We are readying ourselves for the cold winter months ahead. Hopefully, they will bring snow for ski areas, snowmobilers and snowshoers to enjoy the outdoor endeavors they look forward to each season.

They are good activities for the body and soul. But, for the cook, nothing is as comforting as spending a day in the kitchen. The warmth of the stove while preparing the favorite foods of family and friends is a perfect foil to the blustery weather outside. It is better than a warm fuzzy blanket.

Give yourself a day in December - I know it is hard to find - to spend in the kitchen making a long-cooked dish to for those ‘active’ folks coming in for dinner. Braising is a great way to cook a dish that scents the house and creates a comfort food that is hard to beat. It is simple and will even give you time to make all the side dishes or dessert while the entrée is cooking.

Sounds like FUN to me.

Braising Notes:

Braising is a moist cooking process that will tame even the toughest cut of meat. These cuts tend to be less expensive – a bonus for the cook.

You can use a slow cooker or braise in the oven, but I think the true braising method on top of the stove produces a far superior product. Both the crock pot or oven tend to steam the food, whereas braising on top of the stove creates a flavor enhancing reduction of the sauce that cannot be duplicated. However, for short ribs I do use the oven method so the ribs do not fall apart when you stir them.

Cuts of meat recommended for braising are:

Beef: pot roasts, briskets, short ribs and shanks etc.…

Veal and Lamb: Shanks, blade roast and shoulders etc.…

Pork: picnics, ribs and hocks etc.…

Poultry: Legs and thighs of chicken, turkey, duck and pheasant.

You can also braise certain vegetables, just remember they take considerably less time. Leeks and endive are two vegetables most commonly braised.

Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine

Short Ribs are one of my favorite foods to braise – the gravy they create is magnificent and the fall off the bone meat is simply one of best things you can imagine eating. Served with mashed potatoes and a tossed salad it is hard to beat on a winter day. If you use non-gluten flour for browning – this recipe is a great one to serve to gluten-free guests.

  • 6 lbs. well marbled bone-in short ribs
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper – fresh ground if you have it
  • 1 cup all-purpose or non-gluten flour
  • Olive oil – or other vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 onions – peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 8 large carrots – chopped
  • 4 celery stalks chopped
  • 2 bunches of scallions – chopped
  • 10 whole garlic cloves – peeled and cloves kept whole
  • 1 ten ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups red wine – doesn’t have to be expensive but should be drinkable
  • 3 cups beef broth – canned or boxed is fine
  • Corn starch (if needed)

Mix the chopped onions, carrots, celery and scallions together in a bowl and divide in half. Set aside half of them. You will be using half of them at the start of the cooking and saving the other half for the end of cooking.

Rub the ribs with a little salt to roughen up the outside. Roll each one in flour seasoned (you can use non-gluten flour if you wish) with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-duty soup pot or Dutch oven, heat ¼ cup olive oil and all the whole garlic cloves and brown the ribs on all sides. You will probably have to do this in batches to make sure you get a good sear on both sides. Remove the ribs.

Pour off most of the remaining fat, leaving all the browned bits in the pot. Add half of the vegetables and cook on medium heat with the garlic cloves until vegetables are softened but not browned – about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook another few minutes until it has reduced a bit. Add the red wine and using a wooden spoon scrape up any browned or caramelized bits. Simmer a few minutes to reduce the liquid.

Add the beef broth, thyme, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The ribs should be just barely covered with the liquid in the pot at this point – remember you are not making soup. If you don’t have enough liquid just add some more wine or beef broth.

Bring to a real low simmer and cook for a few minutes more.

Usually when I braise a dish, I cook it all on the stove-top, but since you have to keep stirring the pot with this method, the short ribs tend to fall apart. We want to avoid this.

Cover the pot and put in a 275-degree oven until the ribs are totally tender and fall off the bone. This should take about 4 hours.

At this point you can put your feet up and read a good book, make a dessert or an hors d’oeuvre platter or even set the table.

Check the ribs for doneness at about 3½ hours. Then when they are fall off the bone tender take them gently take the ribs out of the pot – trying to keep them whole. Put them in an oven-proof serving dish. Cover them. Take out the bay leaf and skim as much fat as you can from the top of sauce. Add the other half of the peeled vegetables you have been saving along with the scallions and parsley and cook on medium high heat until they are cooked. If you need more liquid add more wine or broth.

If the vegetables and sauce is a little watery – you can mix two tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of water or stock into the sauce and cook for a moment until it thickens.

Pour the sauce over the ribs you have set aside and put them in the oven for a short time right before service.

Serve them with mashed potatoes and a fresh tossed salad.