By Danielle French

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

This is one of my favorite winter things to cook. Not quite a stew, not quite ribs, but very flavourful and definitely a good after-a-snowshoe-or-ski kind of meal.

My vegetable of choice to grow in the summer is tomatoes—heirloom varieties started from seed bought through various places such as one of my favourites, Upper Canada Seeds.

The unfortunate thing is that no matter how hard I try, inevitably the seed markers do not survive. One year, our cat Nickel (or Rocco, as Shawn calls him), then just a kitten, knocked over the seed trays spilling out all the contents and wooden markers. I put everything back in like nothing ever happened, tucked into their trays and they all recovered just fine, but the markers went into the fire.

Another year our Lab puppy Lillie took all the markers out and chewed them up. Last year—honestly, I think it was the most absurd moment I’ve had since moving here. All the perfectly marked trays the plants growing so beautifully . . . and as I picked up the trays to take them outside, I accidentally hit a corner of one on the door as I carried them out, tipping the contents everywhere, with the rest getting blown away by a gust of wind. Unbelievable.

I always grow at least fifty plants of about twelve different varieties. Most are tasty and a beauty to behold both in the garden and then later in the pot, but of course they are never properly marked! The connection to short ribs? I use tomatoes in the winter for many stews and stew-like dishes such as this recipe. You may use a can from your shelf or pull some of your own homegrown tomatoes from the freezer if you have them!

These beef ribs are small, cut across the bone and are not too fatty. It’s a one-pot meal, slow cooked in the oven. You can also simmer it on top of the stove, but I prefer oven cooking. Serve them with boiled potatoes, or egg noodles, or just a great loaf of bread and a green salad for a satisfying meal for four. (Unfortunately, the photos of the finished dish didn’t turn out very well, so you’ll just have to savour the results—both visually and gastronomically—when you make it for yourself.) And as usual, I make it up as I go along, but I always have at least these ingredients:

2 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup flour salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes,
1 whole Italian plum or diced (preferably low-sodium)
1 onion, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon oregano
1 carrot, peeled chopped coarsely
1 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped coarsely
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and chopped coarsely
4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley (Italian leaf is my preference)

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Combine the flour, salt and pepper; dredge the short ribs in the mixture. In a Dutch oven, heat oil on top of the stove over medium heat. Add the meat and brown on all sides; you will likely have to do this in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Remove the ribs and set aside until all have been browned.

If there is too much fat in the pan, remove all but about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and oregano; sauté until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, leek and garlic; sauté until everything is fragrant and well-mixed. Add the tomatoes, wine and broth, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the meat; if not, add a broth or water until the ribs are covered. Cover the pot and put it in the oven for 2 hours. After an hour or so, peek, taste and add salt, pepper and if necessary, more liquid.

You can make this dish in the morning or a day ahead and then just heat it up when you need it. The end result should be dropping-off-the-bones meat in a thick tomatoey sauce. Just before serving, toss in the grated lemon zest and a handful of parsley. If you have a nice casserole dish, you can cook and serve all in the same pot—just take it right to the table from the oven or stovetop.

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