Braised Short Ribs with Celery and Onions

short ribsI love short-ribs, but they are rarely cooked properly.  There are few cuts of meat from a range-fed cow that taste as satisfying as short-ribs, but so few are cooked properly that I have finally given up ordering short ribs at a restaurant.

Now that Mamacita has retired (Editor’s Note:  Therese doesn’t like her new name and isn’t into retirement either), she has had a bit more of an opportunity to consult her cookbooks to feed her hobbling patient.  I feel that a slow recovery is required to help Mamacita “get her domestic game back.”     (Editor’s Note:  This comment was not intended to be sexist, but simply to highlight Mamacita’s great versatility).

This delicious recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s More Classic Italian Cooking, published in 1978.   The recipe, Brasato di Manzo con Sedano e Cipolle, actually calls for boneless beef such as chuck or bottom round.  Mamacita wisely opted for two or three lean pieces of boneless short ribs, which we then cut into rather large pieces that we could quickly brown in a stew pot.    I have found that braising meats such as short ribs for a long period of time breaks down the tough fibers of the meat and the vegetables add to the earthy taste profile of the finished dish.  Found below is Marcella’s Beef Braised with Celery and Onions in which we have substituted short ribs:

Braised Short Ribs with Celery and Onions

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 4 or 5 large, meaty celery stalks
  • 1 dozen small white onions
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lean boneless short ribs
  • 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 2 Tbs of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup of beef broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Strip the celery stalks of their strings, breaking off a small piece of stalk and pulling it down, or by using a vegetable peeler.   Cut into stalks about 3 inches long and rinse in cold water.
  2. Peel the onions and cut a cross in the root of each one to allow them to cook more evenly (we substituted frozen small onions to save time).
  3. Preheat oven to 350º.
  4. Brown the meat on all sides in the vegetable oil.
  5. Choose a flameproof casserole with a tight fitting cover (we added a layer of aluminum foil) that is just large enough to accommodate the meat snugly.  Add the olive oil, butter, celery, onions and the browned meat.
  6. Tip the pan in which you browned the meat and draw off the excess fat with a spoon.  Put the red wine into pan and turn the heat to high to deglaze.  Pour the contents of the pan into the casserole holding the meat and vegetables.
  7. Add the broth to the casserole, together with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  8. Place the casserole – uncovered – on a burner and bring the liquid to a simmer.  Then cover tightly and place on the uppermost level of the preheated oven.
  9. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender.
  10. Serve the beef and vegetables immediately (if necessary cut the meat into smaller pieces) and pour any excess liquid over the stew.

Enjoy.  Can be done beforehand and reheated.


Best Recipe for Spam

Spam Ad

I have been giving a lot of thought to SPAM lately as Gourmay had 264 “comments” that had been captured in the SPAM filter.  Needless to say, the younger generation is generally unfamiliar with the fact that Spam was a major “delicacy” for those with no discernible food obsessions.  In fact, “Bogey” Pinson is famous for his smoked spam sandwich covered in a habanero cream sauce.   I’ll take Langston’s assertion that David’s “smoked spam habanero is to die for.”      Personally, I think spam is an acquired taste unless you happen to be a dog.

For those who want to give it a go, I present a classic spam recipe.   This delightful recipe is appropriately nicknamed “Redneck Quiche” from

Spam and Velveeta Quiche aka “Redneck Quiche

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces Spam, diced into small cubes
  • 6 ounces Velveeta cheese, diced into small cubes
  • cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray deep dish pie plate with cooking spray,set aside.
  3. Mix together first eight ingredients, in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate.
  5. Add SPAM and Velveeta evenly into eggs.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes until middle puffs up and center is firm.
  7. Check for doneness by inserting knife near the middle of the quiche.
  8. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Editor’s Note:   I would like to tell you that this unappetizing recipe tastes better the next day.  This is simply not true.  Feed leftovers to your dogs only if your pet medical insurance policies are up to date.

Additional Editor’s Note:  My deep-throat sources in D.C. tell me that Obama is thinking of pushing through a legislative bill to add pet medical coverage to the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Now that is “change I can believe in” and one that even Tea Party pet owners will support.   Some one hundred and forty-four million cats and dogs are owned in the U.S. and veterinary bills for dogs average just under $400 per year. )

Marcella’s Milk Pork: A Letter to Cooks Illustrated

As Gourmay readers are aware, Marcella’s Braised Milk Pork is a popular favorite among the May family. In fact, I suspect that this Italian classic is a favorite for almost anyone who doesn’t have an eating disorder. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the test kitchen at Cook’s Illustrated was going to “improve” on this beloved recipe of braised milk pork.

Braised Milk Pork

In the March – April edition of Cook’s Illustrated, chef Lan Lam argues that “Italian Milk-Braised Pork” will taste better and look better through a complicated preparation that produces “smooth and silky” gravy rather than the far more flavorful “lumpy and frumpy” gravy that is traditional for this Italian classic.   It didn’t!

While I am a great admirer of Cook’s Illustrated, Marcella Hazan most certainly would have pleaded with St. Peter to be resurrected so she could beat Lan Lam over the head with a wooden spoon. Boy, was this a big disappointment.

Found below is my open letter to the Editor of Cook’s Illustrated:


Dear Mr. Kimball:

My wife and I are loyal enthusiasts of Cook’s Illustrated and look forward to your delightful and informative “test kitchen” suggestions on improving food classics. For the most part, your test kitchen results are clear winners and we have incorporated many of them into our own food preparation.

Unfortunately, there are a few abject failures which – in my opinion – should have never made it past the editor’s scalpel. I refer to Lan Lam’s silly attempt to “improve” on the taste and appearance of Italian Milk-Braised Pork.

Without going into a lot of detail, the “smooth and silky” non-curdled gravy was far less flavorful than the “lumpy and frumpy” gravy produced the traditional way. More to the point, why would anyone waste the prep time to render salt pork and other make-work suggestions to produce braised milk pork that looks and tastes like some bland hospital food?

I think Marcella Hazan and cooks everywhere deserve an apology from Cook’s Illustrated for this ill-founded attempt to improve on this Italian classic.


Richard May