When Fabulous People Are Coming to Dinner: Ina’s Beef Short Ribs

scott's short ribs ina garten

Fall Off the Bone Tender Goodness

I’m about to be butchered by Ina Garten lovers everywhere. So I’ll just start by saying, I love to cook her recipes and I even watch her show(s).

She makes her own chicken stock and never fails to mention it when including it in any recipe: “2 cups of home made chicken stock. It’s really the best.”

She grinds her own spices.

She uses only “really good olive oil”.

She grows her own herbs. “This is rosemary right from my garden.”

She’s a master of the kitchen and all things kitchen related.

That said….She’s a bit of a name dropper.

Each time I tune in she’s about to host a luncheon/dinner/beach party for every fabulous gay person east of Nassau County. I honestly think I recently I heard her say: “Truman Capote and Liberace are coming for lunch, so I’m making cornish game hens and apple turnovers.”

Or maybe it was more like: “Andy Warhol agreed to paint my hallway so I’m making him salmon with lentils!”

Ina garten short ribs jeffrey

Ah…Jeffrey

 And, then there’s Jeffrey. Jeffrey (for the non-Ina aficionado) is Ina’s husband. They’ve been married for like a gazillion years. Jeffrey works and lives in Manhattan Mon – Fri – venturing out to Ina’s Hampton’s home only on weekends. And, when he arrives, Ina kills the fatted calf – or in her case – chicken.

Friday shows always start something like: “It’s Friday and Jeffrey’s coming home from the City tonight so I’m making his favorite chicken. My perfect roasted whole chicken in fact.”

Ina gives the impression that Jeffrey is unable to do anything by himself – except live in NYC. So, Ina gets busy in the kitchen making all of Jeffrey’s favorite meals whenever she has to leave town. And, seriously, sometimes she’s planning to be gone for a just a few hours. “I’ve been invited to go skating with Brian Boitano tonight, so I’m making Jeffrey’s favorite cappuccino ice cream for him while I’m away.”

OK. I feel better. So, back to the fact that I love her recipes (‘How Easy Is that?”), I’ve made her Scott’s Short Ribs a half dozen times and they are easy and delicious.

Ina Garten’s Scott’s Short Ribs (Serves 8 – hers serves 6, but I was having 8 to dinner)

Important to note:

  1. The entire process of making this meal, including chopping…takes about 4 hours
  2. In a small apartment like mine…If you can close your bedroom and bathroom doors while the meat is in the oven…do it. The beefy winey aroma is lovely on the evening it’s made…Not so much the next day on your linens or towels
  3. There’s a bit of chopping…so, make Anne Burrell proud and mise en place if you can
ina garten short ribs mise en place

Pretty Mise En Place

Ingredients:

  • fennel whole foods vegetables

    This is Fennel I’m sure of it

    8 Beef Short Ribs, trimmed as best you can of the fat. Ina’s butcher does it for her…but that might not be what happens to you….or, me.

  • 1/4 Cup Good Olive Oil – whatever you do, do NOT use shitty olive oil! That would really piss Ina off!
  • 2 Medium Sized Onions Chopped
  • 4 Cups Large-Diced Celery – Ina says that’s 6 stalks, but only if the stalks are from her magical giant celery growing garden….It’s more like 10 stalks of celery
  • 2 Carrots peeled and large diced
  • 1 Small Fennel – fronds, stems and core removed and large diced
  • beef broth Whole Foods

    WF Owner is a Vegan, But this is good beef broth

    1 Leek, cleaned large diced, white part only – (to clean it best…chop and submerge pieces in ice water then fish out with a spider…the dirt/grit will fall to the bottom of the bowl)

  • 3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 750ml bottle of Burgundy or Pinot Noir or other dry red wine – plus 14 bottles for your thirsty friends who are coming to dinner
  • Fresh Rosemary – from your garden…Or, Whole Foods or other
  • Fresh Thyme Sprigs
  • 6 Cups of Beef Stock or Broth – I use the 365 Brand at Whole Foods and 6 Cups is a box and a half
  • 1 TBSP Brown Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper – Ina prefers Kosher Salt, of course

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

1. Place the short ribs on a sheet pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper

short ribs whole foods

Try to get the same size short ribs…

2. Put the ribs in the oven and roast undisturbed for :15 minutes (go to step 4) – remove from oven and set aside

3. Reduce heat to 300 degrees

4. While the ribs are roasting, heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven (I use my pretty blue Le Creuset, of course) over medium low heat

blue le creuset short ribs williams-sonoma

Pretty Blue Le Creuset

5. Add the onion, celery, carrots, fennel and leek and cook for about :20 minutes stirring occasionally

le creuset short ribs ina garten jeffrey

Vegetable Softening Nicely

6. After :20, add the garlic and cook for another :02 minutes – or until you can smell the garlic goodness

7. Pour the wine over the veggies and bring to a boil

ina garten short ribs add wine

I heart cooking with wine

8. Continue to cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by about 1/2

9. Add a TBSP of salt and 1 TSP of pepper

10. Make a bundle of several sprigs of rosemary and several sprigs of thyme and throw them in the pot

Herb Bundle

Herb Bundle of rosemary and thyme

11. Nestle the ribs into the winey vegetables and pour the beef broth over them – the ribs should be totally submerged

ina garten short ribs scott's

The beef ribs all nestled

ina garten short ribs 365 brand stock broth

And totally covered with broth

12. Throw in the brown sugar

13. Bring to a simmer over high heat….Once simmering, put the lid on the dutch oven and carefully put it into the oven for 2 hours. The meat will be very tender.

14. After 2 hours, remove the pot from the oven and the ribs from the pot. Set ribs aside keeping them warm if possible

scott's short ribs ina garten

Fall Off the Bone Tender Goodness

15. Discard the herbs and skim off the excess fat

16. Over medium, cook the vegetables and sauce for :20 minutes until reduced slightly

ina garten short ribs recipe

Ribs  and herb bundle removed- sauce a-simmer

17. Plate the ribs and pour some of the sauce and veggies over them

18. Plate the veggies separately

ina garten short ribs recipe veggies

Drunken veggies plated

19. Serve

20. Ask yourself: How easy is that?

This is a great meal for groups because it’s delicious and impressive. And also because all of the work will be done hours before your guests arrive.

But don’t even think of making the short ribs for Jeffrey and Ina on a friday. They’re having chicken with Jodie Foster and Neil Patrick Harris.

If At First You Don’t Succeed: Pie Pie Again

grey goose pie crust

Vodka Infused Pie Crust

Perhaps the only thing uglier than my handwriting, is my pie crust. So, don’t expect a lot of pictures in this one…

I watch a good number of cooking programs and am always in awe of the ease with which Ina or Giada or Melissa D’Arabian rolls out a perfect pie crust. ‘How Easy Is That?’ Ina always says as she places the perfect crust into the pie pan. Each of them assured me that making my own pie crust would be a much better option than buying a store bought one in my grocer’s freezer.

Challenge really is that I don’t like pie. I’m not a baker. I’m not a sweets eater or much of a fruit eater. I do, however, enjoy a good pie crust – it’s like bread, my favorite food group. During the holidays, I’m the person who picks around the apples in the apple pie and dips pieces of crust into the gooey filling. I’m the person who sneaks into the kitchen and pulls a piece of the crust off of a cooling pie.

But, I’m up for the challenge. And, so I spent some time researching the perfect pie crust recipes.

This is a combination of a few recipes that I found online. And, it really wasn’t hard…until I had to roll it out and carefully place it into my makeshift pie pan – this is where I had to Pie Pie again.

Perfect Pie Crust (makes 2 crusts – theoretically for the top and bottom of a pie…or, in my case, one for the bottom of an open-faced pie, one for ‘practice’)

Ingredients:

  • Grey Goose Vodka infused pie crust

    Yay! Vodka!

    2 1/2 Cups Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour

  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 2 TBSP Sugar
  • 12 TBSPs Cold Butter – cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Vegetable Shortening – cut into 4-6 pieces
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Vodka (Yay! Vodka! I don’t drink it anymore – that’s another story –  and it evaporates – so this is AOK for all)
  • 1/2 Cup cold water
vodka infused pie crust

Butter Makes it Better

1. Take the butter and cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Cover and put into the freezer for :10mins or into the fridge for :30 mins

2. Measure out the food shortening (I used Crisco…is there another kind?). And place into the freezer for :10mins or the fridge for :30 mins

3. In the bowl of a food processor, Pulse 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and all of the sugar until combined – about two quick pulses

vodka infused pie crust

I heart my Cuisinart

4. Add the butter and shortening and process until a dough begins to form and cottage cheese looking curds appear

vodka infused pie crust

Food Shortening Kinda Grosses Me Out

5. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour – pulse just until the mass of dough has been broken up

6. Empty the mixture into a bowl

7. Sprinkle the water and the vodka – I used Grey Goose, cuz that’s what someone recently brought over

vodka infused pie crust

Pie Crust Gets Drunk

8. Use a spatula to carefully fold the water and vodka into the dough until both are completely absorbed. Don’t over mix!

vodka infused pie crust

Carefully fold in the booze and water

9. It’ll be super tacky…Divide the drunken dough in two, make two balls of dough, flatten each and wrap each in plastic

10. Put the flattened balls of drunken dough into the fridge for at least an hour and up to 2 days

Baking the Pie Crust for an open faced savory pie:

Here’s where my creative abilities were truly challenged…and, I lost.

OK, I don’t like sweet pie, so decided to make an open-faced veggie filled pie for my vegetarian friends who came to dinner last night. Luckily, that meant I only needed one of the pie balls. Good news, because I failed the first time I tried the following:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees (that part I did perfectly!)

1. Remove one of the drunken pie balls (sounds dirty, isn’t) from the fridge and allow to warm up for a few minutes – not too long, just until the dough can be safely rolled out

2. Place one ball on a large piece of Saran wrap dusted generously with flour

grey goose infused pie crust

Still Hopeful At this Point

3. Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of the pie dough

4. Roll the pie dough through the parchment paper into a circle large enough to line the pie pan. I don’t have a pie pan…and really don’t need one…so I improvised with my round glass baking dish.

5. Try to carefully place the rolled dough into the makeshift pie pan. FAIL horribly. Mold that dough back into a ball, cover in Saran Wrap and put back in the fridge

6. Pie Pie again….Remove ball #2 from the fridge and repeat steps 1 – 4: This time, carefully roll the rolled out dough onto a heavily floured rolling pin and unfurl the dough from the rolling pin gently into the makeshift baking dish – much better

7. Cover the baking dish (or pie pan) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour

Shop online, clean the apartment…whatever

8. Remove from the fridge, cover the dough completely with parchment paper

Ceramic pie weights

I bought pie weights!

9. Place pie weights into the base of the pie dough and ‘blind bake’ for :20 minutes. You can apparently also use dried beans as pie weights…but, I don’t have a giant bag of dried beans (small apartment, remember?)

9. After :20 minutes in the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper, pierce the bottom of the pie crust with a fork – like a whole bunch of times to keep the pie crust from puffing – and bake for another :05 – :10 minutes until the crust is a light golden brown

reynold's wrap drunken pie crust

Not Pretty, But Delicious!

10. In the second baking, I foil wrapped the edges of the pie crust to keep them from burning

And….your drunken crust is prepared for filling!

I gotta say, the pie crust was delicious – light, flaky, no vodka taste. It provided the perfect vessel for an open-faced veggie pie. (recipe tomorrow)

Of course it wasn’t as easy as Ina had assured me. But, thank goodness for a do-over…Cuz, in this case, after a first fail, I had to Pie Pie again…

Little Lies, Illusions and A Succulent Pot Roast

Pot Roast Plated and Ready

A good friend’s mother told him once that if he didn’t have time to clean his apartment before people were coming over, he could just use lower wattage light bulbs. In the dimness, guests would miss the dirt and dust. Makes sense to me.

Spanx

Little lies, illusions and cover ups surround us every day. I used to work for a shapewear company and our motto was always ‘fake it til you make it’.

I mean do you really think all those celebrities are cellulite-free? No. No they are not.

And the regular people? We’re all frantically double-Spanxing just to keep up. (note: I can’t believe that ‘Spanxing’ just passed my spell check!)

It’s cold out and slow cooker season is officially on. With the slow cooker, comes so many illusions. As prep is generally pretty easy and results are more than always pretty good – it can trick your guests into believing that you are a fabulous cook. They will think that you slaved for hours over the meal. That you reinvented cooking. You may literally change the way they see less expensive giant meats.

Annie’s Choice

I don’t have a slow cooker anymore – too big for small living. And when confronted with a Sophie’s Choice between my Le Creuset large dutch oven and the All-Clad Slow Cooker, I had to let the slow cooker go.

No worries. The dutch oven works just as well if not better.

So, it’s really slow and low cooking season at my place. And, last night I teased my neighbors with the warm wafting aromas of beef and herbs – providing the illusion that I was an amazingly fabulous chef, hostess and meat miracle worker.

Slow and Low Cooking Pot Roast (Serves 6)

Ina Garten-style with a few tweaks (some on purpose, some by accident and some because I had amnesia at Whole Foods)

Honestly, this is all about the prep…

1. Go to Whole Foods or similar and buy a giant, inexpensive piece of meat – 4-5lb boneless beef chuck roast. Ask the butcher to tie it as this will help keep it together during the slow roast. My butcher did this string pattern with just one piece of string!

Giant Meat from Whole Foods – Perfectly Tied

2. Mise en place your veggies:

Veggie Mise En Place to Make Anne Burrell Proud

  • 3 cups of leeks – it’s supposed to be just two but I forgot to buy onions so I increased the leeks
  • 2 cups chopped carrots – about 5 carrots
  • 2 cups chopped celery – about 4 stalks
  • 2/3 of a single onion chopped – because that’s all I had in my fridge
  • NOTE: these are going to be pureed, so don’t kill yourself chopping. Just try for somewhat similar size across all veggies.

3. Smash up 4 garlic cloves – Ina uses 5, but I was hesitant to do so. Would have been fine in the end

4. Mise en place your Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I didn’t do this, and it would have been real smart if I had. Put a teaspoon measure by them

5. Bundle 3 branches of fresh rosemary with 4-5 branches of fresh thyme

Herb Bundle

Muir Glen Tomato Puree

6. Open a 28oz can of tomato puree. The Muir Glen was on sale yesterday at Whole Foods – Yay!

7. Pour 2 cups of good red wine into a measuring cup. Ina uses Burgandy, I had some really good Montepulciano – 2 cups for the roast, 1 glass for me

8. Pour out 1 cup of chicken stock and open up a Knorr’s chicken bouillon cube

‘Cooking’ Cognac

9. Pour out 2 tbsp of either Cognac or Brandy. I had a pretty good cognac on hand – but that’s a story for another time

OK. That was the hardest part.

Pre-Heat oven to 325 degrees

10. Generously salt and pepper the giant meat on all sides and then dredge in flour. Ina uses a lot of salt (1 tbsp) I might use a little less next time.

11. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over med / high heat and sear the meat on all sides. Once seared (about 4 mins on each side) remove the meat and put on a plate

Searing the Giant Meat

12. Turn the heat down to medium – Add 2 more tbsp of olive oil to the pot and stir in all of the vegetables and smashed garlic. Add in 1 tbsp of salt and 1 1/2 tsp of pepper.

Cook over medium heat until tender – about :10 mins

Simmering Veggies Pre-Booze

13. Add the wine and cognac and bring to a boil

14. Once boiling, add in the pureed tomatoes, the chicken stock and the bouillon cube. Ina then adds 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper…I’d skip the salt here as mine turned out pretty salty.

15. Throw the Thyme/Rosemary bundle in there and then add in the Giant Meat and bring to a boil. Cover and put into the oven.

Sauce Smothered Meat Oven-Ready

16. Bake for 1 hour and then turn heat down to 250 degrees and cook for an additional :90 minutes

17. Remove from the oven and take the roast out and put onto a carving board

18. Carefully ladle some of the veggies and sauce into a blender or Cuisinart and puree. CAUTION: allow to cool a bit before blending or it will blow the lid off of the blender. Just sayin’. Puree in batches until you have enough sauce.

NOTE: I didn’t puree the entire pot of goodness – didn’t need that much.

Veggie Booze and Sauce Puree

Also – Ina puts the puree back on the stove and does some magical adding of flour and butter here, but, really, you don’t need it. The pureed veggies and booze make a lovely sauce all on their own.

19. Slice the roast and serve over egg noodles covered with the sauce and some chopped parsley

In an apartment, aromas seep into hallways from everyone’s home. Some better than others. Slow cooking takes the aroma flow to a new level as the scents of deliciousness flow out of my kitchen for hours.

Last night even the doormen 14 floors below had heard from my neighbors that ‘Annie was cooking something amazing smelling all day’. Ah, but ‘all day’ in this case is really the illusion. For with very little work, you can produce an amazingly succulently, moist pot roast.

But, don’t tell anyone.

Lessons Learned: Fry Failure and what kind of roach I would eat.

I believe strongly that I could eat anything if it was fried. After Titanic first came out in November of 1997 catapulting Leonardo DiCaprio to super stardom and teen heartthrob status, I was speaking with a sales guy from the now defunct magazine Teen People. Teen People put Leonardo DiCaprio on the cover for its debut issue in May of 1998 and immediately sold out at newsstand. I believe they even reprinted twice – unheard of for magazines even then. While the sales guy was happy to tell me that the magazine was amazing and far exceeded expectations, he was honest enough to tell me that at the time he could have put a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on the back of a roach and sold it for $100.

I feel about fried food the way that teenagers felt about Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack in Titanic. And I totally understood his roach example. I hate bugs. All bugs. I even hate butterflies (let’s be honest, they’re really just dressed up moths) and I even hate Lady Bugs. I do not discriminate based on appearance. I just hate all bugs. BUT, I honestly believe that I could eat a roach…if I deep fried it. Seriously.

So the fact that I had never – until yesterday – made fried chicken, amazes me. There are some things about frying that make it a challenge…I live in a small apartment with a very sensitive smoke detector that screeches ‘There is a fire! There is a fire!’ when set off. My neighbors are somewhat used to this, but I don’t want to push it. And…the apartment sort of smells like fried after fying – go figure.

When I visit people with larger kitchens and a good cross draft, however, I try to fry at least one thing. Yesterday it was Ina Garten’s Oven-Fried Chicken. But, I must admit…not my best effort…

Here are the directions and my notes that might help should you give this recipe a go:

1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour 1 quart buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

NOTE: Ina uses two whole chickens each cut into 8 pieces. I bought 4 thighs, 4 legs and 2 breasts w/rib meat at the Kroger – not expensive and easier – I’m not a butcher!

2.  The next day…….Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper in a large bowl.

NOTE: When I tasted the finished product, I thought this was too salty – which I NEVER say – and also I added a pinch of Paprika – because the Neelys add ‘pap-a-rika’ and I like the Neelys…I don’t like a lot of heat, but the pinch was just right for a little southern kick. I mean, it’s fried chicken!

4. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture.

NOTE: If at all possible – do all of the chicken pieces in one step. In other words, if you have a large baking dish that can fit all of the flour mixture and all of the chicken, that would be best. Otherwise, if you dip in batches, the flour mixture gets all goopy and needs to be remixed. I know because it happened to me.

5. Pour vegetable oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

NOTE: you can use a pretty deep (3 inches or more) sauce pan safely.

6. Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don’t crowd the pieces.

NOTE: Unless you are magic, you must have a thermometer. I tried to do it without a thermometer – using some evaluating temp techniques – and just ended up disappointed in the first batch of chicken I dropped into the oil as the oil wasn’t hot enough and the chicken didn’t crisp up in 3 minutes. It absorbed too much oil and lost some of the coating. I served it anyway…but it wasn’t as pretty and had a bit of a flour taste to it.7. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan.

8. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. Repeat until all of the chicken is browned on both sides

9. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

THIS is where my improvising totally failed…don’t tell my brother, but he didn’t have a sheet pan, so I used a wire rack on a cookie sheet and during the baking process of the preparation, the oil from the chicken ended up dripping all over the bottom of his oven…oops! I know, totally stupid. But it’s what happened.

All in all – much learned and I look forward to visiting a larger kitchen again so that I can get a second go at this recipe. And, while the 2012 domestic release of Titanic 3D only ‘met expectations’, I hope that my Ina Garten’s Oven-Fried Chicken reboot will far exceed! Because if I ever need to eat a roach, I want to make sure it’s fried to perfection.