Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

Over the years I have posted a lot of recipes for slow cooking on my blog; this stems from my dream to have an outdoor brick oven for making pizza, bread and clay pots filled with some slow-simmering concoction. Slow cooking takes me back to my childhood when I watched my great-grandmother make all of the lovely baked goods, stewed fruits, and gooey, browned chicken that she made in a crusty old enameled pot she brought with her from Germany in 1935. Oma used her body and soul to make plum cakes, lebkuchen, butter cookies, spiced plums, stewed figs, etc. She didn’t have a Kitchenaid or a food processor, she made everything from scratch, her hands and arms were the whisk, the wooden spoon, she knew when something was mixed enough and didn’t concern herself with weights and measurements, nor did she bother with oven temperature. She made everything by sight, touch, taste and feel, and she always knew when the oven was hot enough for this, that or the other.

I thought a lot about Oma while I was preparing my mise en place for our Rosh Hashana dinner. I felt her watching over me, reassuring me that I had enough onions, garlic and carrots, and that I should be careful not to burn anything. It is at times like these, especially when I am making an old family recipe, that I wish I could bring Oma and Mama K back here, for just a few hours, to give me pointers on how to not make the butter cookies spread out,  or so that I can ask them if I have made the dish to their standards.

Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

3 hours, 30 minutes

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

Adapted recipe from Eli Landau and Haim Cohen

3 kg short ribs (asado or shpundra), with as much fat removed as possible, cut into sections

2 medium onions, sliced thinly

8 small shallots, peeled and cut in half

1 head of garlic separated into cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 celery stalks, diced

6 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

3 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried

2 cups (1/2 liter) of pomegranate juice

2 cups (1/2 liter) of chicken stock

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 100C (200F).

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large oven-proof pot on medium-high heat. Add the short ribs and brown them on all sides. Place them on a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and the shallots, and saute them until they are transparent. Add the garlic, carrots and celery, and stir until the onions begin to brown. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Add 1 cup of pomegranate juice and scrape the pot, loosening any bits that have stuck to the bottom. Add the rest of the pomegranate juice and chicken stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Add the meat back to the pot and bring to the boil again, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and place it in the oven or leave it on the stove top, on the smallest burner and the lowest flame, for 3-1/2 hours. Occasionally baste the meat.

When the meat is cooked, almost falling of the bone, place it on a serving platter. Place the pot on medium-high heat and cook until the sauce thickens. Pour some of the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Hot Colombian Night

Tonight for Shabbat dinner, I decided to make an appetizer to remember my Uncle Alfred’s life in Colombia. We have a large Argentinian community here and with that comes delicious Argentinian empanadas, but empanadas are found all over South American, including Colombia. I decided to try making empanadas with a masa dough and beef filling. I used top sirloin ground beef instead of steak.

Note: If you your dough is too wet, add a little flour to the mixture until it is elastic.

Colombian Sirloin Empanadas

Serving Size: 12

For the filling:

1 cup peeled boiling potatoes cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil

2 cups sirloin steak, 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, white and pale green parts

1 cup seeded and diced ripe tomatoes

2 tsp. ground cumin

For the dough:

1 tsp. roasted garlic

2 cups fine-ground cornmeal

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

2 1/4 cups hot chicken stock, canned low-sodium chicken broth, or water

Empanada Filling

For the filling:

Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Cover and bring to a boil, then boil until just tender, about 5 minutes, and drain.

Meanwhile, in a large non reactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the sirloin and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked potatoes and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Empanada Dough

For the dough:

To make the dough, in a large bowl, mix the garlic with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Add the cornmeal, salt, pepper and parsley. Add most of the hot stock and mix just until well combined — the dough should be sticky and elastic. Add more stock only if needed. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to let the dough set. Cover your work surface with plastic wrap and turn out the dough onto it. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and roll the dough flat with a rolling pin, using short strokes, until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Without removing the plastic wrap, and using a cup about 4 inches in diameter, cut out rounds of dough.

Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Clear out the dough between the rounds and reserve. With a pastry brush, brush the edges of each round with the beaten egg. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling on the lower half of each disk. Working on one empanada at a time, grab the plastic wrap and use it to fold the dough over to create a half-moon shape. Pressing through the plastic wrap, gently seal the empanada with the edge of the cup. Remove from the plastic wrap and set aside on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining empanadas, re-rolling the scraps of dough until it is all used up.

Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a heavy medium-size pot, or heat the oil in a deep fryer. When the oil is hot, about 365 F (use a bit of leftover dough to test it; the dough should quickly puff and turn gold), drop four empanadas into it and fry until golden. Remove and drain on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining empanadas.

Serve hot.

Spanish and Italian-Inspired Shabbat Dinner

Since I was too ill to cook the last night of Pesach, I made the meal for Shabbat. Luckily, I still had some matza for my dessert.

Dinner this evening was:

Carn Estofada amb Prunes i Patates (Catalan-Style Veal Stew with Prunes and Potatoes)

I used osso bucco instead of the recommended veal shoulder. As the dish was simmering away, my husband sneaked a taste of the sauce and moaned blissfully, “this dish should be in a museum.” Need I say more? This dish is outstanding. The flavors of chocolate, prunes, chili, cinnamon and orange zest marry into an amazingly complex sauce that just bursts on the palate. The crispy potatoes add the perfect texture to the dish. This is a very rich dish that should be served with a dry and assertive red wine, such as the one we had. In the absence of the Rioja, we drank, a good Cabernet Franc or Shiraz would do pretty well.

For dessert, I made a family recipe that I have never made for my husband. They are matza fritters and they are made in several different countries. The Dutch call them Gremshelish, the Italians call them Pizzarelle Con Giulebbe. My recipe is combination of the Italian version and the version my grandmother used to make from leftover Matza Shalet batter. She served it with a lemon custard. This custard is dairy, so if you keep more than one hour between eating meat and dairy, you can serve this with a non-dairy lemon sauce of your choice.

This was a big hit with my husband. The custard is very light and creamy and the fritters are also light, but should not be served with a rich meal like we had for Shabbat dinner. You should make a double or triple recipe of the custard for all of the fritters.

Pizzarelle Con Crema di Limone

Yield: About 25 fritters and 2 cups of sauce

(Matzah Fritters with Lemon Custard)

For the fritters:

5 matzahs, broken into small pieces

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 egg whites

Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the lemon cream:

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 cup single cream (half and half)

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the batter:

Wet Matza

Place the matza pieces in a bowl of cold water and soak until soft but not falling apart, one to two minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water.

Mix all Ingredients

In a large bowl, mix together the matza pieces, sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, salt, raisins, pine nuts and egg yolks.

Add Egg Whites

Ready to Fry

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the matza mixture.

Frying Fritters

In a large, heavy pot, on medium-high, heat at least 2 inches of oil. Drop heaping tablespoons of the matza as necessary, until they are a deep brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Matza Fritters

Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by the lemon custard.

For the lemon cream:

Whisk sugar and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Bring cream and lemon peel to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into bowl; discard solids. Whisk lemon juice and vanilla into custard. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

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