In the unfortunate instance that you had to choose one more meal before getting whacked, what would it be? Who thinks of this stuff? I, as a lifelong cook and card-carrying foodaphile, have pondered such a quandary. In my humble opinion, I would have to go with a linguine with short rib ragu cooked by… myself.
Traditional Italian ragu, or tomato-based meat sauce, is generally made with some form of ground meat or combination of meats. My preference is to use the short rib. The short rib is a tough cut that benefits from the long cooking process needed to cultivate flavors in a good ragu. Once cooked, the connective tissues in the meat are weakened, leaving it melt-in-your-mouth tender.
The real advantage of using the short rib is the bone. Bones are filled with collagen that, when cooked, breaks down and produces gelatin. Marrow gives you superb meat flavor and gelatin thickens up the sauce. When making a good ragu you should never allow the liquid to boil rapidly, hence the long cooking time. This small step helps the cook using short ribs to extract as much gelatin from the bones as possible to enrich the sauce. Moreover, not allowing the sauce to boil rapidly minimizes the release of impurities from the bones.
To create the perfect ragu, start by dusting two pounds of short ribs with flour. Heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a fry pan over medium heat. When you can see the oil shimmering, just before it starts to smoke, add the meat. Brown the short ribs on all sides. Set aside to rest.
Now saute five ounces of bacon in a stockpot. Add one large onion, diced; one fennel bulb, diced; two shallots, minced; and two garlic cloves, minced. Add one small can of tomato paste. Brown the paste with the vegetables to reduce some of the raw acidity. Deglaze the pot with 750 ml of Gewürztraminer wine and two cups half-and-half. Return the short ribs to the pot. Drop in two bay leaves and two beef stock cubes for additional meaty goodness. Lightly tent the stockpot with aluminum foil.
See you in eight hours.
Well, not exactly. The rest of the cooking time is spent playing a game of reduce… add water… reduce… add water. All the while, stir the pot on a regular basis in order to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom and burning.
The cooking time is excessive and laborious but ultimately worth it. Serve this ragu with linguine and toasted garlic bread. Sprinkle some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over the pasta. Do not use the shockingly abhorrent cheese in the can. Invest in a Microplane grater and grate it yourself. Finish the dish with a chiffonade, which is Frenchy for cut-into-thin-strips, of basil.
This scandalous, self-indulgent, luscious meaty dish will make you an absolute star at your next dinner party.