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Braised Beef Short Ribs Provenal

Beef ribs are tough but flavorful. A great way to tenderize tough cuts is by slow cooking in a flavorful liquid, a process called braising. Barbecue beef ribs are my first choice in warm weather, but when the snowballs fly, braising indoors is the way to go. And what a way to go!

Braising is a method of cooking in a flavorful liquid low and slow, just like barbecue, so the meat tenderizes and all the flavors meld into a harmonious symphony. The liquid is kept top a low simmer, tiny bubbles, not big ones.

Beef ribs are a desirable component in a braised dish because they contain so many flavorful elements, fat, connective tissue (collagen that turns to gelatin), marrow, and, of course, beef. Click here to learn more about the different cuts of beef ribs.

This classic French stew from Provence fills the house with seductive aromas and, if you prepare it on Saturday, refrigerate it overnight, and serve it on Sunday, the house will smell great for two days straight. Besides, braised meat often tastes better the next day, after all their flavors have intermingled. Some recipes call for boneless ribs, but I say you should leave the bone in so the marrow can add to the richness of the stew. Deep, meaty, flavorful, and hearty, this is the ideal winter meal with a rich red wine to be followed by an evening wallowing on the couch with a movie.

This recipe calls for cooking in a heavy pot on the stovetop, but you can easily adapt it for cooking in a slow cooker.

I like to serve this on a bed of egg noodles, but you can use mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, cous cous, or serve it straight with a crusty loaf of bread. Try it with a simple salad of chopped lettuce and blue cheese with a big, full-bodied red.

Recipe

Yield. Serves 3-4

Prep time. 30 minutes

Cooking time. 2 1/2 hours

The Beef

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 pounds short ribs, bone in if you can find it, trimmed of excess fat and silverskin

Salt and crushed black pepper

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, approximately

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2" chunks

2 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 1/2" chunks

1 head garlic, broken into cloves, peeled, and cut in half

2 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence (or equal parts thyme, basil, tarragon)

2 whole bay leaves

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 quart unsalted broth (beef, chicken, veggie, or a combo)

1 (14.5 ounce) can chopped or whole tomatoes

1 bottle full-flavored dry red wine such as syrah or shiraz

12 prunes

Salt and pepper to taste

The Noodles

8 ounces of egg noodles, about 1/2" wide

The Garnish

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Optional. Add 1/2 cup Nicoise olives, pitted (small, brine-cured olives) to the beef.

Wine. Serve with a big red wine, like a French wine from the Rhone region (which is near Provence) such as a Hermitage, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cote-Rotie, or Gigondas. Another option is a wine from the US or Australia labeled Syrah or Shiraz. These are the same grape, and a big part of the blend used in the Rhone region.

Method

1) Cut the meat into single bone sections and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper and then dust them with flour.

2) In a large heavy pot, about 5 quarts, warm the oil over a medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Brown the ribs on the meaty sides. Do them 2 or 3 at a time so you don't crowd them in the pot. They need space to get hot enough to brown and for moisture to evaporate. When they are starting to get dark, remove them with tongs and put them aside on a plate or in a bowl.

3) Drain all the oil except about 3 tablespoons. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 15 minutes or so until soft and browning starts. Add the garlic, herbes de Provence, and bay leaves and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the mustard, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes.

4) Add the prunes, wine, tomatoes, and broth. Add the meat last, bone side down. The reason we put the meat side up is to make sure it is exposed to air. This cools the meat slightly keeping its internal liquids from boiling and that helps keep it tender. Bring the liquid to a boil but don't let it boil for more than a few seconds, and then dial the temperature to low to a gentle simmer. Put the cover on loosely, leaving a small gap, so some steam can escape. This keeps the temperature of the liquid just below boiling, and makes for more tender, moister meat. Boiling meat makes it tough and dry. Cook for 2 1/2 hours and check periodically to make sure the liquid doesn't evaporate. Add water if necessary. After about 2 hours pierce it with a fork and gently twist. The meat should be tender and just about to pull from the bone. Remove the meat and put it in a bowl or on a plate.

Optional. If you wish, you can cook them in a slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

5) Turn the heat to high and reduce it to about three cups. While it is cooking, and when the ribs are cool enough to handle, remove the bones and trim the thick layer of cartiledge that is between the meat and bone. After the liquid has reduced, let it sit for a few minutes so the fat can rise to the surface. Skim the fat with a large flat spoon and discard it.

6) While the sauce is reducing, start a 2 quart pot of water boiling and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the noodles and boil according to the instructions on the package.

7) While the noodles are cooking, add the meat back to the braising liquid, add the olives if you decide to use them, and place over a medium low burner for about 10 minutes until the meat is warmed through.

8) Place the noodles on the plates, put the meat and veggies on top, pour the liquid on top, sprinkle with parsley.

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