Christmas is the one time that I willingly eat roast turkey. I, like most people I’m sure, find it bland and dry and about as far from celebration food as it gets. But tradition being what it is, there’s usually no evading at least some turkey along the way. In an effort to avoid roast dinner every night for a week I’ve made it my mission to introduce a hearty casserole on Christmas Eve to warm us up after a bracing walk over the cliffs and along the beach. I like to think of it as a little stroke of genius since I can make the casserole in advance and keep it chilled on the backdoor step ready to be quickly reheated while you (delete as applicable) do last-minute wrapping/bake more mince pies/prep that darn turkey/snuggle up on the sofa and watch Elf for the hundredth time. These braised ribs are downright comforting, they will make you feel snuggly and warm, particularly if you serve them spooned over a bowl of hot, creamy polenta or mash. As part of a larger meal I served the stew with slices of crust baguette which we used to greedily mop up the meaty, wine sauce liberally dotted with smokey bacon, chunky carrots and buttery chestnuts.
Part of what makes this dish so good is that the meat is cooked on the bone which my prefered method for casseroles and stews; the bones add so much extra flavour and richness to the overall dish. Short ribs or Jacobs ladder are becoming easier to get hold of round these here parts, there are all of two place I can get them in the vicinity of Exeter! But worry not, shin would make an excellent substitute here. If you succeed in getting short ribs they often come in one large piece, ask your butcher to cut them across the rib into smaller sections. They take a long slow cook to become extremely tender, you’ll know they’re done when the meat slides cleanly off the bone leaving you with hunks of beautifully tender beef. In the last hour or so of cooking (their not terribly fussy) the chestnuts go in to warm through and soak up all the flavour of the beef, wine, garlic and herbs. Retaining their gentle sweetness, chestnuts are a great addition to a winter stew and, for me, particularly Christmassy.
Braised short ribs with chestnuts and red wine
- olive oil
- 1.2kg beef short ribs
- 150g smoked streaky bacon, diced
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 carrots, sliced into thick wedges
- 2 sticks celery, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 500ml red wine, I used Merlot
- 500ml beef stock
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 200g cooked chestnuts
- 15g butter
- 200g mushrooms, quartered
Heat a little oil in a large, heavy pan over a low-medium heat. Fry the bacon until golden then add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cover and cook gently for 15 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Turn the heat up and add more oil to the pan. Pat the short ribs dry and brown them in batches. Take your time to make sure they get really dark brown. Remove to a plate.
Pour off the fat in the pan and add the wine. Bring to a boil and scrape up all the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the beef stock, vegetables, bacon and tomato paste stirring well to combine.
Put the ribs back in the pan tucking them in amongst the vegetables. Tuck in the rosemary, cover loosely and simmer on the lowest heat for 4 hours adding the chestnuts in the last hour.
The ribs are ready when they are tender and fall off the bone. Remove from the heat and skim off any excess fat. (At this point the stew can also be left to cool then chilled overnight which makes the fat easier to remove and allows the flavours to meld.)
Fry the mushrooms in butter and stir into the stew just before serving. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.