Sunday, November 1, 2020


Once upon a time, short ribs were cheap. Now they are trending and the price reflects their new popularity. I have seen this before, both with flank steak and skirt steak. Just as with the other two examples of trend victims, you must cook them carefully or you will have tough, inedible meat. And, in the case of the  short ribs, you will have greasy, tough, inedible meat.

Short ribs are a cut from the ribs, of course, and you will find them in the grocery with bone in or bone out. I prefer the bone in. I feel it adds more flavor. The meat attached to the bone will have a fat cap, fat marbling, and sinew. 

Sounds like and looks like pork shoulder, does it not? That similarity gives you the clue on how to cook them. Go low and slow and be patient.


(Serves two. Adjust the proportions to enlarge the number of servings)

A dutch oven or braising pan

1 and 1/2 to 2 short ribs per person.
1 medium onion, sliced thin latitudinally 
3 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 can dry cider
Chicken broth as needed
1 sprig of rosemary and thyme plus a bay leaf
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon preferred spice*
1 handful of sliced mushrooms (optional)
high temp oil for searing

* The spice is wildly variable and a matter of your preference. Some possibilities include paprika (sweet, hot, or smoked), Chinese five spice, curry, Greek seasoning (adjust you salting of the beef to make up for the salt in this season), and others. You can omit the spice as well and go au natural. In this dish I chose to use seven spice, a blend commonly used in the Eastern Mediterranean.


Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Generously salt and pepper all sides of the short ribs.

Pour a Tablespoon or two of the high temp oil in your cooking vessel and place it on a burner set to high. When the oil shimmers, place the rib, fat side down, in the pan. Let the ribs sit, undisturbed, until the side is dark brown. Use tongs to roll the rib to the next side and repeat until all sides of the rib are brown.  Note: Do not crowd them. If necessary, sear the meat in batches. 

Remove the ribs from the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Add the sliced onions without wiping the pan down. Saute the onions until they soften and turn translucent. Add the tomato paste, garlic and, if using them, the mushrooms. Continue to saute until the paste turns brick color and the garlic is fragrant. 

Add the spice and stir to blend it in. 

Settle the ribs, bone side down, in the pan. Add the can of cider and enough chicken broth to bring the fluid 1/3 to 1/2 up the side of the ribs. Add the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

Cover the vessel, place it on a low medium rack in the oven, and cook until the meat falls off the bone. This usually requires 4 to 6 hours.

Remove the meat and bones from the liquid and wrap in foil. Put the foil packet back in the oven. 

Remove the solids with a sieve and degrease the liquid with a fat separator. Taste and adjust the spice and salt. Pour the degreased liquid back into the cooking vessel and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Reduce the liquid by half. Place the ribs, minus the bones and gristle back in the liquid and continue to reduce the liquid and it becomes syrup.

Note: A splash of Kitchen Bouquet will darken the gravy to a pleasant color.

Serve over polenta, noodles, mashed potatoes, rice, or spaghetti squash.

Those who love slow cookers: please note you can put the sauted onions in a slow cooker set on low and then add the remaining ingredients. The timing will be similar to the oven braise.

To those who are impatient: set the oven temp to 325 and cut the time by an approximate third. The difference will be small.

Tip: Refrigerate the separated cooked meat and the broth overnight. The fat cap should come off easily.
Reheat the meat in the degreased broth and, like stew, it will improve.

Another note: Nancy and I added four minced dried dates to go with the spice I chose. Fantabulous!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

I love cabbage rolls. I especially like those from Lebanese steakhouses here in Northeastern Oklahoma. (Shout out to my friend Greg Gawey).

I can and have made them myself. Frankly, they are tedious and you need to make large batches to justify the work.

Stuffed peppers are not the same thing, but the flavors are very similar and just as comforting. I do not pretend to offer an authentic spice blend in this recipe. Very few Lebanese cooks, home or commercial, will tell all. The internet has cabbage rolls, of course. Even Martha Stewart has posted one.

When you read those recipes, you find there are as many different ones as there are regions. Some that look tasty call for things like 7 spice. When I looked that up, I found a startling diverse set of recipes for the spice. I gave up. Instead I have reverse engineered a spice blend. The proportion on the spices can and should be adjusted by you to suit your own taste, as should the amount you use in the meat.

This recipe is based on 4 to 6 large bell peppers. Figure 1 or 2 halves per person depending on the size of the peppers.

Ingredients for Stuffing

one pound ground beef or lamb
1 cup chilled cooked rice
one medium yellow onion, diced small
1or 2 cloves of garlic, minced 
2 teaspoons of spice blend
salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients for Spice Blend

1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, cumin, kosher salt, and Ras el Hanout
1/4 teaspoon each all spice, ground cloves, ground cardamon, black pepper
large pinch of ground nutmeg


4 - 6 large bell peppers, seeds and pith removed

Ingredients for Sauce

2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
3 Tablespoons high quality tomato paste
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and minced
drizzle of EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
aprox. 1/2 cup water
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes


For the spice blend: Mix all the spices in a small single bowl and set aside.

For the peppers: If using long peppers find two spots opposite each other where the peppers can sit without rolling. Slice horizontally in half. Remove the seed and pith. Using the point of a small knife make two small holes in the bottom of each pepper for drainage later. 

If using the round and blocky type of peppers, slice the stem end of the pepper off just as the sides start to go down.

Seed the peppers and remove the pith. If necessary, take a thin slice off the bottom lobes to allow the pepper to sit squarely. Again, make two small slits in the bottom of each pepper.

For the stuffing: In a bowl, add the meat, the rice, the minced garlic, the minced onion, and two teaspoons of the spice blend. Reserve any excess spice. Mix the ingredients well with one hand and set aside.

For the sauce: Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Alternatively, if you have a stick blender, put the tomatoes in a regular tall side bowl. Add the tomato paste.

The cherry tomatoes add a freshness. The tomato paste adds intense flavor and body. Add the garlic, as much of the remaining spice as you desire, and the water. Blend or process until the mixture is smooth and no chunks of tomato remain.

Assembly and Baking

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Be sure the rack is in the middle.

Stuff the peppers loosely with  the stuffing mixture.

Use the smallest baking dish in which the peppers fit comfortably. Pour your sauce into the dish and place your peppers in the dish. Put one spoonful of the sauce on the top of each pepper.

Bake until the filling reaches 145 degrees and the peppers have softened. Usually 25 minutes to 35 minutes. (Note: The long flat peppers cook more quickly.)

Use a slotted spoon and remove the peppers one by one. Hover each pepper over the baking dish to allow juices to drain. Place the peppers on your serving dish. Stir the remaining sauce well to remove any bits stuck to the bottom of the dish. If necessary add a bit of water to he sauce if too dried. Spoon sauce over the peppers for service. Side dishes can include tabouli, green beans stewed in tomatoes, and or a cucumber and tomato salad.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Dates and Feta

Roulades (AKA roll ups or "stuffed" meats) allow the cook to create unlimited flavors. They also help you to present beautiful plates.

Sadly, most home cooks are intimidated by them. The idea of cutting a large chunk of meat into a flatish piece seems too difficult. The work involved appears too much.

But, hey! You're stuck at home under a shelter in place order. What else do you have to do?


1 large pork tenderloin
3/4 cup of any 2 or three stuffing combination that may appeal to you. For example:
  • mushrooms and bacon bits
  • curried raisons and apricot
  • spinach, parmesan, and pinenuts
  • stewed apples and onions
  • softened and diced dates and feta


Unpack the tenderloin and dry it. 

Using a sharp knife remove the silver skin, membrane, excess fat, and any stray bits.

With that same sharp knife, using the point and first inch of the blade, on one side or another, cut straight down about 1/2 inch deep. Slightly rotate the tenderloin and repeat. Continue the same step, slowly unrolling the tenderloin.

Once that step is finished, place the meat on top of moistened cling film and cover with another moistened sheet. use a meat mallet or the bottom of a small but heavy sauce pan to pound the meat flat.

For this roulade, I chose dates and feta. I crumbled the cheese finely and soaked the date pieces in hot water for 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper the inside of the roll generously. Spread your stuffing on the side near you, starting about an inch from the edge. 

Roll the tenderloin edge over the stuffing and continue to roll to make a tube with the seam side down. Using kitchen twine, tie your roll every 2 or three inches. Do not draw the string tight enough to cut into the meat. You merely want to keep the roll closed.

Now you are ready to cook.

Traditional Roasting

Set the oven to 300 degrees with the rack in the middle.

Season the exterior with salt and pepper.

In a skillet with 2 Tbs. neutral oil over medium high heat, sear all sides of the tenderloin.

Place the seared tenderloin in the oven and roast. Check the temperature every five minutes after 20 minutes and continue until the interior meat reaches 135 degrees for medium or 145 degrees for medium well. 

Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let the meat rest for ten minutes to allow the tenderloin to collect itself as the meat rises another 5 degrees.

Slice, removing the twine as you go.

Sous Vide Method

Vacuum seal the tenderloin and submerge in a hot water bath set for your choice of 140 to 150 degrees. Cook time should be between 1 and 4 hours.

Remove the tenderloin from the bag. Dry the tenderloin, season with salt and pepper, and sear the exterior to brown it, slice an serve immediately. Sous Vide meat does not need to rest.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday Red Sauce


One 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes in their juice or puree
One small or 1/2 large onion diced small
6 to 8 cloves minced gar4lic
1 Tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1 four inch line anchovy paste
1/2 stick butter
1 pound sweet Italian sausage 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 two inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
1 cup water or broth


Fry the sweet sausage, breaking it up into small pieces. Continue to cook until the sausage renders and begins to caramelize. Remove the meat to a slow cooker.

Saute' the onions in the fat from the sausage until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic turns fragrant. Transfer the onions and garlic to the slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well.

Set the cooker to low and simmer 4 or more hours.

Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.

Cooking and Serving Notes

The anchovy paste and the cheese rind will add a depth of flavor without being able to taste them individually. 

Do note the lack of salt in the recipe. The anchovy paste and cheese rind will add salt to the sauce so wait until the end to adjust.

Serve with bucatini, fusilli, penne or other pasta with size or ridges. Spaghetti does not have enough surface area.

When ready to serve, make sure the cooked pasta and sauce are mixed together well  before serving. Ladling sauce on top of the pasta may look good in television commercials, but for eating you will want every bit of the pasta coated.