Tonight’s Dinner: Zinfandel Short Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, and Game of Thrones

 

Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs, Healthy(ish) Mashed Potatoes and Kale Salad

Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs, Healthy(ish) Mashed Potatoes and Kale Salad

It’s family dinner time! Here in single San Francisco, family dinner may be little different. I invite six of my closest 30-something friends to my apartment on Sunday night, knowing they (ok, we) will be at least 30 minutes late, half are gluten free, and we’ll all spend so much time talking about the upcoming Game of Thrones episode and sipping margaritas that we’ll (a) forget the food on the stove and (b) eat at least an hour later than promised. Whether that describes your family dinner or not, the universal theme of family dinners is that we miss time with those around us if we’re slaving away at a stove the whole time. So this dinner is centered around pre-prepared mashed potatoes, a big pot of meat that just sits there until you’re ready, and a lovely friend who delivers a side salad.

Tonight’s dinner consists of:

Pre-Made Healthy-ish Mashed Potatoes

Click on the link above for several variations of Mashed Potatoes. I find the Rosemary Pureed Potatoes pair perfectly with the short ribs. And before you begin, check out my 411 on Perfect Mashed Potatoes for my 6 rules for not messing up potatoes ever again.

 

Sarah’s Kale Salad

Special thanks to Sarah for bringing over her adorable pup, Kray, and this unique, healthy, and incredibly tasty Kale salad. Click on the link above for her recipe, which I basically stole by watching her out of the corner of my eye (I’m a sneaky girl).

Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs

Braised short ribs are the perfect solution to a family dinner as they can be made in a huge pot and left for hours unattended. There is almost no such thing as over cooking (in fact, the longer they cook the better) and don’t required many finishing touches so you can enjoy all of the margaritas and conversations you want without worrying about them.

Ingredients:

5-6 lbs short ribs, bone-in
Salt & Pepper
3 tbs grapeseed oil
1 tbs butter
1/2 white onion, diced coarsly
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
4 celery stalks, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 bottle Zinfandel or Cabernet
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig
1 tsp herbs de provence
1 – 2 cups beef broth
Salt & Pepper

Before you start, I need you to remember a few things before you start. Memorize, visualize, and commit these to heart. All of these things will help you perfect your short ribs!

1) ROOM temperature meat: helps cook everything evenly!
2) BIG (7 1/4 quart) Le Creuset enameled French Oven: meat must lie down in one layer on the bottom of the pan when braising, get hot enough for searing, and be oven proof. This tool is 100% worth your investment
3) HOT oiled pan for proper searing
4) DON’T crowd your pan when searing

Got it? Pretty easy. But absolutely necessary for preparation! Ok, now we’re ready to start.

Using ROOM temperature meat, trim off all fat and cut ribs into individual pieces between each bone. Salt & pepper generously. Don’t they look pretty?

Trim fat off of spare ribs and cut individual portions between bones

Trim fat off of spare ribs and cut individual portions between bones

In a BIG (remember the 7 1/4 pot?) oven-proof pot, heat grapeseed oil and butter on slightly higher than medium high heat. Your pan should be HOT, smoking, and the butter should be turning brown. When you add the meat, it should sizzle and smoke. Like this!

IMG_5229

 

Sear meat on each side, about 4-5 minutes each and browned on each side. DON’T crowd your pan when you do this. Leave meat enough room between pieces to let air flow. You will likely need to do this in 2-3 batches. Remove from pan and leave on a large plate.

Reduce heat slightly and add onions. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add carrots and saute 4 additional minutes. Add celery and saute 4 additional minutes. Add a few splashes of the red wine, let it boil slightly, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to mix in all of those little flavor bombs stuck to the pan. Then, add remaining wine. Add back the short ribs and all juices that have collected on the plate IN ONE LAYER. If you don’t have enough room, bring out another pot as crowding the meat will not allow all the happy juices and veggies to soak into the meat. Add all herbs and beef broth until meat is just slightly covered.

Cozy little short ribs IN ONE LAYER just before they are covered in the beef broth.

Cozy little short ribs IN ONE LAYER just before they are covered in the beef broth.

Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours until meat is extremely tender and easily falls off the bone.

Mommy and Daddy size Le Creusets ready for their 2 hour roasting. I used two as I cooked about 7 lbs of short ribs.

Mommy and Daddy size Le Creusets ready for their 2 hour roasting. I used two as I cooked about 7 lbs of short ribs.

Remove from oven and skim off layer of fat. Add S&P to taste and remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig. These are best served over the mashed potatoes from above.

Two alternate endings you can use (other than just serving as above) are:
1) Gently puree the veggie/wine/beef broth with an immersion blender for a thicker “gravy”
2) Leave overnight in the fridge and serve next day. Some find that the flavors meld and more fat rises to the top (scrape that crud off!) overnight. Me? I can’t wait. I eat ’em right away. And look at all the happy faces. Even though we ate an hour late, it allowed us to enjoy our margaritas and catch up while the ribs just got better and better in the oven!

My lovely friends enjoying Short Ribs and hour later than promised (but worth the wait!)

My lovely friends (and Kray!) enjoying Short Ribs and hour later than promised.

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Tonight’s Dinner: Fish, Beets, Turnips and Boxing

 

Seared sea-bass with champagne beurre blanc, truffled parsnip puree, beet strawberry turnip green salad

Seared sea-bass with champagne beurre blanc, truffled parsnip puree, beet strawberry turnip green salad

Tonight’s dinner starts with boxing with Kendra, has an pigeon capture in between, and ends in #seabassparsnipsstrawberriesandtruffleandwinethankyouverymuch. It was a very eventful evening! Kendra and I decided we’d challenge ourselves with Intermediate Boxing at the Polk Street Boxing Gym (don’t be impressed – I’m terrible and hid in the back) and then we assisted in the capture and release of a pigeon who was attempting to have coffee at the Blue Fog Market. Since it was such a big night and I literally saved the life of the rare and valuable street pigeon, I felt I deserved some delicious and semi-buttery food tonight.

Tonight’s dinner consists of:

Truffled Parsnip Puree 

4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tbsp truffle oil
salt & pepper to taste

Boil parsnips in salted water until fork-tender (about 15 mn). Puree in a food processor with remaining ingredients and salt & pepper to taste. The best finishing salt here is Fusion Truffle Salt, which you can order online here or find in Washington specialty grocery stores.

Beet, Strawberry and Turnip Green Saute

Beet, Strawberry and Turnip Green Saute

Beet, Strawberry and Sauteed Turnip Greens

This was an idea I came up with after having a much more complicated (and, if I have to be  honest, tastier) version at Verbena SF. Their version is an incredibly delicious and delicate version involving juicing beets and using in-house fermented mushrooms. My version is the much easier version. While I recommend you go to Verbena for their beet & strawberry salad (and everything else on their menu), I recommend you cook this easier version.

3 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, olive oil, salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch turnip greens, stems removed & lightly salted
1/2 pint strawberries, cut into quarters
1 tsp basalmic vinegar
Salt
Squeeze of lemon

Roast beets in olive oil, salt and pepper in oven at 450 degrees for approximately 30-45 minutes or until tender. I usually wrap them in aluminum foil for easy cleanup and great steaming.
Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add turnips. Mix quickly until wilted and remove from heat. Add strawberries, balsamic vinegar and salt and mix until ingredients warm slightly. Finish with a small squeeze of lemon.

Seared Sea Bass with Champagne Beurre Blanc

Seared Sea Bass with Champagne Beurre Blanc

Seared Sea Bass with Champagne Beurre Blanc

1 tsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp butter
salt & white pepper
1 filet of sea bass
1/4 cup dry white wine or brut champagne
1 tbsp butter, COLD, cut into small squares
lemon zest
small bit of parsley, finely chopped
finshing salt

Ok, here’s where I get really controlling and tell you some instructions over and over until you listen. I’m not trying to be controlling (I am), but there are three steps to perfectly searing fish. Ready? Ok!

1. Dry, Clean & Seasoned
Salt & pepper your DRY, CLEAN fish and set aside for about 10 minutes. If it’s not dry and clean, water will get into the pan and steam, not sear your fish. And if it’s not salted beforehand, it won’t be seasoned all the way through the meat.

2. Freaking Hot Pan
Heat the grapeseed oil and 1 tsp butter in a pan until HOT. I mean like REALLY hot. I mean like put the burner on almost high, wait until the butter turns a flaky brown color and then wait some more. If the pan is not smoking it will not sear the fish like you want. I can not emphasize this enough. HOT HOT HOT. Like, worried you’re going to set off the fire alarm ok? Got it hot? Ok. NOW you may proceed post my controlling rant.

3. No Touchy
Add fish to freaking hot pan and NO TOUCHY. Don’t move it. Don’t shake or try to flip. Fish immediately sticks to a pan but once seared it will released because, duh, it’s all seared now. Let the fish sit about 5 minutes and shake the pan gently. When the fish moves on it’s own, flip, sear for another 5 minutes and shake again. If the fish is over 1/2 inch thick, turn down the heat and cover for another 5 minutes.

Wait until the pan is HOT HOT HOT and smoking before adding fish or it will not sear!

Wait until the pan is HOT HOT HOT and smoking before adding fish or it will not sear!

Remove fish from the pan and return to high heat. Add champagne and reduce (let steam off) until liquid has reduced in half. Add small bits of cold butter a little at a time until the sauce tastes slightly buttery. Season with salt.

Finish fish with lemon zest and chopped parsley. The best finishing salt here is Jacobsen Pinot Blanc Flake Salt from Oregon, which is spendy but worth every single penny.

Hope you enjoy tonight’s dinner! Let me know if you have any questions, corrections, or general comments on the meal. And yes, if you look at the first photo, I did enjoy this with two glasses of wine.