Short Ribs: Our Eve of Christmas Eve Meal. Mid-Prep. Otherwise known as Act 1.5

So Matthew’s doing a brisket. And I’m up to something beefy, too. I’ve settled on our Christmas eve eve meal (that’s right, the eve of Christmas eve deserves it’s own special meal; we’re doing my quick Bolognese on the eve itself). And I’ve settled on short ribs. And these days, these days of short-rib ubiquity, you can’t just make any short ribs. So I’m in smack dab in the middle of a three day short rib braise. For the past 5 years or so I’ve been eating the short ribs on the menus of restaurants around the country, from the supposedly barolo-braised beef at Babbo in New York (actually braised in cheap California merlot according to Bill Buford’s book Heat) to the short ribs with horseradish cream at Lucques in L.A. (twice this week). 

Frankly, I’ve become a bit of a short rib snob. I’ve made Tom Colicchio’s ribs from Think Like a Chef a couple of times and am now doing his most obsessive version as outlined in The Craft of Cooking, the book of recipes from the most excellent restaurant Craft in New York. It’s a three day project which is the antithesis of convenience.

And my process-obsessed daughter (like father like daughter) is fascinated: fascinated by the fact that last night, as she slept, I scored the ingredients at a grocery store and started the marinade process (which involved browning the ribs and making a  complicated marinade of caramelized vegetables, a bottle of wine, and a ton of thyme). Fascinated that tonight I took the ribs (which had marinated in that winey liquid) and cooked them again in a more intense mess of yet-again cooked vegetables, reduced marinade and broth. She made me pick her up so she could see the vegetables sweating in the pan (that cracked her up. That term “sweating.” As it should have. I explained the difference between caramelization and sweating. Did she get it? Probably.

Main thing is she was curious. After a three hour low-simmer in the oven, I’ll cool them down for another night of resting, melding, settling of flavors. They’ll sit for two days in the fridge, upon which, on the eve of Christmas eve I’ll cook them for the last hour, glazing and basting them to a lacquered beefy perfection. When we eat—when we finally eat—they will be unlike any beef she’s ever eaten. Or so I anticipate. I’m invested in this slowest of slow foods. Will she appreciate it? Let’s see what she says. In two days. (The plan is: any leftovers will go into a a short rib agnolotti).  If it all goes well, I’ll share the recipe (which, I’ve modified a bit. Gilding the short rib, if you will). At this moment, the ribs are slow simmering, a bubble breaking the surface of the sauce here and there, the liquids reducing, the flavors intensifying, the house smelling like a home. The Gastrokid tasting panel (asleep snugly in their beds) awaits the final judging round. Still two days away.
—Hugh

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