Noodling Around The Slow Cooker !
So every year in the fall and winter, the annual period designated for “comfort food”, I long for one of my favorites, Pappardelle with Short Ribs Sauce. This one says comfort to me every time with those double-wide noodles covered with the most tender of meats and one of the most divine sauces laced with a hearty vino rosso. The tender, melt-in-your-mouth short ribs are indeed the star here as they anchor the sauce with an intense depth of flavor as well as giving it a deep dark mahogany color which enshrouds the pasta in richness. A word about the pasta: With this recipe, I do recommend the use of Pappardelle pasta – a very wide noodle. It “takes” the sauce well and has so much body as to partner with it rather than just lay there. If Pappardelle is not available, Tagliatelle or Fettucine would stand in well here. You’d think after such a description that preparing this dish might be an arduous task – but it’s not. The required slow cooking offers a perfect opportunity to use that Crock Pot or Slow Cooker gathering dust in your cabinet. If you don’t have a Slow Cooker, I will also show you how easy it is to prepare in your oven.
I am the Queen of Nothing if not Multi-Tasking. If I can’t do at least three things at one time and be thinking about the fourth, it must be time wasted. I ponder what the most perfect cooking method might be for people like me who must keep all the balls in the air at one time – one that will allow me to produce a tender piece of meat while balancing the preparation of several other dishes. On the other hand, I propose that this method would indeed approach nirvana if I could also suggest it to the person who might not enjoy cooking at all and would rather be napping all afternoon- unconcerned about the value of managing any number of balls in the air at any given time. WOW – would that be perfection or what?
Well it may not quite be perfection, but it is one of the oldest and easiest cooking methods – BRAISING- and it is a great choice for Short Ribs. When I say old here, I am talking ancient. Braising is said to go all the way back to the soldier days of the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Li Shimin. For those of you, like me, who might not be up on just when “the Tangs” were tooling around China – it was around 618-907 – just a little before my time and not exactly recent history. So you get the idea – we/they have been Braising for a while now. What is Braising? It is the simple browning of meat in a little oil and then simmering slowly at a very low temperature in a covered container – Not exactly rocket science. We can do this! You can braise using a slow cooker or in the oven. (I will give you instructions to prepare today’s dish either way.) The best part is that you use less expensive cuts of meat which become extremely tender in the process. The long cooking time breaks down the meat tissue and thereby tenderizes it so that it literally falls off the bone. This method does not require a lot of attention, fuss, stirring or labor on the part of the cook. Are you beginning to love the idea of Braising?
So we are about to prepare an amazing dish sure to win the hearts of your family and which will be just as suitable for your next dinner extravaganza with several of your “peeps”. This is also a dish that is presently on the menus at the most “chichi”of Italian restaurants. You will be soooo cool! –All in the same afternoon, you will put your feet up and start that Swedish novel you have been putting off about girls with dragon tattoos, who kick hornets nests, while playing with fire. Aha! You, too, have become a multi tasker like me. Troppo Bella! With this post, we shall commune and form a support group with a Seven Step Program for Braising while preparing our Pappardelle With Short Ribs Sauce:
The Seven Steps
3. Saute Vegetables
4. Add liquid etc
6. Cook “endlessly” til tender
7. Nap/Book (Most important step – do not skip)
PAPPARDELLE WITH SHORT RIBS SAUCE
4 lb. (approx.) Beef Short Ribs
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
4 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely
1 large onion chopped
1 c. baby carrots chopped small
1 Stalk celery chopped small
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Zest of one large Orange
1 can (14 0z) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c. dry red wine
1 1/2 c. Beef Broth or stock
2 tsp Fresh Chopped Thyme
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano Cheese
Fresh Basil for garnish
Regardless of whether you are using a Slow Cooker or Oven Method you begin the same way. Season short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large pot add the olive oil and brown the short ribs on all sides – just a couple of minutes.
Remove them and set aside.
In the same pot, add garlic, onion, carrots, celery. Stir and cook for a minute.
Then add the tomato paste & orange zest and stir to incorporate.
SLOW COOKER METHOD:
Now pour all the ingredients from the pot to the Slow Cooker
Add the tomatoes.
Add the red wine.
Add the broth. Stir.
Add herbs and a little salt and pepper.
Add the short ribs into the Slow Cooker and stir a little to nestle the ribs and mix the ingredients.
Cook on LOW for 6-7 hours or on HIGH for 4 hours until meat is so tender that it falls from the bone.
After adding the orange zest and tomato paste, pour in the red wine and cook on Med. High while scraping bits up from bottom of pot.
Add the tomatoes, broth and herbs. Stir.
Add the short ribs back to the pot. Cover and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours until short ribs are tender and falling off the bone.
Regardless of which method you choose: Slow Cooker or Oven –After the ribs are cooked remove them from the pot/cooker and set aside.
Skim fat off the top with a large spoon and discard the fat. One easy way to do this is to refrigerate the sauce overnight. The next day the fat should be congealed and solid on top and easy to scrape off!
Sauce will appear thin. This is about to change! Using an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender or vitamix, blend until fairly smooth with just little bits left. Suddenly your sauce will appear thicker and velvety. Check for seasoning and add Kosher salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the meat from the bones – it should fall right off. Then shred with 2 forks pulling in opposite directions as I suggested in my post on Pork Ragu.
You can freeze both the sauce and the meat or part of it at this point and use it later if you like. This recipe makes a lot of sauce. You could easily get 2 dinners for 4 out of it.
Cook your pasta – add your sauce and meat to it and serve with grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese. Garnish with Fresh Basil.
With this dish – I love a nice Italian red – both in the sauce and at the table. I like Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo like Cantina Zaccagnini 2007. Both are very easy to find and will not break the bank!
As pasta meals go, you are gonna LOVE this one! Go on, have a bite!
Parla Come Mangi!
Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography