Thursday, January 31, 2013

Veal Short Ribs alla Marsala adapted from Chef Michael Ponzio. And my first encounter with Fresh Direct

Chef Michael Ponzio of Chicago's
Rosebud on Rush
         When I saw a special for Veal Short Ribs at 4.99 a lb, it was like discovering a new protein!  I’d never even heard of the cut and never seen it on a restaurant menu.  I couldn’t wait to try them.  In searching around for the perfect recipe for them, I quickly discovered that a sizeable number of cooks just switch out beef short ribs for veal and call it a day.  The recipes were all standard short ribs recipes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  In frigid New York, Andrew and I had stopped in at Epicerie Boulud (1900 Broadway NY NY) this weekend and Andrew had a bowl of Short Rib Chili which he pronounced delicious.  But when you discover something as auspicious as a new protein, surely you want a recipe created just for Veal.  I stumbled across one.  It was from Chef Michael Ponzio whose cooking is done at “Rosebud on Rush”, a venerable Chicago restaurant at 720 N. Rush St. (at Superior St.) Chicago, IL 60611 Tel: 312-266-6444.  Though Chef Ponzio’s recipe is nowhere to be found on the restaurant’s current menu, there were enough dishes on it to know the man knows his way around a piece of Veal. So I set out to make my first Veal Short Ribs.  But how I got the ribs in the first place is worth telling. 

         As a lot my readers know, Andrew and I cook for a homeless shelter as part of my Episcopal Church’s Community Outreach.  I am always looking for ways to save money doing so.  Recently, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse.  It was from Fresh Direct, an on-line grocer that’s just a little over 10 years old and delivers food all over New York and into Connecticut and New Jersey.  Judging from the number of Fresh Direct boxes that I see being delivered daily to our apartment building, I may be the last to try it.  The offer was for $50.00 off $125.00 worth of groceries.   I am a true New York shopper. My day would not be complete without a food store visit. Buying $125.00 worth of groceries outside of a Costco run, is pretty well un-heard-of.  But I was mightily pleased with Fresh Direct’s prices: $5.99 for Chuck Roast which I’d seen at Fairway for $8.99.  A special on Hangar Steak at $5.99 a lb., a Pork Shoulder at $1.89 lb, and triumphantly, my Veal Short Ribs at $4.99 lb.  Less awesome was Italian sausage at $5.49 a lb. and boneless, skinless Chicken thighs @ $ 2.99 lb. Celery at $3.99 was no bargain but because of the cold snap in California, hard to come by at the moment in New York.  But the Italian parsley at $1.49 for a huge bunch was a bargain, the OJ, Organic Baby Lettuce, Grape Tomatoes and Parsnips were all priced just like Fairway without the schlepp from the store.  And the delivery charge?  .01 for a 2 month trial.  Plus $3.00 tip to the delivery man who had everything at our door by 8:00 in the morning.  I was impressed.  I put the $50.00 savings toward the Shelter Dinner and have meat for a week, at least. I still have another $50.00 credit and that .01 delivery fee for another two months so I will be back. Good job Fresh Direct.
         While I got my Veal Short Ribs from Fresh Direct, you can call your butcher and order them in advance from him. The Veal recipe I chose is a riff on an Italian classic.  Vitello alla Marsala is a Red Sauce Italian Restaurant standby.  The recipe involves Veal cutlets in a sauce that pretty much mirrors what Chef Ponzio put together for his short ribs.  But lately, my adventures with veal cutlets haven’t produced a thing worth sharing with you.  It struck me that the fatty nature of the ribs would be much more forgiving that those tough little slabs of veal had been.  The other secret to success is the Marsala you choose.  I pulled the bottle I had out of its hiding place only to discover that the 750 ml bottle had cost $5.00.  I am all for inexpensive wine but the bottle of California Marsala I had on hand is in wino territory price wise.  At the liquor store, I was pointed in the direction of a 375 ml of Cantine Florio Dry Marsala made in Sicily and, to quote from its bottle “by far the most favored ingredient of the world’s great chefs, those faithful to both the traditional and the more modern culinary schools of thought”.  It set me back $7.00.  The key here is the word “Dry”.  Its California cousin was achingly sweet.
         The dish is easy to make. Brown the ribs, put some onions, garlic and mushrooms into the pan, add the Marsala and the Veal Stock, make an airtight seal over the pot with aluminum foil and let it cook away in the oven for a good 2 hours.  The ribs will be meltingly tender. Now there is one caveat.  I discovered that the short ribs I used has  layer of fat between the bone and the meat.  Unless you are mad for fat, you should slice the meat from the fat and the fat from the bone.  Put the meat on top of the bones and serve it with a helping of the rich red sauce with its tender mushrooms.  I made a bed of pureed potatoes to sit the veal atop and served sautéed spinach as our side.   Here’s the recipe:

4 12oz Veal Short Ribs, Bone In
1/2 Onion, Finely Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, Sliced
2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 sprig Fresh Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
4 tbsp Tomato Paste
375 ml Dry Marsala Wine
4 cups Veal or Beef Stock or a combination of the two.
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
4 cups Wild Mushrooms. I chose Baby Bellas and a 9 oz package of dried mushrooms reconstituted in hot water, the mushrooms drained and the remaining water added to the cooking pot.

1. Preheat the oven to 325º

2. Lay the short ribs out on a sheet tray and sprinkle them with kosher salt
. Allow them to stand for two hours, covered in the refrigerator

3. Heat a heavy bottom braising pan to high heat and add the olive oil
. Season the short ribs with cracked black pepper
. Once the pan is very hot, sear the short ribs on both sides until golden brown.

4. Remove the short ribs, and if the oil has turned dark, remove the oil and replace with fresh

5. Immediately add the mushrooms, onions and garlic to the pan and cook until the mushrooms are golden, and the onions and garlic softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir into the vegetables. Turn down the heat and cook the tomato paste for two to three minutes

6. Add the marsala wine and reduce by half about another 10 minutes. You will see the sauce thickening to a lovely glossy finish.

7. Add the short ribs back to the pan with the herbs and cover with the veal stock
. Bring the stock to a boil and cover with aluminum foil

8. Place the pan in the oven for two to two and a half hours
Test the short ribs with a fork after two hours; They should be fork tender. 
Remove the pan from the oven.
9. Take the short ribs out of the pan, cover with foil and keep warm.  
10. Continue cooking the juices on the stovetop over medium heat. Once reduced by 1/4, test the sauce for seasoning and put the ribs back in the pot to warm. 
11. Once warmed, place the ribs on a serving platter, pour some sauce over the ribs.  Put the rest in a gravy boat and pass when you serve. Serves 4.


  1. This looks delicious, Monte -- any suggestions on braising pans and where to buy one? Thanks!!!

    Your friend,

    Bill K.

  2. How good to hear from you! The best braising pot of all Is one by Le Cruset. They are indestructible cast-iron and enamel pots. You can find them at Sarala tabla Williams-Sonoma or almost any great kitchenware store. I am So glad you read the blog All best monte