My latest idea for cooking with beef is a sneaky one. I’ve decided to order beef dishes whenever I go out to eat at a restaurant I admire. That way, I get a chance to see what accomplished chefs–many of them from cultures other than my own–are making with beef. There’s more to beef than steak, pot roast and spaghetti sauce after all! On this plan, I’ve tasted arepas, vaca frita, cuban beef sandwiches, and delicious smoked beef (atop an oven-fired pizza).
Last month, I ordered something I never would have thought to make: a bolognese sauce made with braised short ribs.
Only a few years ago, I would not have thought to look for main dishes with short ribs at all. Ribs were for barbecuing, not for making a fancy main course. Then my sister introduced me to her recipe for Provençal Short Ribs. They take elegant to a new level. Making them is certainly an all-day or all-afternoon activity, but that only adds to the sense of accomplishment.
I liked making fancy short rib dishes so much I soon attempted Short Ribs with Chocolate and Pancetta. This one’s elegant, too, with a chocolate flavor much like chocolate stout (not like chocolate Christmas candy). The chocolate adds layers of flavor–rich and slightly bitter.
Those recipes prepared me to expect great things when my dish arrived. And I savored every mouthful. It was full of old world flavor–wine, mushrooms, tomatoes, and melt-in-your-mouth beef.
I had to replicate it a few weeks later. This version uses a crockpot so that chopping vegetables and searing ribs are your main task at the start of the day, and enjoying and preparing the gnocchi are all you need to do at the end. It’s so good it would make a wonderfully fancy new year’s meal.
- 4 ounces baby bella mushrooms, chopped
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 pounds short ribs, cut into 1-2 inch cubes (cut off bone if necessary; can add bones to crock pot for extra flavor)
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 cups diced carrot
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 8-ounce can tomato paste
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes,
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp, basil
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- ½ cup heavy cream or milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 16 ounces gnocchi
- grated parmesan for topping
- Brown the pancetta in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add to crockpot but keep the grease in the pan.
- Cook the ribs in the same pan over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Transfer to crock pot.
- Cook the onions and carrots in same pan until tender.
- Add garlic, red pepper flakes, mushrooms and tomato paste, cook about a minute. Transfer all to crockpot.
- Deglaze the pan with wine, and transfer wine to crockpot along with broth, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil and oregano. Cook 8-10 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high.
- Stir in parmesan and cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve over cooked gnocchi and top with parmesan.