When I think of cooking beef short ribs my mind wanders back to New York, and cold nights spent indoors behind windows frosted with ice and snow. We would open a few bottles of wine – one for our glasses and one for the ribs – and chop some onions and carrots and celery while the ribs (usually eight of them) came to room temperature on a platter. After sprinkling them with generous amounts of salt and pepper I would brown the ribs in canola oil, a process I enjoy. I attempt to bring the same shade of color to each piece, to every side side of every rib. The scent that rises from the pan stimulates the senses, and the oil and fat left behind is the perfect medium for the vegetables. We removed the ribs from the pan, into which went the vegetables for five minutes or so, until the onions began to brown. If there was a can of tomato paste in the pantry I stirred a tablespoon or so of it into the vegetables, then added some flour (not much, perhaps two or three tablespoons).
Next came the wine, the entire bottle – I normally had a case of Protocolo Tinto (Dominio de Eguren) on hand, which when poured into the vegetables caused the kitchen to change. It became a warmer, more comforting place. The ribs then joined the mix, and we made sure that all of the juices that had accumulated on the platter also made it into the pan. The heat was raised to a boil, then we simmered everything until the wine was reduced by half, at which time two bay leaves and some sprigs of oregano, rosemary, and thyme took part, plus a head of garlic that had been cut in half. Hot beef stock, which surrounded the ribs, was the final touch.The oven, at 350°F, was where all of the magic took place. Into it went the covered pan – I used, and still use, a large French Dutch Oven – and we picked up our glasses and drank and let the heat and time do their work.
Back in the kitchen the meat is falling off the bones, the sauce is rich and flavors infused. Do I strain the stock? Yes. The polenta is being stirred, and I take pieces of the meat from the bones. The favas are in a skillet, with garlic and butter and a bit of olive oil. The snow is falling on Henry Street and the night stretches before us still.