What comes to mind when you think of Provencal food? For me, the words rustic, simple, hearty and totally delicious run through my head. It is food that is infused with herbs such as basil, oregano, fennel, rosemary and thyme which give it wonderful aroma as well as pleasing taste. The ingredients are generally those that grow well in the area or are readily available from the sea. Always the food is prepared with olive oil, and olives are a common ingredient in many dishes. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to enjoy the food with a good bottle of French wine!
Several years ago the family rented a home in Provence, close to the hilltop towns. On several occasions, a young man came to prepare our food, and my daughters and I stayed close to learn what we could about making food we so enjoyed. While not his recipe, I made these short ribs thinking about how Eric would have done them. The result was delicious, and the preparation was easy enough.
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
6 pounds individual short ribs, bone in
3/4 t salt, plus more to taste
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 T herbes de Provence or a combination of the herbs named above
2 T all-purpose flour
2 cups hearty red wine, such as Zinfandel or Shiraz
1 3/4 cups beef stock, preferably homemade, or reduced-sodium chicken
One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, drained
1 bay leaf• 8 ounces baby-cut carrots
1/2 cup Mediterranean black olives, such as Niçoise, pitted
3 T chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F.
2. Heat the oil in a large (at least 6-quart) Dutch oven or flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. Season the short ribs with the salt and pepper. In batches, without crowding, add the short ribs to the pot and cook, turningoccasionally, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a platter.
3. Pour off all but 2 T of the fat from the pot. Add the onion, chopped carrot, and celery to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, herbes de Provence, and flour and stir until the garlic gives off its aroma, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the broth, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Return the short ribs, and any juices, to the pot. Add cold water as needed to barely reach the top of the ribs and bring to a boil over high heat.
4. Cover tightly, transfer to the oven, and bake, stirring occasionally to change the position of the ribs, until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 2 1/2 hours. During the last 15 minutes, add the baby carrots.
5. Transfer the short ribs to a deep serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Skim off the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid, and discard bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until liquid is reduced to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes (the exact time depends on the size of the pot). Add the olives and cook to heat them through, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
6. Spoon the sauce with the carrots over the ribs, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve hot.
Now that I have a slow cooker, my preference is to use it for the ribs. Cooking time is about 5 hours, and I love the smells that waft through the house during that time. I served the ribs over parsnip/rosemary mashed potatoes and accompanied them with a salad of mixed greens sprinkled with lemon juice and sea salt.
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