The Hundred Dollar Dinner Experiment

I really did NOT expect dinner to cost this much, especially for an experimental dinner based on ideas I’d cobbled together from recipes across the internet and television. Yet there I stood in shock, reading the receipt from the grocery store after Dana had picked up the bits necessary for what I had planned to cook.

Ever since seeing an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain had dinner with a family in Italy, eating a traditional, slow cooked Ragu, I’d been wanting to try one of my own. I’m not new to slow cooker recipes, nor to day long cooking adventures, but this one was new to me. It’s not chili, it’s not camp stew. It’s not a set and forget pot roast or chicken and dumplings. No, this is a couple hours of preparation followed by several hours more cooking in a large pot. This is a meal that will be hearty, flavorful and long lasting. Heaven on a bed of noodles, full of meaty, saucy goodness.

It starts out with the ingredients:

  • 3.5 – 4 lbs Beef Short Ribs
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • fresh basil
  • fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 4 small carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 can whole fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato puree (passata)
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup Ruby Port
  • 2 cups Italian Red
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp bacon grease or lard

Preheat the crock pot on high, then begin…
Start by liberally seasoning the short ribs with salt and pepper. I prefer fresh ground pepper and rose salt from a mill, but season to your liking. Next, melt the bacon grease in a skillet on high heat. I use an iron skillet for this because it retains heat very well while dispersing it evenly without any real hotspots. Once the grease is flowing and slightly smoking, put the ribs in nad brown each side. You may need to do this in batches, but as each piece of meat is done browning on the sides, put them aside on a plate or in a bowl.

While browning the ribs, go ahead and dice the carrots, celery, onions, scallions and shallots. Peel each piece of garlic from the garlic head and chop them coarsely. Once you’ve finished browning the meat and have set the ribs aside to rest, reduce heat to low and add the garlic.

Sautee the garlic until it starts to brown slightly, then add the rest of the chopped veggies, a little at a time. Once you’ve got them in (again, due to quantity, you may need to do this in batches) cook the veggies until the soften. Once the onion has become translucent, start checking the chunks of carrot. When the carrots have softened, it’s time to put the veggies, grease and all into the heated crock pot.

Add the flour and stir well, then add in the wine and beef stock. Mix this and add the tomatoes and passata, again stir to mix everything evenly.

Put the bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil and parsley into the pot and mix well. Some prefer to just add whole sprigs and remove them, personally, I chopped everything but the bay leaves., I like fresh herbs in my sauces. mix well and then put the beef ribs into the pot, making sure they are completely submerged.

Most people say cook on low for 8 hours, I cooked on High for 8 hours. The goal is to cook the beef until it shreds easily and falls off the bones, and reduce the liquid so you get a rich, hearty sauce. Also, now is a great time to start finishing off that bottle of wine. Since the sauce uses a full 2 cups, that’s about half the bottle. So enjoy the rest while you wait.

Once the meat is ready (it shreds easily), remove the ribs. Pull the meat from the bones and discard the bones. Shred the meat with forks and set aside. Using a masher (or if preferred, a hand blender) blend the sauce in the crock pot until it’s fairly smooth. Chunky is fine, it’s all up to preference. You’ll also need to decide if the sauce has the right consistency for you now. If it’s fine, then add the meat back in, stir and start cooking noodles. If you prefer the sauce to be thicker, you may want to pour the sauce up in a pot and reduce it until it’s thicker.

Serve over a bed of flat noodles. I’m fond of egg noodles, so that’s what I used, but any thin, flat noodles should work well. Garnish with fresh peccorino or reggiano cheese.

We did this last night and it came out really well. The left-overs should be even better, having had time for the flavors to blend more over-night in the fridge.

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