Step 1 – figure out a menu that would surprise someone like Deanna on Mother’s Day – Step 2 – have your friend convince you that you NEED a Dutch oven (and have a well-timed birthday – thanks Kyla!) – Step 3 – just do it! – once you’ve attempted it, anything braised will be in your regular meal rotation.  I think I now know why people get so excited about dishes like pot roast – it’s all about the pot!  And of course Smitten Kitchen…between her cookbook and her website, we had a really lovely Mother’s Day.  My version below nicely fills a 7-quart Dutch oven, and with the big pot of potatoes will easily fill 8 adults (or any smaller number with some fantastic leftovers!)…and it was really lovely with a Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad – also, shockingly, from Smitten Kitchen – enjoy!

Port and Wine-Braised Short Ribs (with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes)

10-12 bone-in beef short ribs, cut evenly so they’re all about the same size when standing up in your pot – about 7 lbs.

2 T. + fresh thyme leaves AND 2 T. + freshly ground black pepper

olive oil AND salt for cookingPort and Wine-Braised Short Ribs (with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes)

1 large red onion, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

3 carrots, diced

6 fresh sprigs of thyme

3 T. balsamic vinegar

2 c. port AND 3 c. hearty red wine

6 c. good beef broth AND 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

I was serving this on a Sunday so I picked up the ribs on Friday…the process started Friday night.  Season the short ribs liberally with the thyme leaves and freshly ground pepper, use your hands to pat the spices into the meat, and then put them into a large glass dish that can be covered and refrigerate overnight.

About an hour before cooking (Saturday), take the short ribs out of the fridge so that they can get to room temperature – season all sides generously with salt.

Heat your large Dutch oven over high heat for 3 minutes, pour in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and then allow the oil to heat until the pot is almost smoking.  Place the ribs into the pot and sear all 3 meaty sides until they are nicely browned.  Take your time and do NOT crowd the ribs – I did mine in 3 batches and the whole process took a good half hour – place the browned ribs onto a plate to rest.

Turn the heat down to medium and add in the onion, celery, carrot and thyme sprigs, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all of the browned bits, for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened and started to caramelize.  Add in the balsamic vinegar, port and wine, turn the heat up to high while stirring and bring it to a boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half, then add in the beef broth and bring it all to a boil again.  Preheat the oven to 325, turn the heat off on your pot and carefully arrange the ribs in the sauce standing up with the bones vertical, then tuck the parsley sprigs in and around the ribs.  The sauce should almost cover the ribs.  If your pot doesn’t have a heavy lid, Deb recommends covering it all tightly with foil and then putting the lid on – my new lid weighs about 5 lbs. on it’s own so it was all I needed.  Braise in your 325 oven for 3 hours.

At the end of 3 hours, carefully remove the lid and check for doneness – this should be obvious as the meat will look like it’s falling off the bones…if you’d like, cut off a tiny piece and test it.  I did all of this Saturday morning, and then left the ‘pot-o-gold’ to cool on my stove-top for the day, and then covered it tightly with foil and put it in the fridge overnight.  If you’re proceeding straight away, you’re going to have to give yourself some time to try and remove as much of the fat as possible.  If it’s refrigerated overnight, this is easy (there’s a shocking amount of fat!).

Serving Day – remove the fat from the ribs, and if the ribs in the pot are cold because they were made ahead, bring the whole thing to a simmer to warm it all up and preheat the oven to 400.  Make the potatoes (I’m assuming your greens or salad are already prepped – or better yet, ask someone else to make them – thanks Robynne!).

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs. russet or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed

1 c. of butter, browned AND 1 1/2 to 2 c. buttermilk

1 T. salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Simmer the potatoes in a large pot for about 30 minutes until fork -tender, drain them, wipe the pot dry, and then carefully, using an oven-mitt, quickly peel and rice them back into the pot (we have a hand-held ricer).  Stir in the browned butter, 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk, salt and good grinding of pepper and stir – add more buttermilk if needed then cover the pot to keep them warm.

Once the ribs are warm, carefully remove them to a parchment lined baking sheet and put them in the oven for 15 minutes to crisp up.  Strain the sauce, put it back in the pot and reduce it while the ribs are in the oven to thicken it up a bit.

It’s all ready! and it’s worth it!  This is one of those meals that’s easier to plate – big dollop of potatoes, big rib, healthy drizzle of sauce – you’ll be so glad you tried this!

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