Old-Fashioned Cooking: Short Ribs with Onion Gravy



In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. On the other hand, just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.

Some recipes are clearly winter fare. When the night-time temperatures are in the 20s and the north wind is howling, it’s nice to know that you can come inside to this dish after spending hours breaking ice in the water troughs or feeding the cows. It’s also a nice frugal recipe, designed to make use of those bits of the cow that have chewy meat, extra bone and collagen, which means long, slow cooking. To really appreciate the gustatory nuances, you want short ribs from a grass-fed beef at least two years old. Older animals may not have super-tender meat, but they have considerably more flavor. The combination of sugar and vinegar in this recipe may seem a little odd, but it makes for a tangy, sweet/sour gravy.

Short Ribs with Onion Gravy
3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs, cut in serving-size pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 cups sliced onions
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons vinegar

Brown ribs on all sides in Dutch oven. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup sliced onions and 1/2 cup water. Cook covered in 250 degree oven for at least four hours. Check occasionally and add a little more water if needed. Check for tenderness by sticking a fork in a couple of ribs; it should slide right in without sticking. Transfer ribs to heated platter; keep hot. Pour pan juices into a 2-cup measure. Skim off fat and return 2 tablespoons of the fat to pan. Add water to juices to measure 2 cups. Cook and stir sugar into reserved fat until browned. Add remaining 2 cups of onions; cook, stirring constantly, until onions are tender. Blend in flour and cook at least one minute; stir in reserved 2 cups of pan juices and the vinegar. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbling. Season to taste with salt and pepper; serve with the hot ribs. Brown rice is a good side for soaking up the gravy.

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