Hey, y’all. This time of year feels like ocean living. Cool in the morning and at night, but so warm you have to peel your layers off in the sunshine of midday. The windows are open in our house, and there’s nothing like sleeping with a cool breeze flowing through the room. Well, it’s better if you’re by the actual ocean and can smell the sea, but I’ll take what I can get.
This past Sunday was a perfect day for the market.
and here’s what Mother Nature, and her farmer cohorts, had to offer:
late season tomatoes,
plenty of peppers,
green and purple beans,
(which turn green when you cook them),
leafy green bok choy,
and lots of winter squash. Definitely an “in between” summer and fall spread. We still have 9 more days until it’s officially autumn, but folks seem to have moved on already. I’ve been hearing talk of Halloween costumes…can we not rush it, please? Time passes fast enough on its own, geez!!!
In conjuring up a meal for this week, I wanted to truly be in this moment and incorporate Jackson Lowe’s late summer tomatoes, potatoes, and zephyr squash while highlighting the fall-forward kale. And I’ll admit, I had a hankering for a bowl full of warmth. I was craving the slow-cooked wonder of short ribs. My mom made a batch a few weeks back, and she was telling me all about how wonderful they were. I was soooo jealous. Too bad I couldn’t rationalize driving 11 hours for dinner at my mom’s house. Alas, I have been stalking short ribs in my mind- dreaming of their tender meat falling right off the bones. Rich and soft and savory. Boeuf bourguignon?? (asked in my best Julia Child voice) No, I’ve got a pretty good handle on that dish. I wanted to experiment, naturally.
Teetering on the edge of fall, but still embracing summer, I had this aha moment. Yes. A short rib stew.
The slow cooked meat I’d been longing for, with carrots and celery to soak up all of the flavor dripping from the fat, bolstered by local peppers, tomatoes and bright herbs, and a Vidalia onion. Mmm hmm, I wanted all of that. But I also chose to be deliberate about imparting freshness into my stew with some crisp-tender veggies that still had color and texture. I wanted my cake and eat it too…the best of both worlds. So, here it is, my friends.
It all starts with 3 – 4 pounds of short ribs. Take them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook, if you can.
Season them well with salt and pepper. Don’t be shy with that salt.
Heat a large skillet with a good layer of canola oil to medium high heat. When the pan is hot, place the ribs in there.
You want to hear sizzling that sounds like applause. If you don’t hear that sound when you put the first rib in the pan, pull it out real fast and allow the pan to actually get hot. It takes a few minutes per side to create a serious brown crust on the meat. Don’t move them all around, just let the heat do its work for several minutes, and then check one rib for caramelization. You’ll be able to see when they are ready to flip. They will look a lot like this:
While your meat is browning, you have time to do some slicing and dicing.
1 Vidalia or other yellow onion, sliced
2 bell peppers or an assortment of smaller peppers, diced
4- 5 carrots, cut in half longways
3 stalks celery, cut in thirds
5 or 6 cloves garlic, sliced
bundle of fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
handful fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, picked off the stems
2 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, skins peeled off, chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 a bottle of drinkable red wine
You’ll build a huge flavor base in your crock pot with your veggies.
Lay down your carrots and celery first. Then scatter your peppers all around. Season the lot with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle on your sliced garlic and parsley. Add your bay leaves and your bundle of thyme.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and use a paring knife to make a little X in the bottom of each of your tomatoes. Place them in the pot of boiling water and let ’em go for about 2 minutes. You will see the skin start to crack and peel. Remove them to a bowl of ice and water to cool.
Once you can handle them, pull the skins right off.
Chop those beauties up and set them in your crock pot on either side of your thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
Slice up those onions and open your bottle of wine!
If your short ribs are browned and you haven’t quite finished building the cradle of flavor, just set them on a plate to hang out. That’s what I did.
Lower the heat on your burner to medium and *this is important* carefully remove most of the grease from your pan. You can pour it off or spoon it out- either way, you only want a thin layer of oil in the bottom. Too much oil just makes for oily stew. Boo for oily stew.
Slide your onions into the pan and toss them around,
stirring up all those brownish black bits. Go ahead and add a pinch of salt here too, as it helps the onions to soften. After a couple minutes, pour in your wine.
Allow the wine to simmer and reduce for about 8 – 10 minutes.
Nestle your short ribs into the crock pot.
Resist the urge to start eating them now.
Once your wine has reduced and thickened, take your pan on over to the slow cooker and pour the contents on top of the meat.
Ah, yes!!! Now, set your crock pot to Low and go about your business. You will be teased and tormented by the smells emanating from that pot all day long. It’s almost unbearable. But, stick it out. You won’t be disappointed.
I let mine go for about 8 hours, but I think you’d be safe to open her up after 7.
Holy cow. Hahaha. Really.
Now, you could stop right here and call it dinner without any qualms. But, I wasn’t through with this dish yet.
Next, I pulled the ribs out of the slow cooker and separated the meat from the bones. I fished out the bay leaves and thyme as well. I set the carrots and celery aside.
Then, you can pour all of that glorious liquid with the melty onions, peppers, and garlic into a large pot or dutch oven on your stove and turn it to medium heat.
Go ahead and chop your carrots and celery into bite-sized chunks. The reason I left them so large in the slow cooker is so they wouldn’t turn to complete mush during their 8 hour sauna. Cover that dish with foil and move on to the fresh action.
To my pot of goodness, I added 2 Cups of chicken stock. Then, I chopped my potatoes into small cubes
and quickly added them to the pot as the liquid heated.
You know potatoes love salt, so add a few good pinches here, and pepper too.
Let those potatoes come up to a boil and simmer them over medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes before adding your kale.
I added mine too soon, underestimating how tender it was. If you have a thicker, heartier, more bitter kale, add it to the pot just about 5 minutes after your potatoes.
While the pot bubbles away, chop your zucchini or squash or any fresh, quick-cooking add-in you like. You could add broccoli or peas or even asparagus at the last minute.
I gave these guys about 3 minutes to soften once the potatoes were just right, before adding the meat, carrots, and celery back into the fray.
During that couple of minutes, I pulled the big hunks of fat and membrane away from the meat.
Last step, incorporate the slow cooked magic into the pot.
My land. Stir it all together and test for seasoning. And you are ready for a real treat.
Sprinkle a little fresh parsley and/ or thyme on top and get a big spoon. You don’t really need anything else. Well, my husband thought a little fresh baguette wouldn’t hurt, but what else is new? : )
Snuggling up with this bowl of goodness was a soul-warming experience. The slow cooked components satisfied that need for deep, full flavor. And the short ribs? Well, they are their own special brand of amazing. So rich and savory and tender. The caramelizing process in the very beginning made for a great texture on the edges of the meat- still recognizable after all those hours. I completely appreciated the crispness of the zucchini and potatoes in this stew. I am not a fan of a potato that’s been abused in a pot of soup or slow cooked meal. If I want a mushy potato, I’ll mash it! The broth was fully drenched in the flavor of slow cooked meat, vegetables and fresh tomatoes, and there was enough of it to create a little movement in my bowl. I’m obsessed with kale any way I can get it, so, even though I should have added mine a bit later in the process, it was still yummy and provided that special leafy green chew. My vision for a summer-into-fall bowl of soft paired with crisp, slow cooked paired with just-cooked-enough turned out swimmingly. Like, I would definitely swim through that bowl if the need should arise.
Alright, friends. I’ve got some work to do! I hope this post finds you happily enjoying this beautiful day. Maybe you’re ready to pull down your slow cooker too and start smelling up your house. Go to it. It’s time. But don’t shrug off these last summer days too soon. Soak up every last minute!!!
Happy cooking and eating to you,