May it please the Palette: Pictures of Meat

 On my all-too-frequent work trips “up north,” I’ve realized that a certain stretch of I-75, generally between Flint and Birch Run, features an ungodly number of billboards with pictures of meat. Burgers and subs every half mile. Glistening globules of rendered fat. Drawings of chickens, boasting: “Boy do I taste good!” —You get the drift.

Once in a while, though, I get that craving. We all do. We pretend we’re satisfied with quinoa and salads, nearly convincing ourselves that we don’t want a hamburger and French fries. Ha, we say. Ha, we repeat, getting in line at the butcher shop, with its neat rows of perfectly marbled beef and lamb, silently wishing “Pick me! Pick me!” Passing the vegan restaurant, with its sweetly pathetic “snausages” and “not dogs,” we chuckle.
“Short ribs,” we bark at the butcher. “Give me about six of those puppies.” The butcher obliges. We realize, watching her wrap those short ribs, that there is no other grocery like this. You pick everything else off the shelves, unless it’s prepared foods that are sealed in recyclable plastic tubs. But when you watch that butcher select those short ribs – the ones you wanted, fat and juicy, and they wrap it in a good yard or two of wide brown butcher paper – you know you’re experiencing the same thing as did our ancestors.
Such as: “Butcher Og, me want mastodon meat.” Og obliges, carefully not washing his hands but instead picking his nose, then wrapping the mastodon in a banana leaf, probably with his filthy boogered thumb on the scale. “Is OK if mastodon leg weigh lots more, YES?” threatens Og, waving his club menacingly. 
Contrast this with the subtlety of today’s butcher, who clumsily fails to put the correct weight on the scale time and time again, always feigning surprise. “Oh! Is it OK if it’s half a pound over?” No, you dorf! — you answer in your own head. How many times have you done this, for real? But instead you meekly mutter, — Fine. Just give me those damned short ribs. Just let me never have to look at your shiny butcher face again.
Then you get those short ribs home. And you recognize how ridiculously easy it is to cook these things, to make a sauce that you want to lap up like a milkshake, and to suck that meat off the bone like a starving island castaway in the Sveden House Buffet after being rescued.
So here, my friend, is what you do with those short ribs.
 
Easy Short Ribs Braised 
in Red Wine
(Food & Wine)
The thing to note about this recipe is that it calls for an entire bottle of red wine. I happened to have only a pretty good one, which made the sauce taste like a happiness party exploding in my mouth. But you can use Wild Irish Rose if you’re a cheap SOB.
Ingredients:
1 TBS unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS all-purpose flour
one ENTIRE BOTTLE of red wine  (750 ML)
2 cups chicken or veal stock
2 TBS vegetable oil
four 2 inch thick, flanken-cut short ribs with bone (2 ¾ lbs.)
salt and freshly ground pepper
buttered egg noodles, for serving
Directions:
1. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery and carrot, cover and cook over moderate heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the wine and veal stock and bring to a simmer. 
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, add them to the pan and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until they are well browned, about 15 minutes. 
3. Transfer the short ribs to the casserole. Partially cover and cook over moderately low heat until very tender, about 2 hours. 
4. Transfer the ribs to a plate and remove the bones. Strain the sauce into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off the fat. Return the sauce to the casserole and boil until reduced to 2 cups, 10 minutes. Return the meat to the sauce and simmer over low heat until heated through. Serve the ribs with egg noodles, and a rich, ripe Cabernet Sauvignon.
Make Ahead:
The short ribs can be refrigerated in the sauce for up to 5 days. (But I found they lost something in the reheating.)
I highly recommend that you eat this meal standing up, without silverware, with the intensely flavorful blood-red sauce dripping down your chin, with one hand on the short rib, and the other waving your club. You never know when you’ll have to fend off a hungry mastodon, or a sneaky butcher.
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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at nroumel@yahoo.com.  His blog is http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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