Get Shorty

Braised Short Ribs with Gremolata and soft polenta
Who doesn't love a good comedy? And while I'd like to sit here all morning and rehash the plot of the 1990's movie, Get Shorty, I have more important things to write. Don't get me wrong, I love John Travolta as Chili Palmer and who better to play Shorty than Danny Devito? But, seriously, we need to talk about short ribs.

Over the last several years, short ribs have become a hot food trend appearing in everything from quesadillas to grilled cheese, and with good reason: when cooked properly, the meat is tender, rich, and well-flavored. However, short ribs are fatty and need a little extra special attention; you can't just braise them and spoon the sauce over the meat or you'll be overwhelmed by the grease and underwhelmed by the dish.

There are 3 cuts, or kinds, of short ribs: boneless, English cut, and flanken style. Most likely, you'll find the English cut in your grocery store. This cut has the meat on top and the bone underneath, but sometimes, there will be a thin cut of meat under the bone, too. When making short ribs, you want to get the English cut as the marrow and bone will flavor the cooking liquid and add to the richness of the finished dish. Boneless short ribs are excellent for a meaty ragu and flanken style short ribs are crosscut (with bones separating the meat) and are fabulous marinaded and grilled Korean style.

Here's something else to learn: if you don't see a particular cut at your butcher counter, you can special order--by the number. Interestingly, meat cuts vary in name, not just geographically, but sometimes even by store. If you're serious about getting the right cut of meat for your next recipe, visit the North American Meat Association website and sign up for access to their meat cuts guide. Then, the next time you're in the supermarket, you can saunter over to the butcher and order your meat by the number.

Until then, let's get shorty--ribs, that is...

Braised Short Ribs with Gremolata
6 meaty English cut short ribs
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 garlic toes, peeled, finely chopped
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry sherry (or red wine)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4-5 bunches of fresh thyme
2-3 bay leaves

Gremolata (recipe follows)

1. Pour flour onto a large, rimmed sheet pan and add the spices and seasonings; stir with a fork.
2. In a large frying pan, heat oil.
3. Dredge short ribs in the flour mixture and when the oil is hot, put the short ribs into the frying pan; don't overcrowd them; cook, browning all sides well. When ribs are browned, remove them to a plate.
4. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Add the onions, garlic and fennel and cook until the vegetables are soft and caramelized, stirring frequently.
5. Add the sherry, or red wine, and cook to reduce, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan--that's where all the flavor is hiding.
6. Add the tomatoes and  cook for 5 minutes.
7. Place short ribs, bone down, in a large baking dish and pour the vegetable/tomato mixture over the ribs, pushing the mixture down in between the ribs and around them.
8. Poke a few bay leaves into the mix and lay down the thyme sprigs.
9. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until the meat easily pulls from the bone.
10. Gently lift the ribs from the baking dish, leaving the vegetables that cling to the top. Pull the meat from the bone and place the rib into a smaller baking dish; continue with the rest of the ribs.
11. Drizzle the tops of the ribs with a really good balsamic or port vinegar (2 tablespoons) and sprinkle with coarse salt. Return to the oven for 20-30 minutes until the vinegar bakes into the meat; remove pan from the oven.
12. To serve, place short ribs on a plate with soft polenta or mashed potatoes and top with a generous scattering of the gremolata.

1 large bunch of parsley, washed, stems removed
2 toes of garlic
zest from 1-2 lemons

1. Chop parsley and garlic together until mixture is finely minced.
2. Add in lemon zest and salt.
3. Use immediately.


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