clubs and start ordering plants for May. I spent several hours yesterday morning ordering compost, herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and honeysuckle. As I climbed the stairs to the roof deck to plot my plans for spring, a frosty breeze whispered, "not so fast."
Before I get ahead of myself with thoughts of freshly picked Golden Sweet Pear and Grape Rosalita tomatoes, I'm committed to another month of braising and roasting to send this winter off with a cheerful smile.
I have been cooking up a storm and should mention my current Judy Rodgers fetish. Her Zuni Cafe cookbook has found a permanent place on my kitchen counter amongst my favorite books.
After my recreation and swooning over her chicken and bread salad, I have foraged through her book with a new found love and affection. I've followed her careful instruction for roasted beets and paired them with some lentils, goats cheese and vinaigrette which proudly made their way to my mid-week packed lunch.
I easily made her rosemary-pickled gypsy peppers. These slow-burn pickles never even got a finished product snapshot before they disappeared with cheese and crackers served to my Mother in-law on a recent visit from England.
Ultimately, I was looking to produce another Zuni favorite before attempting her Ricotta Gnocchi (which I promise are on my to-do list for spring) and stumbled upon short ribs for a recent Sunday kitchen project. When I say this is a project, I should say that I like nothing better than spending an entire Sunday pottering around the kitchen, so I prolong all duties when it comes to cooking on days like this. This particular recipe is actually uncomplicated and easy to put together, but supremely impressive.
After a quick skim of her introduction, I was delighted to find that this recipe would garner leftovers for a Monday night supper of Eggs Baked in Restes (French for leftovers-see below). I always have a slightly smug feeling when one meal turns into two different dishes. If you are looking for smugness and short ribs are your thing, give this a try.
Chimay Ale is a Belgian ale with a taste of clove that is perfect for this dish, but feel free to try a local ale or mellow porter.
Judy uses a few slices of dried wild mushrooms in this recipe, but I omitted them and added some baby carrots (my current obsession).
Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
2 1/2 lbs short ribs, cut across the bone into 2 inch wide bands (have your butcher do this)
1-2 tbsp mild-tasting olive oil
1 1/2 lbs yellow onions (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4 inch thick half
2 ay leaves
a few whole white peppercorns
up to 1 cup of beef or chicken stock
up to 1 cup Chimay ale
About 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Trim and season the short ribs- do this 1-2 days or a few hours in advance. Trim most of the fat away from the short ribs but leave the silverskin and ough sheathing around the bones intact to keep it succulent. Salt evenly all over- a scant 3/4 tsp per pound. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Cook the short ribs-Warm the oil in a 3-quart saute pan over medium heat. Wipe the pieces of meat dry and brown them evenly and gently on the three meaty sides, about 4 minutes per side. Pour off the excess fat.
Rearrange the meat bone side down in the pan and add the onions, bay, peppercorns, stock and ale (it should come to a depth about 3/4 inch.) Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat until fork-tender (about 2- 2 1/4 hours.) You can also cook this in a 300F oven if you prefer.
About an hour into the cooking, I peeled some baby carrots and dropped them into the simmering juices.
Check two or three times to make sure that the liquid is barely simmering and turn each piece of meat each time. When the meat is done, uncover and prop the pan at a slight angle and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Turn on the broiler. Skim the fat that has collected on the lower side of the pan. Taste the juices and salt if needed. With each piece of meat bone side down, smear the tops with the Dijon mustard and place under the broiler. If your broiler is as crazy-hot as mine, you need to watch it at all times- this should take about 5 minutes. It should be about 5 inches away from the heat, but let it brown the mustard and glaze the surface of the onions stew.
Serve the short ribs very hot, mustard side up. I served mine with lightly buttered egg noodles, some steamed covolo nero and the carrots.
Make sure you save all the left-over meat, onions, carrots and juices for Monday night:
Eggs Baked in Restes
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
Leftover meat, onions, carrots and juices from braised short ribs
Preheat your oven to 500F.
Scrape all the meat from the above short ribs and add to the onions, carrots and juices. If you are short on scraps, add some canned chopped tomatoes or mushrooms with a little olive oil.
Get a shallow baking dish for the amount of liquid you have left and the number of eggs you're using.
Warm the braising liquid over medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the scraps of meat and vegetables back to the liquid. Bring just to a simmer and taste and season if needed. You can add a little wine here if you'd like.
Pour the simmering mixture into the baking dish. Crack the eggs into the center of the mixture and barely prick the surface of the yolks to keep it from setting a rubbery skin. Set on the top rack of the oven and bake as you like your eggs- 5-7 minutes. The juices should bubble up on the sides.
Serve from the dish with some drizzled olive oil, black pepper and some warm toast or bread rubbed with garlic for dipping.