"May I have two pounds of short ribs, please?" I asked the butcher.
He hacked off a portion of meat and tossed it onto a metal scale. "This is two. A little over, actually," he said.
I looked at the meager mound of bones and beef, then down at the March issue of Cooking Light, which I held in my hands, turned to the last page: Cabernet-Braised Beef Short Ribs. Yields six servings. I was only feeding four, and still there was no way.
"Are you sure? My recipe says that two pounds is enough for six people."
He laughed. "Honey, for six people, I'd get ten pounds."
I pondered this. Maybe six butchers could eat ten pounds, but I doubted that twentysomething Brooklynites, used to a steady diet of sushi and small plates, could make it through that much meat.
"Let’s make it an even three," I said.
Portion size was the main issue I had with the recipe I reviewed for this week, and with many of the recipes I've prepared over the years from Cooking Light. Who eats a two-inch square brownie? Or a third of a pound of ribs, especially bone-in? It's fine if you're cooking for yourself and just mistakenly expect to have leftovers, but if you are hosting a dinner party there is the potential for disaster.
As it turns out, three pounds was the perfect amount for four. Everyone was pleasantly full, and the ribs were picked so clean that my friend Bryan took the bones home to make a stock. The straight-forward recipe was easy to prepare, yielded meat that was fall-apart tender, and made the apartment smell incredible all afternoon as it slowly cooked in the oven.
Aside from adding an extra pound of meat, I made two other small changes. First, since I have a food snob-related fear of egg noodles (which the recipe calls for), I served the ribs over Dorie Greenspan's Celery Root Purée, which was so delicious that I might never make mashed potatoes again. Second, the recipe instructs you to discard the vegetables used in the braise. While the onions were too mushy for consumption, I rescued the carrots, which were soft and sweet, having spent three and a half hours simmering in a wine-and-rosemary bath.
So my advice is this: definitely make these short ribs, but use your own judgment when you buy the meat. Because while of course it's important to watch your calorie intake and control your portions, it's also imperative not to starve.
About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.
- Cooking spray
- 3 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 six-inch rosemary sprigs
- 1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional
Preheat the oven to 300°. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat skillet with cooking spray. Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes, total. Remove ribs from pan and add broth, scraping to loosen browned bits.
Combine the broth, wine, and tomato paste in a bowl and stir until well blended. Place ribs, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and onion in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour in broth mixture, cover with foil, and bake for 3 1/2 hours, or until ribs are very tender.
Uncover dish, remove ribs to a plate and tent them with foil. Strain broth through a sieve over a bowl. Discard solids, reserving carrots if desired. Carefully pour the broth into a large resealable plastic bag. Snip off one corner and drain liquid into a saucepan, stopping before reaching the layer of fat. Discard the fat.
Add the flour to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking, for three minutes until sauce has thickened.
Serve sauce with ribs over starch of your choice—noodles, potatoes, or root vegetable purée.