The first meal Hal ever made for me, for our fourth date, was short ribs. I was on my way back from VA after Thanksgiving, and when Hal texted to say he was making short ribs in his slow cooker, I was very much impressed by the idea of a gent with that kind of kitchen equipment. When he later confessed that the slow cooker was in fact purchased just the day before for this specific recipe, I was a total goner. To go along with the short ribs he made mashed potatoes and carrots, and we started dinner with raw oysters (a bold move, but, as it turns out, also an effective one). When we were deciding what to make for our first married Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to go back to that first homemade dinner, and so we celebrated my favorite Hallmark holiday with oysters–grilled on the stove, à la Cochon–and short ribs. Not in our now shared slow cooker, but braised in a dutch oven.
Our first thought was to just recreate the same dish Hal had made way back when, but he couldn’t dig up the recipe. So we started searching, and settled on something from the Pioneer Woman. Lots of short rib recipes require hours and hours of cooking or overnight marinating, and since this one only needs about three hours, it was an easy yes. In spite of the relatively short cooking time, this is an insanely flavorful dish, thanks to the careful flavor layering that goes on. You start by crisping up some pancetta in your dutch oven, then brown the short ribs in the pancetta grease (always a good idea). Root veggies are cooked down in all of the goodness left behind by the ribs, and red wine is used to free up all of the tasty bits clinging to the bottom of the pot. The ribs are added back in with beef broth, salt and pepper, plus rosemary and thyme. And then your whole house gets to smell very tasty and romantical for the next few hours.
I really like the idea of cooking something a little elaborate for Valentine’s Day (and do agree with the roughly three billion articles that come out every year telling you to stay away from restaurants on this particular night of the year), but not so elaborate that you’re sick of the whole thing by the time you’re set to eat. This recipe felt like the perfect combination of special and simple, just right for a romantic dinner that is, after all, in your own regular old house. So we busted out our champagne coupes and lit the candles we otherwise usually forget to light…and laughed at the fact that eating at our counter also means eating right next to our sink, and went ahead and used the quart containers we usually use for water. Real life romance is where it’s at.
We followed the recipe to the letter, and you can find it here: Braised Short Ribs. The Pioneer Woman recommends serving the ribs over polenta, which I’m sure would be awesome. We went with a new favorite celeriac puree, which worked perfectly to soak up all of the delicious sauce, and served roasted brussels sprouts on the side. Hal reports that these particular Valentine’s Day leftovers make for a seriously tasty President’s Day breakfast when turned into a hash with eggs and potatoes. Noted for next year.