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Short ribs always sound incredibly enticing on restaurant menus and the dish is certain to be on the more expensive end of the scale. The short rib cut is so tasty that you can be pretty certain, though, that if you are a meat eater and want to splurge and pay $30.00 or so – whether it’s served on polenta or mashed potatoes or some parsnip and leek-cheek remoulade – you will be getting a winner of a dish and the splurge will be worth it.

Short ribs are expensive at the butcher counter too. I bought them bone-in to cook for visiting relatives last year. Five bone-in pieces rang up to more than $50 dollars ($9.99 a pound) and I didn’t feel like I was serving generous portions at that because the bone accounted for a lot of the weight and one piece felt like a scant portion. The last thing I want when am serving up a dinner is that fearful anticipation of being in that worst hosting position that there won’t be enough to go around – that the people around your table are going to be holding back.

Who remembers this episode in the Mary Tyler Moore show canon, titled “The Dinner Party”? If you do, I don’t need to explain the photo.

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I know I am dating myself here but what a teaching moment that was. I think of it often. (She made a dish called Veal Prince Orloff (!) and there were six serving slices on the platter for the six guests. Lou Grant took three and Mary had to whisper to him to put two back. He looks back up at her in some disbelief, saying, “That’s it?”

Every host’s nightmare.

In the realm of short ribs, I wised up and did two smart (and by ‘smart’ I mean economical) things:

  1. I started buying short ribs in value packs at Costco – 4 pounds of boneless strips for about $22.00. I could generously feed 8 people for less than half of what it had cost to feed 4, when buying the high end, bone-in pieces. The difference in taste, honestly, was not worth spending an additional $60 dollars. I am not that much of a purist.
  2. I started making short rib risotto.

I made short rib risotto this week from the leftovers of one of those Costco cooking scenarios. With a scant pound left, it stretched out generously as a risotto dish to feed the three of us a couple nights later. I had leftovers for lunch too.

With preparing short ribs, you can set it and forget it – so in a restaurant it’s probably a line cook’s dream because it’s a very passive dish. I have also bought one bone-in piece at the fancy butcher and braised it for several hours on the back burner while I made something else for dinner, then it was all prepared and ready to be featured in the short rib risotto the next night.

As far as restaurant economics go, I know many people who balk at paying $20.00 for a plate of risotto when the ingredients should be fairly cheap – arborio rice, some mushrooms, some protein – chicken, shellfish or beef – and stock. But risotto, if it’s done right, requires someone tending it vigilantly for 20 minutes. It’s a dish that requires some passion, or at least tenderness. I always grate the parmesan I’m going to need for the dish ahead so I’m not scrambling while I’m supposed to be stirring.

Here’s the pot or risotto I made last week, when the weather was so cold and rainy. It was very satisfying.  If you try putting together this very flavorful labor of love, let me know what you think.

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Risotto and the stock, side by side.

Short Rib Risotto

  • 10 – 12 oz. Leftover cooked short ribs, cut into bite sized pieces (or prepare for this dish a 1-pound bone-in portion, then cube and set aside).
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 32 oz box of Swansons beef stock (or homemade if you have it)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • ¼ onion or shallot chopped fine
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese – divided

Heat up the beef stock in a medium saucepan. It will be cooking, ideally at a simmer, alongside your main dish as you prepare the risotto.

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In a heavy saucepan – I like to use the same kind I’d make a homemade pureed soup in, with curved sides – saute the onion or shallot in the olive oil. About 3 minutes.

Add the cup of rice and saute in the oil until you see ‘the eye’ appear per Carlo Middione, that is, the grains will have translucent edges and an opaque white center. About 2 minutes.

Pour ¾ of a cup of the beef stock into the risotto pan and stir. At this point set one of your clock timers for 18 minutes and keep an eye on the countdown. You will be stirring the rice frequently though I find stirring constantly is not necessary. The heat should be high enough so that the stock is simmering but not too hot that the rice would get scorched. Add more stock by half cupfuls and stir as the liquid is absorbed. Do not add so much stock that the rice is swimming in pools of liquid.

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When the timer has clocked down to between 10 and 8 minutes add the beef to the risotto mixture. Keep adding stock and when the risotto has about 3-4 minutes to go, gauge that you don’t have more than a cup left of the stock in the second saucepan. I taste the rice when it has a minute or so left to see if the rice is tender enough. Mr Middione advises not to cook the pasta more than those 18 minutes but we seem to like it a little less al dente. See what you like yourself.

Use that 18 minute timer going off to give you notice that the rice can take another minute or two of cooking and adding a last splash of broth if you don’t want it too al dente (giving the broth time to cook down and be mostly absorbed). Otherwise take the pan off the heat at this 18 minute point and add about 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese and stir through.

Use the rest of the cheese for the table or for garnishing the top of the serving bowl at the table.

Serve immediately. Serves 4-5.

It also nukes up just fine the next day at work. I told you I am not a purist. It was a pretty awesome option of the “I brought my lunch to work” variety.

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