One of the positive side affects of a bar set high is that when you meet it, you feel heart-swellingly good about your self and about life. The weekend before last, I made a lamb ragú, the first of my recipes that Matt declared "Mozza-esque," and I almost cried. Last weekend I made short ribs, or what is called on the menu Beef Brasato, which means "braised" in Italian (but really I'm just guessing here). When I brought it into the restaurant for Matt to look and and taste, he said it was perfect and told me to take it to Nancy. I brought it to her behind the mozzarella bar where she was just starting Saturday night's service. "What did Matt say?" she said as she slid her fork into my plate of fork tender beef, glistening with braising juices and topped with a refreshing tangle of celery and parsley leaf salad. I told her he'd said they were perfect. "They are perfect," she said as she tasted them. "Have you ever made short ribs before?" I told her I had, once, but not like this. I now had a much deeper and more intricate understanding of short ribs. And what sat before me was much more refined than the stewy beef I'd made before, which was still delicious, but certainly not Mozza-esque. "You're like the girl in that movie," she said, referring to the Nora Ephron movie, Julia and Julia, which we went to see together. "You're going to cook your way from one end of this book to the other." Yeah, I guess I am... And I'm really loving the sense of accomplishment as I take the mystery out of each of these dishes and with my own words, and then my own hands, put it right on the plate. She looked straight at me then and asked: "Aren't you proud of yourself?" Well, yes, I said, actually, I am really proud of myself. And I was even prouder now knowing that she thought I had something to be proud of.
Sadly I can't give away recipes (you'll have to buy the book!) so here I have stolen a page from the book of one of Matt's mentors, Mario Batali. Mario serves his on pumpkin risotto, but unless you have that recipe--and feel like taking the time to make it, i suggest you serve it over creamy polenta. Borrow a page from Twist of the Wrist and use boxed instant polenta (not to be confused with the play-do stuff in the tubes). And if you have the book, make it Nancy's way, with milk and Parmesan, and infused with fresh thyme. Mario, we all know, is a great cook, so I trust this is good. That said, I didn't test this recipe. That''s what they call a disclaimer.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 short ribs (1 pound each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, cut up into big pieces
1 large Spanish onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, cut up into big pieces
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups red wine
1 cup chicken stock (or more as needed)
10 thyme sprigs
10 oregano sprigs
a few rosemary sprigs
Preheat the oven to 350.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven until it is almost smoking, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the short ribs generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Cook them to brown all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove the short ribs to a plate and add the carrots, onion, and celery to the pan you cooked the meat in. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly so it doesn't brown. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, chicken stock, and herbs and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat and return the short ribs to the pan, bone side down. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and then the lid, if it has one and place in the oven. Cook until the short ribs are fork tender and literally falling off the bones, 2 to 3 hours.
To make the gremolata, combine the leaves from 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, the zest of 2 lemons in a bowl. Grate 1/4 pound of fresh horseradish over the salad and toss again gently.
To serve, spoon the polenta (or whatever carb you are serving it on) onto four plates. Place a short rib onto each, drizzle with a spoonful of the pan juices, top with the gremolata, and serve.