They say that meditation is not about technique or form, but rather about a way of being. The idea behind it is that by effortlessly focusing on quiet mindfulness, you will emerge from the process freer, lighter. Like an onion shedding its outer crusty layer.
Now I don’t know about you, but it turns out I suck at meditating. I mean…I’m really terrible at it. Last week I went to a yoga class, which ended with a period of guided meditation. When we first began, I put every ounce of my energy into focusing on the process of being mindless, trying to harness my inner peace by instead concentrating on my breath. Deep, slow breaths…inhale, exhale. When the instructor spoke up to bring the class to a close, however, I realized my head was somewhere else entirely. I couldn’t tell you how many breaths I got through before I strayed, but I think I was somewhere between making a grocery list and making a mental note to clean my dog’s floppy ears by the end of it all. (No joke.)
But this got me thinking: How can I go through life without being able to meditate? Will my outer onion layer eventually become so hardened and crunchy that I’ll never find inner peace? Then I calmed myself down from the encroaching freak out and instead tried to figure out whether there was a way that I peeled away my onion layers, perhaps something besides meditation. Immediately, I envisioned myself standing in my kitchen, completely lost in a beautifully complex recipe. I thought about the countless times that I have stood in my kitchen, mindlessly chopping, searing, and braising and the euphoric feeling I have at the end of a good cooking session. I realized then that cooking is my meditation. It’s my own way to break away from my internal thoughts and worries. My own way to just be.
So today I leave you with a melt-in-your-mouth cabernet-braised short rib recipe. It’s hearty, flavor-packed, and the perfect way to throw yourself into a cooking coma on a cozy afternoon. And when you get to the part where I ask you to peel a large amount of pearl onions, try not to hate me! Just think of how many mental layers you might be peeling away in the process.
PS: Bourré was really jealous on this one. Something about those bones that all dogs go nuts for! See here: Canine Kitchen Aid.
Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs
Prep time: 1.5 hours
Cook time: 2 hours
- 3 lbs of bone in beef short ribs
- 5 whole carrots (2 chopped finely, 3 sliced in half lengthwise)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
- 2 celery stalks, chopped finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 10 oz pearl onions, peeled
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cups of red wine (I prefer cabernet sauvignon for this)
- 2 cups of beef stock OR 2 teaspoon of concentrated beef base + 2 cups of water (I use this instead of buying boxed beef stock. More student-budget friendly and I cannot tell a major difference in flavor.)
- 4 oz of fresh porcini mushrooms OR 1 oz of dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme OR 4 fresh thyme sprigs
Pat short ribs dry. (They will not brown properly if they are not patted dry and this is critical for getting the good meaty flavor into the dish.) Season w/ salt and pepper.
Heat ½ tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add short ribs and brown on all sides. Work in batches if you need to and don’t overcrowd the meat. Add more oil/butter if it looks like the pan is getting too dry.
Meanwhile, chop the garlic, 1 yellow onion, celery, and 1 carrot stalk finely. Take the remaining 3 carrot stalks and slice lengthwise. When the short ribs have browned on the outside, remove them and set aside on a plate. Pour out all of the fat and accumulated juices but do not wash the dish. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of butter to the dutch oven as well as the chopped onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook veggies over medium heat until vegetables have wilted and become soft. In a separate skillet, heat another ½ tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the long sliced carrots over medium heat, rotating so that both sides get a nice brown char on them. When cooked, add to the dutch oven with the other veggies.
Return the beef to the dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon of flour to the beef and veggies. Toss to coat evenly. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and 2 cups of red wine. Add beef stock (or concentrated beef base and water, if using). Stir gently.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat ½ tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Peel the pearl onions and add to the skillet. Cook until onions brown on the outside, all over. They won’t brown evenly but that’s ok. (Note: If using fresh porcinis, you may want to sauté them with the onions. Dried ones will be added straight to the oven in the next step.)
Add the pearl onions and the porcini mushrooms to the dutch oven. Add the bay leaf and thyme. Bring the liquid to a boil. Once it’s boiling, remove from heat, cover with a lid and place in the oven to cook for 2 hours.
Add salt and pepper to taste. It will probably need more than you think so don’t be afraid to taste test as you season. Serve with fresh egg noodles (recipe to come!), rice, or roasted potatoes. Garnish with fresh thyme or parsely.
Here is a great resource on how to quickly peel pearl onions. Even better, you can also find bags of pre-peeled pearl onions in the refrigerated section of trader joes.
I realize that most stew-like recipes call for a boneless meat. I chose to use bone-in short ribs for this because the bones and marrow intensify the meaty flavor of the dish.
Don’t skip out on the mushrooms. They also add an extra umph of umami to the dish.
Feel free to play around with the ingredients! You can add things like potatoes, turnips, and peas to the stew if you want to bump up the veggie content.
I love the flavor that butter adds to a dish too much to omit it from some things. But I also try to stay health-conscious (most of the time!) when I cook. Doing a mixture of butter and olive oil will keep the butter flavor in the dish while not totally derailing your fitness goals. This whole dish, which could easily feed more than 5 people, has only 2 tablespoons of butter in it.
This dish is my own, but the flavors were inspired by Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.