Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Have Seen the Light and It's On My Slowcooker (plus a recipe for Short Ribs)

I'll admit it.  I was not quick to jump on the slow cooker bandwagon.

"Why do I need a slow cooker when I can braise on my stove top or in my oven?"  "What can I make in a slow cooker that I can't make in a pot?"  And, to be truthful, those questions are still pretty valid.  But, after spending some time using one, I have come to the conclusion a slow cooker definitely has its advantages.

I can make dinner.  While I am sleeping.  I can make breakfast.  While I am sleeping.  It. Will.  Cook.  For.  Me.  While I am sleeping.  I like sleeping.  I don't sleep enough.

In all seriousness a slow cooker is a great kitchen tool if you have the room for one.  It takes up a lot of valuable counter real estate and in a NYC kitchen it has a lot of competition.  Plus storing it when it's not in use also requires a serious space commitment.  However, once you've tasted creamy oatmeal, on a 15 degree morning, that cooked while you were SLEEPING, you will no longer be a commitment-phobe.  For that recipe visit Food52.  I'm here to talk about short ribs.  If the oatmeal doesn't convince you, these will.

Short ribs are one of my favorite winter-time meals.  To me there is nothing more comforting and homey than a plate of warm,  flavorful meat and sauce that has cooked all day.  Ordinarily  making them is a huge undertaking.  Not with a slow cooker!  You do some advance preparation, plug it in and walk away (or go to sleep).  In my research on slow cooker methodology it would appear that there are recipes that allow you to toss some ingredients in, turn it on and walk away (soups, the aforementioned oatmeal).  My (admittedly limited) experience bears out that most recipes involving meat benefit from a little more work.  Taking the time to brown the short ribs and develop a seasoned, thick braising liquid is worth it.  Really worth it.  When you wake in or walk into a home that smells like this recipe and you see that little red light on the "warm" setting, you won't regret it. 

I've seen the light.  Go towards the light.  You will be rewarded.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Red Wine Sauce
Yields 4 servings

  • 4 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 TBS canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 generous TBS tomato paste
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 2 cups red wine (nothing too fruity)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock

  1. Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large heat the oil and pan brown the short ribs on all sides (in batches if necessary) and remove them from the pan.
  3. Degrease the pan if there is too much fat left from cooking the ribs (leave a little behind for cooking the vegetables).
  4. Add in the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften slightly (about 5 minutes).
  5. Stir in the tomato paste to distribute evenly and allow it and the vegetables to brown slightly (an additional 5 minutes).
  6. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat evenly.
  7. Carefully pour in the wine and stir to combine.  Make sure to scrape up any brown bits that have formed in the pan (known as fond) - they add a ton of flavor to the dish.  Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid thickens and reduces slightly; 3-5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  At this point you can combine the ribs and this mixture and refrigerate if you want to prep this the night before.  In the morning, continue with step 8.
  8. Pour into the container of your slow cooker and place the browned short ribs on top.  Place the herbs on top and pour the stock over.
  9. Cook for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.  
  10. Check periodically to make sure the liquid hasn't reduced too much.  
  11. Once cooked, remove the ribs from the container and set aside.  Allow the liquid to cool  and skim off any fat you can see.  (It's best if you can make these a day ahead and chill the sauce in the refrigerator,  It makes removing the fat from the sauce much easier.) Reheat the sauce.  If it needs more time to thicken you can pour into a pan and simmer until it reduces.  Add the ribs back in to reheat over low heat.  
I like to serve over egg noodles or polenta  (you want something that will hold all of the luscious sauce).  It looks pretty garnished with a little chopped parsley (for color) and pairs nicely with a leafy green salad and a glass of dry red wine.


Anonymous said...

So, I don't have a slow-cooker...yet, but this is convincing me I should. Which one do you have and would you recommend it, or is there anything you wish were different about it? -Kim

Melissa said...

Kim, I use the one pictured in the photograph ( Fortunately my friend, Sarah, acquired a much fancier shmancier one (one where you can actually brown meats and vegetables, etc. in the vessel without dirtying another pan) and loaned this one to me. I do like that the fancier models accommodate this but there is a significant price differential (hundreds of dollars vs. less than $50). So far there isn't anything I wish I could change.