So it snowed, again. Big time, this time -- some people are calling it Snowageddon, but my favorite thus far is SnOMG.
Just as the first flakes began to fall on Friday afternoon the guys & I paid a visit to Wegman's for gettin'-snowed-in supplies. People were rushing around in there like it was the fall of Saigon, everyone clutching their bread and toilet paper wild-eyed as though the last chopper were leaving at any moment. We should maybe have been shopping for loin cloths and pointed sticks for use after civilized society collapsed under the weight of two whole feet of snow...
Anyway, I wanted to gather ingredients for a few cooking projects this weekend. Since we've been snow bound and all I basically cooked my ass off all weekend (when I wasn't washing dishes, anyway, or shoveling snow).
Friday night: spaghetti and meatballs, meatballs being a sort of homemade convenience food around here. I make a bunch, 2 or 3 lbs of grass-fed ground beef worth at a time, cooking and then freezing them by the dozen to have on hand for those "it's 5:30 on a Tuesday, what in the name of god are we having for dinner?" days. Amish-raised beef from Lancaster, homemade marinara canned back in August, Trader Joe's organic spaghetti. Plus a salad from the last little bit of arugula and spinach from Gardener's Gourmet at Waverly Farmer's Market last weekend -- I'm betting there was no market yesterday.
Saturday: cranberry-walnut muffins for breakfast and all day snacking. Pierogi (frozen, from last Easter I think, trying to clean out freezer) for lunch, with tons of onions in even more tons of butter. Ummmmm...followed up by homemade play-doh (purple). Then macaroni and cheese, at Jack's request. Finally, at 5 pm, I got started on short ribs braised in red wine, with turnips and pearl onions. I had forgotten how complicated this recipe is, and so dinner was served at 10 pm.
I was a little afraid of messing up the short ribs -- I'd made this recipe successfully on multiple occasions with regular beef short ribs, getting delectable results every time -- it's been a stalwart in my cooking repertoire. Then I switched to pastured beef, and the very same recipe, my beautiful never-fail braised short ribs, turned out disastrously! I finally realized that what the grass-fed short ribs needed was a whole lotta supplementary fat, which I now supply with either bacon or lard. The problem is, it's a judgment call how much fat to add -- you sort of need to eyeball the ribs and see if they'll need a lot, or a whole lot.
Fortunately I nailed it this time, and the results are super-tender, with lots of flavor. The recipe is really long so I'll put it at the end of this post.
Sunday: so far I've only done another batch of cranberry-walnut muffins plus another batch of play-doh (green this time) and reheated some short ribs.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1.5 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
food dye or liquid watercolor of your choice
Stir together ingredients in saucepan over low heat, adding coloring as you stir. When everything pulls together into a ball in the center of pan, after about 3 minutes, it's ready.
SHORT RIBS BRAISED IN RED WINE WITH TURNIPS AND PEARL ONIONS
1 lb. uncured bacon OR about 4-6 tablespoons rendered lard
5 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
3 cups dry red wine (I used Three Buck Chuck, but better wine=better ribs)
2 Large onions, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2" rounds
1 large rib celery, sliced
8 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup unbleached flour
4 cups beef or chicken stock (or mix them)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
3 bay leaves
2-3 turnips, peeled and sliced
1 bag frozen pearl onions (do not thaw)
1 teaspoon sugar
Flat leaf Italian parsley (fresh)
1. Fry up bacon in large, oven safe stock pot or dutch oven; save bacon for BLTs while this incredibly long recipe braises in oven.
2. Oven to 450 degrees. Place short ribs, bone side down, in single layer in a baking pan. Drizzle bacon fat over short ribs, at least 4 tablespoons -- more can't hurt, you'll make the ribs more tender and be draining the fat later. Roast for about 45 minutes, until well browned.
2.5 Meanwhile, sautee carrots, onions and celery in remaining bacon fat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 min, add flour and cook about 2 minutes until flour browns. Remove from heat and rest.
3. Once they are browned, remove ribs from oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Place ribs on platter and reserve. Deglaze pan with wine: you can place it on a burner to do this, if it's a flameproof pan, but coming out of a 450F oven it'll be hot enough to deglaze as is -- be sure to protect your hands.
Return vegetables to heat. Stir in wine from roasting pan, stock, dried herbs and undrained tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, bring to boil.
Add ribs and any juices that they've exuded, completely submerging ribs in braising liquid. Once the pot has returned to simmer, cover and place in oven. Braise until ribs are tender, about 1.5 - 2 hours, maybe even longer -- start checking after 90 minutes.
4. Transfer ribs from braising liquid to platter. Strain liquid, pressing solids to get as much juice as you can back out. Set liquid aside, discard solids.
Wipe out dutch oven/braising pot and heat over medium-high with 2 tablespoons bacon fat or lard -- or if you've run out olive oil will do. Add the peeled, quartered and sliced turnips and pearl onions, plus sugar and then salt to taste. Sautee until beginning to carmelize and brown in spots. Meanwhile, if you're fat-o-phobic, now is the time to skim off the fat on the surface of the braising liquid (I never do this). Add the braising liquid to the turnips and onions, bring to a simmer. Add the ribs (and any accumulated juices) and submerge them, and heat over medium flame until ribs are warmed through and turnips are tender, about 5-7 minutes.
Serve over mashed potatoes, with lots of flat-leaf parsley.