Saturday, January 25, 2014

We Bought a Cow

We bought a cow. More specifically, together with three other couples, we bought a whole cow from Evan's parents' friends who raise grass fed beef. Dividing up the cow in quarters, we each got 150 pounds of beef at about $3 per pound. This is a great deal, since grass feed beef typically ranges from $7-8 per pound for ground meat up to $20 something a pound for steak. (I'm not sure if this is a typical price for a cow share, but it happens to be the deal we got.)

Logistically, we cannot all fit our entire shares in our small New York City freezers, so luckily Evan's parents have a freezer large enough to store the rest. For now, our freezer is filled with roasts and short ribs. After the weather warms up, we will switch our focus to the steaks. I'm very excited about the opportunity to cook and eat our way through various kinds of cuts and experiment with different cooking methods.

So far, we've only made a few dishes with the beef, including these short ribs. Short ribs need to be braised over a long time, which makes them a perfect contender for the slow cooker. With all of these polar vortexes, coming home to the smell of hearty beef cooking away in a crock pot has been pretty much perfect. I also think that slow cooked beef and root vegetables is my absolute favorite combination to serve over warm polenta.

The other great thing is that we're going to have a circle of stock for months. Every time we make a roast, we use the bones leftover to make stock, which we can then use to cook the next beef dish, making it all the more flavorful, and so on.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs and Vegetables over Polenta
Short Ribs and Root Vegetables
3 lb short ribs
2 carrots
2 parsnips
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp balsamic vineger
ground pepper
crushed red pepper

2 cups beef stock
2 cups water
1 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
1 tsp salt

Brown the ribs in a cast iron pan for about five minutes on each side, just until browned. Place the ribs in a slow cooker. Top with chopped vegetables. Throw in the spices and then pour in the stock, wine and vinegar and try to stir it all together. Add water if needed until liquid reaches just to the top of the vegetables. Cook on high for one hour and then turn to low and cook for another seven hours. The meat is done when it is easily falling off the bone.

About 45 minutes before serving, prepare the polenta. Bring a pot of water to boil. Whisk in the polenta and stir for a couple minutes so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. Turn heat to low and cover. Stir every ten minutes, and cook for 30-40 minutes until it reaches your desired thickness.

When the ribs are done, you have two choices:
The lazy choice is to just ladle food straight from the slow cooker to your plate - plating a rib or two and vegetables and their cooking liquid over a bowl of polenta.

Or you could do what I did, which is to remove the bones and the considerable fat from the short ribs before serving. I used a strainer-ladle to remove the vegetables and meat from the crock pot. I set aside the vegetables in a container in the oven to stay warm. Then I picked through the short ribs to separate out the bones and fat, and to shred the meat into small pieces as you would with pulled pork. Then I combined the shredded meat with the vegetables.

Meanwhile, I poured the cooking liquid into a pot and cooked at medium heat uncovered for about 15 minutes until it was reduced to about a quarter of its original volume. This part is again optional, but it means the liquid to pour over the dish will be more flavorful.

Serve with the rest of the bottle of wine.

To make beef stock afterward
Throw the bones, fat and meat scraps either back into the slow cooker, or into a large pot. Add the vegetable peels from earlier. Pour in any cooking liquid leftover from making the ribs, and enough water to cover the bones and vegetable scraps complete, about 8 cups of water. Cook on low for either 3 hours, if using a pot, or 8 hours if using a slow cooker. Refrigerate. The next day, remove any fat from the top and freeze in 2 or 4 cup increments.


  1. I like that you and your friends split a cow. Smart. Every once in a while we will beef one of our cattle. (that's what we call it. sounds better than butcher.) The meat is so much better than store bought.

  2. So jealous! This is exactly what I'd like to do, but all my friends have apartment freezers, which just doesn't work out. : (