Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Sheila and Rick on Vacation

Rick and Sheila enjoying winter!

Mayor De Blasio of NYC has been hyping the “Blizzard of 2015″ aka ” winter storm Juno,” which – if true – would be the first thing he has gotten right since he assumed office over a year ago.   Personally, I am always interested in how many snowplows the labor unions in NYC can mobilize for a winter storm or how many tons of salt will be spread on New York streets to make sure  auto commuters (and to a lesser extent: pedestrians) are not inconvenienced.    I don’t mean to trivialize the seriousness of a winter storm, but I am terribly disappointed that the YMCA will be closed tomorrow so I won’t be able to enjoy my daily sauna.   (Editor’s Note:  As the picture to the left suggests, the “California Dreamers” still believe they are on vacation.)

In any event, Sheila and I braved the crowds by elbowing our way through Whole Foods to stock up for a particularly bitter winter storm.  We opted for Hugh Acheson’s “Beef and Farro Soup” which was recently featured in  Food and Wine.   While this is more of a stew than a soup, Sheila decided to make several modifications to give the stew (sic soup) more flavor.  Personally, I am glad that she did.

Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces  (Editor’s Note:  Sheila recommends a mixture of 50% boned short ribs and 50% chuck for more taste.  Chuck is too dry!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp of white miso
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika  (Editor’s Note:  Make this a Tablespoon, a teaspoon is useless!)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (Editor’s Note:  The photograph shows shaved parmesan – grated is better!)


  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper, add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with cheese and serve.

Again, this is a hearty stew more than a soup.  Enjoy on a cold winter’s day.

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.


Birthday Girl Thérèse at Jean Louis

One of our favorite restaurants in Greenwich is Jean Louis.   We should frequent it more often, but generally save it for “big” occasions when we want a meal that is truly first class.  A meal at Jean Louis is as close as you can get to Europe without buying an airline ticket.   The food is classically French without the heavy sauces that often tend to mask the flavors of the fresh ingredients that are carefully selected by Jean Louis each day.  Jean Louis is shown here together with his lovely wife Linda.

A couple of days ago, we celebrated a milestone birthday for Thérèse.  Invoking the Jack Benny clause, Thérèse claims to be not a day over 39 and still looks pretty hot to me!  Nevertheless, my optometrist claims that  my eye-sight is beginning to fail as well as many other vital functions the young take for granted.

We consulted the maitre d’ and he suggested  “short ribs (for two) that had been cooked 72 hours.”   According to Jean Louis Gerin, the recipe is from the chef of La Chaumière in Washington, DC, who was kind enough to share this delightful recipe with other inspired chefs.

Now there are two things that I cannot resist on any menu:  ris de veau (sweetbreads) and short ribs.  I was in luck these evening as Jean Louis had both.   As short ribs are not a noble cut of beef,  it requires much care and patient cooking to bring out the robust flavor of this cut.  Usually, I am terribly disappointed with the outcome as it often resembles stew meat that has been overcooked or it is rather chewy and unappetizing.     Surprisingly,  the best short ribs I have ever eaten were served at a diner in Indianapolis, Indiana when I was a Freshman in college.

Jean Louis’ inspired treatment of short ribs was well . . . decidedly French!    According to Jean Louis, the boneless short ribs had been cooked Sous-vide  for 72 hours.    The boneless cut of meat looked like a brisket and was cut at the table at the time of serving in slabs 3/8″ thick cut across the grain.    Instead of the traditional well-cooked short ribs, you could detect a bit of pink in Jean Louis’ version which he served with a beef sauce  accented with the delightful taste of bone marrow and other goodies.  This was truly an inspired creation which does credit to French cooking.

For dessert, Thérèse had a rum baba served with one candle.  Fortunately, no one sang “happy birthday.”  I settled for a variation of chocolate mousse which I washed down with a generous glass of Sambucca.  In short, it was a great birthday celebration for a very classy gal at a restaurant that continues to set the standard for French cooking on this side of the Atlantic.

Thanks Jean Louis for adding to the great traditions of French cuisine.