When my siblings and I were growing up, my mother was a miraculous cook—every night she procured dinner for eight people. Among our favorite meals was what we called “stringy meat,” which was any kind of meat that was cooked long and slow until it was a fork-tender, pull-apart, deliciously stringy thing.
Stringy meat recipes like brisket, short ribs and stew were great for cooks like Mom, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do. Mom could throw some short ribs in the oven, then jump in the station wagon and drive me to ballet, watch some of Lindsay’s field hockey game at the nearby field, go pick up Billy from his trumpet lesson and Diana from choir practice, then swing back for me and Lindsay, drop us home and take Charlie to the doctor, pick up Sam from his play date with Danny McNerney and head home again, notice we’re out of milk, go to the market to get some, return home, try to get everyone involved in homework while she cooked some noodles for the short ribs, put the laundry in the dryer, vacuumed the living room, set the table and conjured up a salad, by which time the meat would be stringy perfection.
Sadly, my mom will be a couple thousand miles away this Mother’s Day. But as I celebrate with my family, I will also be celebrating Mom’s ability to do parental multi-tasking with such grace. I’m grateful for that, but mostly I’m grateful that she, at 95, is still a wonderful part of my life.
Mom’s Short Ribs (aka Stringy Meat)
8 boneless short ribs of beef, about 4 pounds
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups red wine
1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes
1-2 cups chicken broth, homemade if possible
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.
2. Place the short ribs on a baking sheet and brown them in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning them half way through so they get evenly browned. When they’re done, turn the oven down to 300º and set the meat aside.
3. In a Dutch oven large enough to hold the meat, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables are tender, about twenty minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the wine and cook unitil it’s reduced by half.
4. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes. When the wine is reduced, add the tomatoes to the pot with their juice, along with the bay leaf, herbes de Provence, a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Return the beef to the pot and add enough broth to cover the meat. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook the short ribs until they are very tender, about three hours. (While this is happening, you can go out and do six errands.)