As we settle into the long, cold, dark days that come with the final slog through winter, we — your pals from The Hairpin and The Awl — will be bringing you some of our favorite casserole recipes (and crockery recommendations).
I am fascinated with Minnesota. I think it began in the summer when I was about six. My family would rent a house in Cape May, NJ, and all pile in and spend a week or two on the beach. This included my aunt, who has long lived outside Minneapolis with her husband, a native Minnesotan. Soon they began to bring a group of friends every year. Friends who called soda "pop" and made potato salad with pickle juice and drank more beer than anyone I've ever met. And they said things like "dontcha know" and "ooh yah" and it was just so foreign. Then I grew up and saw Fargo, and the obsession became official.
A few seasons ago I went to Minnesota, to visit my family and a close friend from college, who happened to be the one to introduce me to hot dish. However, my hot dish was not traditional hot dish. It was total hipster hot dish, and it was fantastic. It was made with short ribs and a beschamel sauce, and it had TRUFFLE TATER TOTS on top, and I was so sickly full after eating it, but I didn't even care. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and even when my wonderful roommate, bless her heart, made good-ol' working-class hot dish with delicious tots and salty ground beef, it just couldn't compare.
This is my attempt to recreate that magical hipster dish. There's truffle oil and short rib and wine, and, okay, regular crispy potatoes instead of tots (though you could definitely put tots in this), and even though it's not exactly what I had, I feel happy making it.
A note on casseroles: I can't be the only one who gets confused about French casseroles and American casseroles, right? Growing up, I always assumed a casserole was something weird and gooey baked in a 9x13 pyrex dish, but it turns out that's just me being an ignorant American, and a casserole is basically a French Dutch oven, and that's definitely what you should be using for this. Also definitely get out of the habit of going for the pyrex every time you see a "casserole" recipe that doesn't specify. Though maybe they should just start specifying because NOT ALL OF US KNOW ABOUT YOUR FANCY FRENCH COOKWARE.
3 pounds beef short rib cut in serving-size pieces (no bones)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
A few drops hot pepper sauce (I use Crystal hot sauce, and go a little heavy with 10 drops or so)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons red wine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 package of frozen hash browns, or if you're not incredibly lazy like me, about three potatoes, boiled, cooled and diced.
A drizzles-worth of white truffle oil
1. Heat oven to 325 F. Trim excess fat from ribs; brown in oil (making sure to always splatter yourself, no matter how hard you try and how much you dry the beef beforehand). Place ribs in a deep 2 1/2- to 3-quart FRENCH casserole. Saute onion in meat drippings, adding a little more oil if you need to; add water and bring to boil. Mmmmm, hot onion water.
2. Pour onion water over ribs; cover and bake for 2 hours, or until almost tender. Pour off juice into saucepan (better yet, remove beef bits with tongs, then pour liquid into a saucepan, then put beef bits back in casserole dish) and combine with sugar, flour, hot pepper sauce, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and bay leaf. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, and cook until all the bits are melted together and it's a little thickened, but not like, actual gravy thickened. Season with salt and pepper; pour over ribs and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
3. About 15 minutes before that hour is up, start cooking your frozen/fresh potatoes/tater tots in a skillet to get them nice and browned and crispy. Take out casserole and put the potatoes on top. Drizzle well with white truffle oil, and throw it back in the oven for another half hour. Then remove, let cool for a second so you don't hurt your mouth, and serve! Best enjoyed with some red wine and the ABC Family run of Lion King, as I discovered this weekend.
Jaya Saxena doesn't make enough to be buying white truffle oil all willy-nilly like this.