Monday, October 15, 2007

Last Night's Dinner #41: Brasato al Barolo and Butternut Orzo

Brasato al Barolo (Braised Beef Short Ribs) and Butternut Squash Orzo

Recipe from The Babbo Cookbook
Prep: 25 mins
Total: 2 1/2 hours
Difficulty: Medium

This is a great dish for a small dinner party - you prep for a little bit and it just cooks itself in the oven. The orzo takes only minutes to finish, so do steps one and two ahead of time and finish up the final step while your guests are getting seated or sipping on some wine.

You'll need:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Four 16-ounce beef short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine
One 16-ounce can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juices
1 cup brown chicken stock or beef stock
1/2 bunch of thyme
1/2 bunch of rosemary
1/2 bunch of oregano

Pumpkin Orzo
1/2 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, seeded and peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup orzo
1 cup chicken stock

The most important step here is the initial browning; do not shorten it or the final braise will not be as intensely flavored or colored.

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and cook them over high heat until deep brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove the short ribs to a plate and set aside. Add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the pan and cook over high heat until browned and softened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the red wine, tomatoes and juices, beef stock, and herbs, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge browned bits. Bring the mixture to a boil and return the short ribs to the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender and literally falling off the bones.

1. Cut the pumpkin or squash into 3 or 4 evenly sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with the olive oil, and wrap in foil. Roast in the 375°F (190°C) oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until very soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then place the cooked squash in the bowl of a food processor. Add the honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper and pulse to form a relatively smooth purée. Set aside.

2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Set up an ice bath nearby. Cook the orzo in the boiling water for 3 minutes, to blanch but not cook through. Drain the orzo and plunge it into the ice bath. Once cooled, drain it and lay it out on a baking sheet to dry.

3. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 12-inch sauté pan. Add the orzo and squash purée and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken stock is fully absorbed by the orzo. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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