There are some people that tie their memories to the weather, different smells, specific dates, or the time of year. I have been finding that recently I have been tying many of my great memories with friends and family to food. For example, I can't remember a specific christmas by the year, or by how much snow we got, or what my christmas presents were, but jog my memory of what we cooked for 'christmas eve-eve' dinner? Now I remember.
It works the other way too. Lobster crosses my mind? I immediately think about the many July 4th's throughout my childhood when the cousins in my family would draw a track on the driveway with chalk and "race" the lobsters before our parents murdered them (but for good cause) in the giant bubbling stock pot in the kitchen. Granted they usually only moved an inch or so, but it was still fun picking them up and being terrified that they were going to pinch us (even though their claws all had rubber bands on them).
I also think about last winter when some of my favorite people in the world got together at a cabin in northern Wisconsin and had a BYOL party (Bring Your Own Lobster). It unexpectedly took hours to bring the huge stock pots full of water and crab seasoning to boil and didn't end up eating until almost 11 pm, but we kept ourselves busy drinking wine, playing with the very lethargic lobsters, and catching up on lives being lived three states away from each other.
Short ribs and risotto will be one of those meals that is tied to so many great memories for me. It was one of the first 'extravagant' meals I cooked for my boyfriend after we moved to chicago together. It was on the menu last winter when some of my best girlfriends from Purdue finally found a night we could all get together for the first time in months.
It was also the meal I made for eight hungry skiers this past weekend, at what is quickly becoming my favorite tradition: Valentines Day Cabin Weekend. In lieu of the Hallmark world of hearts and candy and forced romantic evenings, my Minnesota friends and I, along with our wonderful significant others, have turned v-day weekend into a weekend full of skiing, laughing, drinking, and eating. Rarely does the v -word even cross our lips, but when it does we aren't just celebrating love in our romantic relationships, we are toasting our friendships as well. The card I received from one of said Minnesota friends sums it up pretty well: "I hope we are still spending valentines day together when we are 80". Until I am 80, when I think of short ribs and risotto, I will be reminded of this very awesome valentines day, the giant red le creuset filled with braised meaty goodness, and the very best friends a girl could ask for.
Cabernet Braised Short Ribs
recipe adapted slightly from epicurious.com
Serves 8 with leftovers
These are great made a day early and chilled overnight. This allows you to to skim some of the hardened fat off the top to produce a less greasy pan sauce, but are just as good made the day of.
8-9 pounds meaty short ribs
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 tablespoons fresk thyme, minced
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (about) vegetable or olive oil
2 - 750 ml bottles of Cabernet Sauvingnon
2-4 cups beef stock (this will depend on the size and shape of the pot you use, you will need enough to just about cover the ribs with liquid)
2 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
The day before cooking the ribs, season the ribs on all sides with the rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper and place in a large glass baking dish. Cover and chill overnight.
Let ribs stand at room temp before continuing. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large dutch oven, heat two tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add short ribs to pot in a single layer, turning about every 2 minutes to brown all sides. Place browned ribs in large bowl, and add more oil to pot as needed to brown all the ribs. Once all ribs have been seared, pour off drippings from pot and return to medium heat. Add the wine, scraping up and browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring wine to a simmer, then return the ribs and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add enough beef stock to almost cover the ribs. Bring to a boil, then cover and transfer pot to oven.
If making these the day of consumption, cook for about 3-3.5 hours, until meat is incredibly tender and falling off the bone.
If making the day before, cook for about 2.5 hours, then let cool, cover, and chill overnight. The following day, skim some of the congealed fat off the top and return to 375 degree oven for another hour to and hour and a half, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.
When ribs are done, remove meat and bones from pot, place in a tightly covered bowl and keep warm. Skim any fat from the top of the liquid, and bring to simmer over medium high heat on the stovetop. Boil until reduced to about 2 cups, about 20 minutes. Mix together butter and flour in a bowl until well combined, and whisk into simmering braising liquid. Continue whisking over medium-high heat until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
Plate ribs next to, or on top of the risotto, topped with sauce and the mixed herb gremolata.
Meyer Lemon Herb Gremolata
adapted slightly from epicurious.com
Please don't skip this topping. It lends an amazingly bright citrus note to the earthy meatiness of the short ribs.
1/4 cup chopped italian parsley
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel, meyer lemon if it is in season
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely minced rosemary
2 tablespoons finely minced thyme
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Can be made one day in advance, but I would recommend making it the day of so the citrus is at its freshest.
serves 8 plus plenty of leftovers
12-16 cups canned low sodium chicken broth
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (one stick)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5-6 shallots, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, chopped (I used a mix of white and baby bellas)
3 cups arborio rice
1 1/3 cup white wine
1 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup italian parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring the broth to a simmer in a large saucepan or small stockpot. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, reduce heat, and keep the broth warm over very low heat while you cook the risotto. The mushrooms will flavor the broth as they steep.
In a large heavy pot, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the rice, and let cook until the rice toasts a bit and becomes slightly translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has absorbed, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, and add 1 cup of hot broth, stirring rice very frequently until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1 cup at a time and stirring, until rice is just al dente. This should take about 30-40 minutes, and you may not need all the broth.
While rice is cooking, remove the porcini mushrooms from broth with slotted spoon, chop, and set aside. Heat two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of live oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh mushrooms and porcini mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are slightly browned, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
When rice reaches the al dente stage, remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 stick of butter, parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and parsley.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add some roasted carrots for good measure and you have yourself a meal.
Make this, and make it often. I can only hope that this wonderful meal may be attached to some amazing memories for you as well.