Fine Cooking ran an interesting article about short ribs in its February March 2010 issue. It invited the reader to invent their own recipe for those wonderfully slow-cooked pieces of falling-off-the-bone meat. It gave options for the aromatics you use, with a range of spices and herbs and flavor boosters you chose to make your version. You then selected the deglazing liquid and the braising liquid itself. And finally, once the finished dish was ready, it recommended ‘finishes’ and garnishes. You can see for yourself in this clever interactive recipe builder at http://www.finecooking.com/articles/cyor/braised-short-ribs.aspx.
I know it’s almost time to put the Short Rib recipes away and get out the grill. But we still tucked into these ribs this past weekend and they were a big hit. I followed Fine Cooking’s inspirations and made a couple of additions and substitutions to create something “Tunisian”. I could have gone with a Red Wine Braise or made them Hunter Style or Tuscan, or Provencal or even South-Western but “Tunisian” sounded unlike anything I’d done before.
What constitutes Tunisian cuisine, from what I researched, is actually a polyglot of Mediterranean flavors. French, Spanish and Italian influences have joined traditional Tunisian recipes, many with Jewish roots, to create what gastronomy in Tunisia is today. What sets it apart from other North African food is its spiciness. I can’t say that this recipe is particularly spicy. I used Harissa sparingly. Harissa is essential to making the chili dip found on most Tunisian restaurant tables and as common as butter is here. What we have then is a ‘tagine’, a wonderful stew full of onions, carrots, star anise and cinnamon, prunes and crushed tomatoes. The most traditional side dish with these Ribs would be Coucous, the national dish of Tunisia.
I served them over Papardelle but good old mashed potatoes would be worthy match. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Tunisian Short Ribs
4 – 4 ½ lbs of English style beef short ribs. ( I use the boneless variety from Costco)
3 tbsp. Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper.
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 325 degrees. In a 8 quart Dutch Oven, heat 2 tbsp. Olive Oil over medium heat. Season the ribs generously with Salt and Pepper. Add the ribs to the pot in batches so that they do not touch. Cook until nicely browned on all sides about 3 to 4 minutes a side. Transfer the ribs to a platter and repeat until all ribs are browned. Pour off some, but not all, the fat.
1 cup of carrots, medium diced
1 cup of onions, medium diced
2. Add Onion and Carrots to the Dutch oven, adding another tablespoon of Olive Oil, if necessary. Season with ½ tsp. of Salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up the brown bits until the onions and carrots are soft and lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Then add the following:
2-3 whole Star Anise
2 whole Cinnamon Sticks
1 cup of Sunsweet Pitted Prunes (Dried Plums) coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. Harissa paste (Optional)
1 tbsp. Garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Ginger, finely chopped
3. Cook, stirring until well distributed and fragrant, about 1 minute.
½ Cup Dry Red Wine
4. Deglaze the pot with Red Wine, scraping up any brown bits and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tbsps. About 2 minutes.
¼ cup Soy Sauce
1 15 ½ can of Crushed Tomatoes
1 cup Dry Red Wine
1 cup of Chicken Broth
5. Transfer the ribs and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Using tongs, arrange the ribs as evenly as possible, no more than two layers deep. Pour the soy sauce, crushed tomatoes, red wine and chicken broth over the ribs. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the ribs with tongs, about every 40 minutes until the ribs are tender—about 2 ¾ hours. If your ribs have bones, the meat may fall off the bones but that does not mean the meat is done.
6. Transfer the ribs to a serving platter or dish. Let the sauce and solids sit in the pot a few minutes and then skim off as much fat as you can. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and then add a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Serve, garnishing the dish with mint leaves or parsley.