Sunday, December 16, 2012

Braised and Pulled Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce

It seems that no longer how low and slow you cook short ribs, there are always some left over fatty pieces where the fat just won't render.  After trying numerous recipes, I finally came up with my own where after braising for a long time, I remove the ribs and pull them just like you would with pulled pork or brisket and then return them to the dutch oven.  It results in an absolutely delicious stew like dish that pairs beautifully with a hearty red like Cabernet Sauvignon or a meaty Syrah.  Here how to make it:

5 lbs short ribs
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 celery stalks chopped
3 medium onions chopped
5 medium carrots very coarsely chopped (these will be reserved in the ribs)
1 whole head garlic sliced in half so that each clove is divided in two
1 bottle of decent, dry red wine (if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it!)
32 oz beef stock
sea salt
black pepper
8 sprigs fresh thyme
8 sprigs fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh oregano
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons flour
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large dutch oven (preferably cast iron), heat the olive oil over medium high heat on the stovetop.  Once hot, add half of the short ribs and brown for about 2 to 3 minutes a side on all 6 sides, and salt and pepper each side as you go.  Once done set aside to a plate and repeat with the remaining ribs and then add those to the plate.  Add the celery, onions, and carrots to the dutch oven and cook for about 5 minutes until vegetables start to soften a bit.  Add the flour and tomato paste and stir in for a minute or two to coat all the vegetables.  Next, add the red wine, bring to a boil and scrape the pan bottom as you go to make sure to deglaze the pan.  Once the red wine is boiling, add all the herbs and the garlic and then add the beef broth and return to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Cover the dutch oven and transfer to oven and cook for 2.5 hours.  Remove the short ribs from the dutch oven and set aside on a warm plate.  Strain all the liquid and reserve the carrots and return to the liquid and then discard any other solids and return the liquid to the dutch oven.  Use a fork to pull the short ribs and then return to the dutch oven.  Heat liquid and pulled ribs over medium heat on the stove top for an additional 30 to 45 minutes until the liquid thickens nicely and any remaining fat renders.  Remove from heat and let the pot rest for 5 to 10 minutes and then spoon off any fat that has settled at the top and its ready to serve.

This works very nicely over orzo, polenta or even mashed potatoes.  This is a fantastic meal for a cold winter day and all that time it spends cooking makes your whole house smell great.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

2009 Penalolen Cabernet Sauvignon

If there were an award for of unsung hero of the world of wine regions, I think I would have to give my vote to Chile.  They don't have the mass appeal that their neighbor Argentina has, nor do they have a signature varietal or blend that so many regions have.  At the bricks and mortar retail shops, they tend to get lumped in with either Argentina and/or Spain, and there is no good reason for that.  Aside from the fact that the grapes are grown in a Spanish speaking country, there is really no relation at all between Chilean and Spanish wines, and very little commonality between Chilean and Argentine wines.  Unfortunately, I think Chilean wine tends to be lost or forgotten  because of this.

Chile produces a number of varietals in varied regions and terroirs, but for me the most interesting is Cabernet Sauvignon.  Good Chilean Cab has distinct elements that just taste like Chile and are pretty consistent.  The key one being a fresh, earthy element that adds a level of interest that most California Cabs in lower price ranges don't have.  The earthy element is fresh and clean, which is different from the almost dirty, dusty earth that I get from Bordeaux.  The best thing about Chilean Cabs is that you get a lot of value for your dollar.  For me, most Bordeaux and California Cabernet in the high teens and low $20s is somewhere between bad and boring, and in the same price range, Chile is producing very good and very interesting Cabernets. 

Today's subject is a Cabernet from the Maipo Valley in Chile.  The 2009 Penalolen Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep red in color.  Cassis dominates the nose along with notes of black raspberry.  Underneath the fruit there is an herbal element that is mostly sage, and there is, of course, that classic Chilean fresh earth.  In your mouth, you get more black fruit along with a smoky and spicy element that reminded me a bit of smoked Spanish paprika.  The tannins are very nice, and the finish is subtle but rather long.  Overall, this is a very nice Cabernet that can be had for under $20. 

Pair this with traditional South American fare and you can't go wrong.  We had it with grilled skirt steak with a chimichurri sauce, and it paired beautifully.  So go to your local wine store and seek out some Chilean wines wherever they might be hiding them.  You won't be disappointed.   



Sunday, December 2, 2012

2008 Vinarija Dingac Postup

A few weeks ago I tasted an wrote about my first Croatian wine, the Frano Milos Plavac  I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of that wine and wondered if it was just one good wine, or if there was something to the relatively unknown wine regions of Croatia.  Since then, I tried a few more Croatian reds from producers like Bibich and Dingac, and I'm here to say that Croatia wine is the real deal.  The wines are unique and interesting with definite terroir, and there are some winemakers who know what they're doing.  If you want to try some Croatian wine, like the Vinarija Dingac Postup that is today's subject, you can order them online at

The 2008 Vinarija Dingac Postup is an almost brownish brick red in your glass.  The nose brings very nice red berry fruit that is dominated by the distinct smell of fresh, homemade strawberry jam.  Underneath the fruit, there is a really nice element of fresh herbs that is reminiscent of the garrigue that comes through in wines from the Rhone Valley.  Smelling the rosemary and thyme made me want to go the garden and cut some fresh herbs to cook with.  In your mouth, some really interesting things happen with this wine that is made from 100% Plavac Mali grapes.  The red berry fruit from the nose still comes through, but it is much more of a background player.  When first opened, the wine is almost overwhelmed by flavors of wet rocks.  There is also a nice spicy element on the mid palate and then the stony tannins and decent acidity give the wine a subtle but rather long finish.  Its also important to note that this wine changed quite a bit over the 90 minutes or so that we drank it.  The gravelly element that was so strong when first opened, really calmed down after about an hour and was replaced with some more spice and subtle notes of sour cherry. 

Overall, this was a really good and very interesting wine that retails in the mid $20s.  Its very food friendly and versatile.  It would be perfect with cured meats and cheese, or with slow cooked meats like braised short ribs.  I also think its medium body and flavors would go well with pork.  If you can find some, give a Croatian Plavac Mali a try.  You won't be disappointed.