How is everyones winter going so far? I feel aside from that random arctic blast earlier in December (that has us all seriously bracing ourselves) we’ve had it pretty…..good. Very little snow, very little sub zero temps, very little sunshine. Sigh. You can’t have it all right? And the random high of 40-50 degree days that are sprinkled in have been life changing. Reminding us all that yes in fact, we will survive winter and it will be spring and it will be glorious.
Until then, we’ve got our trusty dutch ovens. Who is with me? If able, I would happily spend every single Saturday and Sunday standing over my red pot searing, chopping, sauteeing, simmering. The smells fill your home and friends are on their way over and all is a ok in the world at that particular moment.
Most recently I had a love affair with a homemade pork ragu. This was a serious sauce, my friends. I’m talking all the good slow cooking stuff: meat, mirepox, herbs, a whole roasted garlic, wine. Yes indeed it does seem to be that magical formula that elevates a winter gathering to the next level and keeps friends coming over again and again and again.
The best part about this ragu is you can make it a day or two ahead. Come entertaining time just toss with pasta (love the fresh options at Heinens, you can find them right in the tomato and pasta aisle), sprinkle some freshly grated parm and parsley on top and you’ve got yourself a meal worthy of setting your dinner room table and lighting candles for. When else are you going to use it? This is the time!
A few notes about the recipe. I used two big racks of baby back ribs from Heinens, they are heavenly. My sauce ended up on the thinner side so I ended up adding another can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained, and crushed with my hands to chunk it up a little. (Next time I would just add these in to start). I also added in a bit of red pepper flakes for a little kick as well. I did make this the day before serving and I think it got even better as all the flavors settled together. It was pure perfection for an early Sunday dinner. Make it for your friends and family soon!
- 2 (2 1/4- to 2 1/2-pound) racks baby back ribs, trimmed and each rack cut in half
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel (I just crushed up some whole fennel that I had)
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped finely
- 1 large fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and chopped fine
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped fine
- 1/4 cup minced fresh sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry red wine
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed coarse (I ended up using 2 cans)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 garlic head, outer papery skins removed and top fourth of head cut off and thrown away
- 1 pound fresh pasta for serving
- parmesan, for serving
- parsley, for serving
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle ribs with ground fennel and generously season with salt and pepper, pressing spiced into the meat. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of ribs, meat side down, and cook, without moving them (this is key!), until meat is well browned, about 7 minutes. Repeat with remaining ribs; set aside.
- 2. Reduce heat to medium/medium low and add onion, fennel, carrots, 2 tablespoons sage, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to now-empty pot. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until vegetables are well browned and beginning to stick to pot bottom, 12 to 15 minutes.
- 3. Add 1 cup wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and broth and bring to simmer. Submerge garlic and ribs, meat side down, in the liquid being sure to add any juices from plate. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook until ribs are fork-tender, about 2 hours.
- 4. Remove pot from oven and transfer ribs and garlic to baking sheet. Using large spoon, skim any fat from surface of sauce. Once cool enough to handle, shred meat from bones; discard bones and gristle. Return meat to pot. Squeeze garlic from its skin into pot. (Heaven). Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons sage and remaining 2 tablespoons wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.