food. family. life.

{open kitchen}: beef cuts & boneless beef short-rib stew

Some mornings I find myself in that space in my casa that I love so much…  and for some odd reason, I am at a loss about what to make for dinner.

Welcome to my open kitchen.

Weird, right? I mean, you know… I am a food blogger and I do so love to cook. And I’m Italian.

So why am I at a loss?

I think sometimes my creative brain goes on a small hiatus. A creative brain vacation of sorts. And just maybe, it needs a night off once in a while to relax and unwind for the next busy day of creative cooking and blogging and life in general.

So I sit and wonder what’s for dinner?…

I often find myself craving beef stew. A classic beef dish that honors the flavors and textures in that slow-cook method that renders the beef fork-tender and full of flavor.

Vintage French Beef Cuts Chart

I love to cook with beef, all kinds of cuts and varieties that started when Mammina Loreta and Papa Pierino were teaching me to cook.

They both had some wonderful beef dishes that only used a small portion of beef cuts available to all cooks and chefs today.

When I entered adulthood, I was quite intimidated by the butcher shop or meat market, I would quickly scan the meat section for cuts of beef and was often undecided and would leave with nothing.

What beef cuts did I learn about when cooking with Mammina? What beef cuts do I choose to love to work with today?

I finally made friends with my local butcher who was a great guy that taught me about varied cuts of beef that I now include in my food dishes. Take the time to create a relationship and ask questions, they are experts in their field and can offer great suggestions and even recipe ideas.

I am still learning about what is out there and available to me but I think that’s what makes cooking exciting… the adventure of finding something new and different and crafting a dish that your famiglia will “oooh” and “aahhh” over while devouring every bite. That’s what I call inspired cooking.









Top Round & Top Sirloin

Mammina Loreta loved to cook roast beef using a cut called top round. This is a good cut of meat with some marbling that made a very tasty roast on Sunday afternoons served with roasted potatoes and carrots and a large green garden vegetable salad.

Years later I learned about top sirloin for roasting, a great cut over top round, with marbling and a wonderful soft texture when seasoned well and roasted to a lovely rare to medium rare. This is my choice cut for roast beef; a meal I enjoy preparing and sharing with my famiglia.

Flank Steak & Skirt Steak

Mammina Loreta used this cut of beef for her wonderfully tasty traditional braciole in sugo dish. She would season and tenderize this somewhat tough cut of meat and pound it out until thin and easy to roll.

I have used this cut of beef for years but have also found a new love called skirt steak (it’s actually cut from the flank) that is marbleized cut fibers that require proper cuts, against the grain and diagonally or the result is tough and chewy.

I let it spend some time overnight in my marinade of choice and put it on the grill. I know you will fall for this delicious steak alternative for a fast weeknight meal.

T-Bone and Strip Steak

My parents love to grill and summertime meant steaks on the charcoal and wood grill. Amazing. Mammina and Papa would buy T-Bone steaks and season them generously with salt and pepper before grilling. When we lived in NY, Papa and I learned about the cut we love today called strip steak or NY strip steak made by Delmonicos Steakhouse in upstate NY.

These steaks were thinner and so much tastier than the T-Bone for me and my famiglia. Summertime steaks for us are still a favorite with this preferred cut of meat and we look forward to steaks on the grill in all seasons.

Beef Short-Ribs & Boneless Beef Short-Ribs

Beef short-ribs were a staple in Mammina Loreta’s kitchen. She would use them for the base of her classic red sauce that was faithfully prepared every Sunday for the week’s meals. She would also create weeknight dinners with these cooked ribs served with potatoes or crusty bread and sauteed escarole or broccoli rabe greens.

My new love is boneless beef ribs, a simple variation that allows me to create wonderful dishes from this flavorful cut that I prefer for my braises and stews. There is a good balance of meat to fat that renders beautifully when slow-cooked for hours; the meat becomes fork-tender and filled with flavor.

Plan to prepare this dish in the morning and by early afternoon, you will have a delicious dinner ready to serve and still have time to take a yoga or pilates class or start reading that really great book you got for Christmas before the evening rush begins.


{boneless beef short-rib stew}

about 1-1 1/2 lbs. good quality boneless beef short ribs

1 large sweet vidalia onion, peeled and cut into chunks

2-3 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into chunks

3-4 carrots, peeled and chunked

2-3 small stalks celery with leaves

large bunch fresh mushrooms (white button or baby bellas), washed & sliced

1 16 oz. container of organic unsalted beef stock or homemade beef stock

2 tbsp. or so of worcestershire sauce

1 glass of red wine

olive oil


salt and pepper to taste

2 bay leaves

fresh flat leaf parsley

Let the boneless beef short ribs come to room temperature and season well with salt, pepper and coat lightly in flour; set aside.

In a large deep dutch oven pot, drizzle lightly with olive oil and place on the stovetop on medium high heat and brown the meat on all sides until done; remove from pan and set aside.

Add in the garlic and onion and drizzle more oil if needed; allow to sauté for just a few minutes (do not brown) and then add in the glass of red wine to deglaze the pan and allow to simmer for a few more minutes.

Add the meat pieces back to the pot; stir well to coat the pieces and add in enough beef stock to almost cover the meat pieces. Add in the celery stalks (cut in half or so), the bay leaves and the worcestershire sauce.

Season lightly with salt and pepper and place on the middle rack in the oven at 365-375 degrees loosely covered in foil.

Let this cook for about 2-2 1/2 hours, checking once in a while to stir the mixture and turn the meat pieces over in the cooking liquid. The mixture should be simmering very slowly at this point; adjust your oven heat as needed.

At the 2 1/2 hour mark, add the chopped carrots and the mushrooms to the mixture and add in a bit more stock if the liquid is too thick or too low in the pan.

The additional stock will simmer the carrots and mushrooms just enough to cook them but they will still be tender and filled with flavor from the cooking liquid.

Let this cook in the oven, covered with the foil for about 30 minutes or so until the carrots are tender. The meat should be falling apart at this stage and your can taste the meat and stewing liquids to adjust the seasonings at this point.

Note: Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving as they are not edible.

Remove the pan from the oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with homemade mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or couscous on the side with a green vegetable side or salad.

My favorite way to eat this stew is with some greens or salad and my rustic thick-crust pane d’ altamura.

cucinadimammina_boneless beef short rib stew_5 

Note: Photography provided by Isabella Favale

Buon Appetito! 


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