One day I woke up craving these ribs, which is great except I had never had them prepared this way! So don’t ask me where this recipe came from — it’s a mystery to me, as most things are lately . . .
Just thinking of the remains of this dish sitting downstairs in the fridge right now is enough to make me drool. And during the preparation I had a extremely captive audience: One of my very close friends, Elsa, was mesmerized as I gathered the ingredients at Whole Foods like I knew exactly what I was doing, although at the time I still no clue that I was consciously aware of. All the same, one by one the components of this concoction made their way into the cart, ’til I was standing in the check-out line wondering “What on earth am I thinking? This is just like Italian pot roast but with short ribs, and thyme, and no wine, and — okay it’s exactly the same but totally different!!! And everything and nothing made sense, which is when I just accepted it: Here we go again off to the races as another groovy recipe forms in my fast-thinking yet always slightly off-kilter (and sometimes wildly-running) mind.
The first thing to remember with these cuts of meat, meaning anything on the tough side, is regarding what acid is going to do the tenderizing. In this case it’s the tomato’s acidity which will do the job, along with the long slow cooking process of braising which –very important!! — is always done in a real or make-shift dutch oven. Even before you get there, the washing and DRYING of the meat (before the flour and browning in oil) must be done in a very thick, heavy bottomed cast iron pan, for the proper color during browning. These first steps can make or break this meal, so be careful and really watch your heat levels during this portion of the cooking. Over-browning can result in a burnt taste which is not where this beautiful journey in culinary wonderland is going! So shall we? Let’s!!!

Short Ribs à la Jenni

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Get yourself:

4 lbs short ribs of beef (or 2 per person depending on size), washed and dried.

Flour seasoned with salt and pepper and paprika

Several tbs of olive oil in a heavy cast iron (or equivalent) pan (I used my beautiful Le Creuset, which was a present from my bro Bill and his wife Sharon!! Best pan I ever owned!!!
Flour and brown all ribs on all sides, in batches is usually best or they get over-crowded. Set them in a large pan lined with foil. In the same pan that you browned the ribs in add:

1 cup fennel bulbs (tops discarded or saved for a delicious addition to a stock pot!), chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup carrots, chopped
Saute for 5-10 minutes and add:

4 cloves garlic, minced

5-7 sprigs of thyme

2 large bay leaves

1 28 oz. can tomatoes (crushed)

2 -3 cups beef broth, the amount depending on how thick you want your mixture (remember it reduces and thickens during cooking)
Season with:

Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning

Goya Adobo Seasoning

Garlic salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Season TO TASTE, which (I’ll say it again) actually means TASTE IT!!! The broth can be salty and so can the canned tomatoes, so add seasoning carefully. Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer about 2-3 minutes to incorporate flavors. Spoon or ladle the veggie/liquid mixture over the ribs in the pan until the ribs are about halfway submerged in liquid. Cover tightly and bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, checking after about 2 hours for tenderness, and since you happen to be right there, spoon some liquid over the ribs!
After they are ready — I think the technical jargon is, fall-off-the-bone tender — which usually is right at 3 hours, remove from oven and place the ribs on a platter, discarding any stray bones, and use a large spoon or one of those handy-dandy fat separators, (the ones I always forget to buy before making this type of dish or at Thanksgiving for the turkey gravy!) to skim the fat from the veggie/liquid mixture. Once the fat has been removed and discarded, spoon the mixture over the ribs, cover loosely and put back in the now-turned-off oven until you are ready to serve them. These are so good I would highly recommend them for a change of pace holiday dish or any special event!!!

© Jennifer Green Alger 2010

And as always, enjoy!!!