I know that most households have a big Juicy Turkey on their table on Christmas day but I confess I have never adorned the center of my table with it. My mother never liked Turkey and even thought she always cooked one, the feeling of her not being excited over it rubbed off on me.
She grew up on a farm and had an aversion to poultry because she had to kill and butcher so many chickens as a young girl, which in turn led to her aversion to cooking it for her family. Turkey was her least favorite and I think when I ate it at Christmastime I could taste that bad memory of her childhood.
Turkey does make an appearance on my table each year but it is always some version of a stuffed and roasted turkey breast. This year I stuffed it with a savory sausage and it was very delicious, however the star of the table was the short ribs braised in a robust flavored red wine.
I must admit that I don’t cook red meat as often as fish or chicken (I’m not too fond of the beef industry so I only buy when I can afford organic, grass-fed free range meat. Also, we seem to prefer a “lighter” less complex protein on a daily basis). However, on special days, as in December 25th, the feast demands a richness and decadence that makes the meal stand out above all other days in the year. The unctuous short ribs I cooked was the stand-out dish this year, and as far as my son was concerned was the only thing that needed to grace the table.
They are not particularly Christmassy, so you can make them any time there is a need for something overtly extravagant!
You will need:
1/4 cup ( and more as required) extra-virgin olive oil
4lbs boneless beef short ribs – cut into large chunks
salt and pepper for seasoning meat
1 lb pearl onions (white, yellow or red will all work)
1 large (or 2 medium) sweet onions – large dice
1 large carrot – thickly sliced
3 celery ribs with leaves – thickly sliced
1 bottle hearty red wine (I used an Italian Chianti)
4 cups red sauce (recipe HERE or if you are in a pinch for time, use a good quality jarred version – I find that Newman’s Own brand Marinara Sauce is very basic and good for something like this, but feel free to buy whatever you find appealing OR you may have your own basic recipe for a red sauce which you can go ahead and use)
Water as needed
Preheat oven 375*
1 – Cut meat and dry it with paper towels and place in a large bowl or a cookie sheet. Season well with salt and freshly ground (if you are using a fine ground salt, be careful not to over season).
2 – Using a large saute pan on high heat, sear the meat in batches in olive oil, adding oil as needed. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will not brown nicely. Remove to a heavy casserole as you go.
3 – After the meat is seared, turn the heat down to medium and pour out excess oil. Add the prepared vegetables and saute for about 10 minutes, until beginning to soften.
4 – Add the wine and the red sauce and bring to a boil. Pour over the meat (or add the meat back to the saute pan if it is big enough. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 3 hours. Add the blanched and peeled pearl onions 1 hour before the meat is finished cooking. If the sauce is very thick you can thin it out with water until you are satisfied with the consistency.
Prepping Pearl onions for your dish
(you can do this the day before or while your ribs are in the oven). Put a pot of water on to boil. When it has boiled, add the onions and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to hand or cold, remove the skin. Set aside until ready to add to your dish.