Turkey Day


I just freaking love the holidays.  Love everything about them.  The decorating (if that’s what you can call my attempts), the planning (sticky notes EVERYHEWERE), the stress (waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night realizing I didn’t remove the butter to soften for the gingerbread house dough), the food (when else is it socially acceptable, even encouraged, that you overeat and drink and we call it being merry?), the crazy families (this requires no subtext).  I love it all. 

Well.  Almost all of it.  I feel like my letters to you are wrought with confessions and here goes another: turkey. TOTALLY lost on me.  Why, oh why, do we spend SO MUCH time planning and prepping and brining and roasting and turning and tenting and carving a meat that, let’s face it, really just serves as a backdrop for thick gravy, herby stuffing and buttery mashed potatoes???  The poor bird rarely cooks up right to begin with (flash to that scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with everyone trying to eat a dried out turkey by soaking it in water between bites) and really only makes up for itself the next day in sandwiches when, again, it's slathered with all the T-giving sides, but now between two slices of bread.

Not to say I won't eat it if served ('cause lets be honest, there isn't a whole lot I say no to) and in fact I'll probably enjoy it.  It just happens to be on my short list of foods I can't be bothered to fret about making in my own kitchen.

With that said I realize you can’t just say no to turkey without having a different kind of crowd pleaser.  And I DO love all the TG fixins.  So, every year Tygh and I try to find a main dish for Thanksgiving that will nicely accompany all the classic faves while still holding its own.  For example,  this year we are doing pomegranate hanger steak, recipe credits to Phyllis Grant of the blog Dash and Bella. Can't wait.

Now, I know Christmas is a whole holiday away, but with with Thanksgiving covered, my recipe considerations have moved on to December 25th  (don’t worry – Hanukah is covered and coming soon, my sweet Gentile amie).  I didn’t want a crazy day of cooking with the two little ones, one of whom is now completely obsessed with Santa, presents and everything Christmas (yes - I’ve accomplished my most important task as an American parent).  I needed something I could do the majority of the day before, with just some final moves right before dinner.  And I wanted it to be Christmas decadent. 

So, what are your feelings on beef short ribs?  And cassoulet?  Would you be totally overwhelmed if I combined them?

It may seem a little weird at first, but I used a version of our favorite red-wine braised short rib recipe.  Then, I removed the meat from the bones and let the whole mess sit overnight, letting the flavors ooze into one another.  The next day, I sautéed up some pancetta and added tomatoes and big white beans.   Finally, the whole thing got covered with a crusty, buttery topping and finished in the oven.  

In the words of Clark Griswold: Hallelujah-holy-shit.

This picture sucks but I was too hungry to do much about it.

This picture sucks but I was too hungry to do much about it.

Short Rib and Gigante Bean Cassoulet

This recipe really is best made over two days, which makes it ideal for company.  I make the short ribs and cook the beans on day one.  Day two, I put the whole mess together in a pan about 60 minutes before dinner and throw into the oven for a final 30 minutes of cooking.

Serves 6-8 as a main dish

1 recipe Beef Short Ribs (see below)

1 pound gigante beans, soaked overnight (or 4 x 15 oz cans of great northern or other white bean, drained and rinsed)

4 oz pancetta (thick cut if possible), cut into chunks

½ onion, diced

1  x 32 oz can whole san marzano tomatoes


¾ C bread crumbs or panko

½ C grated parmesan

¼ C butter, melted

¼ chopped parsley


Short Ribs (do a day ahead): (Oven at 350)

2.5#s bone-in beef short ribs

2 T olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large celery stalk, chopped

2 T flour

1 T tomato paste

½ bottle good red wine (I used a Washington merlot)

4 sprigs thyme

3 sprigs oregano

1 large sprig rosemary

2 dried or fresh bay leaves

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2-3 C low sodium beef broth, plus more to taste

Season short ribs WELL with lots of salt and pepper. Heat oil in large dutch oven over med-high heat, then add short ribs, browning on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer ribs to a plate and remove all but about 2-3 T of fat.

Add onions, carrot and celery and cook until nicely browned, stirring often.   Add flour and tomato paste, cooking for about 2-3 minutes.  Stir in wine, then add short ribs and any juices.  Bring to boil, then reduce by half – about 15 minutes.  Add all herbs, garlic and stock.  Bring to gentle boil.  Cover, then transfer to oven and cook for 2 – 2.5 hours (Note: I turn the short ribs over in the liquid at about 75 minutes).  Remove from oven.

Remove ribs from sauce.  Using an immersion blender, blend sauce (making sure to remove all the sprigs of herbs first), adding some stock to thin it a bit (about ½ C).  Remove meat from bones, saving both, adding back to sauce and storing in fridge over night. (This can/should be done a day ahead of time)

Cook Gigantes: (Can do a day ahead)

In a large pot, cover pre-soaked beans with water by about 2-3 inches. Bring beans to a low simmer with garlic cloves and few sprigs each of thyme, oregano and rosemary. Cook 60-90 minutes, testing for doneness beginning at about an hour. Strain. Remove any herb sprigs.

Next day:

In large casserole pan, saute pancetta until fat is rendered and peices are nicely browned.  Remove with slotted spoon, reserving fat in pan.  Add onion to pan and sauté till translucent, about 5 min.  Add tomatoes, crushing between fingers and adding maybe half the juice.  Stir in short rib sauce (can skim off any fat that has come to the top, if desired), 1-2 cups beef broth, beans, short ribs and bones.  Bring to low simmer.  Top with bread crumb mixture. Add salt and pepper.

Cook in oven about 30 minutes at 350, or until nice and bubbly.  Broil top for a bit if not quite browned on top.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Serve!