I’ve teamed up with a group of bloggers and Instagrammers to unveil our favorite #virtualpotluck for winter. Although we’re in different locations, we’ve teamed together to create an outstanding winter menu. Ours is for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but equally perfect for Valentine’s Day or Football Sunday. We’re sharing some of our favorite recipes and I’ve tagged everyone participating, so be sure over the next couple of days, to check out what we’re doing. Join in the fun and feel free to use the hashtag!

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We all spent some days in Napa together and this was a favorite dish I shared with them that I’d also like to share with you. Large, square cut, boneless short ribs, served with mashed potatoes and a black vinegar syrup. Without a doubt, this is one of the most delicious things to make. I first enjoyed this dish at a restaurant called Zinfandel in Chicago, which no longer exists. Every time I went I ordered this dish and felt it would be impossible to order anything else. I often think it’s perfect for a last meal. It starts with a super high quality boneless short rib that’s cut square and requires a good bottle of red zinfandel and some high-quality red wine vinegar. For this particular dish, I started with a nicer grocery store brand and reduced it down. I finished it with a 1/2 a cup of a super high quality balsamic and reduced further. Divine! I have a dear friend who I see a couple times a year. I made this for him about 10 years ago and he often remarks he thinks it was one of his top 5 meals in his life.

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[recipe title=”Best Short Ribs” print=”true” ]


Serves 8


  • For the short ribs
  • 8 square-cut boneless beef short rib pieces, 9 ounces each
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large red onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 10 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cups zinfandel

For the Black Vinegar Sauce

  • 4 cups red wine vinegar, best quality available (OR, 4 cups grocery store red wine vinegar, then after reducing, finish with 3/4 cup high quality balsamic)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark raisins

West Town Tavern is known for its pot roast. The secret is simple: they use boneless beef short ribs instead of the usual beef chuck. When people ask me what the real secret is, I just smile! Sometimes (rarely) you can find boneless short ribs at the supermarket, but to be sure, preorder them from your butcher.

Make the short ribs
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Sprinkle short rib pieces with salt and pepper to taste. In a heavy 5-quart sauté pan heat the canola oil and sear the beef on all sides until brown. Leave the beef in the pan.

Add the carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves and parsley to the pan. Pour in the wine and just enough water to come 3/4 of the way up the sides of the beef. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, cover with a lid or foil and braise in the oven until meat is very tender, 3 to 31/2 hours. Let meat stand in the braising liquid until ready to serve. Short ribs may be prepared up to this point, and refrigerated, covered, in the liquid for 2 days. Short ribs may also be frozen.

Make the sauce
While the short ribs are braising, in a 3-quart saucepan combine the vinegar and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer rapidly until liquid reduces to 2 1/2 cups. Add the raisins. Continue to simmer the sauce and reduce to 2 cups. Sauce should be black, syrupy and glossy. Be careful sauce does not over-reduce and burn. Let sauce cool to room temperature and serve with pot roast. Sauce may be made up to 1 week ahead and refrigerated. Warm gently in the microwave or in a small saucepan before using. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of sauce per serving, garnishing the plate with the raisins.

Serve this, as we do, with Mashed Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts. Reserve the braising liquid to reheat the pot roast if prepared ahead or to use in soup, risotto or sauces.

I originally had this recipe at Zinfandel in Chicago, a Rick Bayless and Susan Gross restaurant.



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