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Keeping Warm with Short-Rib Stew

It's cold outside and the winter appetite steers the mind to thoughts of stew: Something comforting, something to park on the stove or in the oven for a long time, without the need for much poking or prodding.

NPR's Melissa Block gets some tips for making a fine stew from Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and the New York Times food column "The Minimalist."

Below are Bittman's recipes for wine-braised short ribs, Asian lamb shanks and butter-braised vegetables.

Wine-Braised Short Ribs

Makes 4 servings

Time: at least 3 hours, largely unattended


4 to 8 short ribs, depending on size

Salt and pepper

1 large onion

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup wine

1 cup chicken stock or water

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the ribs in an ovenproof skillet, meatiest side down, and put in the oven; roast until nicely browned, about 15 minutes. If time and energy allow, brown the other sides similarly. Otherwise proceed. Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees.

2. Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper and remove them from the pan; pour off most of the fat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and let it bubble for a minute, then add 1 cup water and the stock (or use 2 cups water). Return the ribs to the pan and partially cover. Put in the oven and cook, turning every hour or so, until the meat is very, very tender, at least 2 hours and probably longer, adding additional liquid to the pan if it threatens to dry out.

3. Serve the meat with the pan juices, garnished with the parsley.

Asian Lamb Shanks with Turnips

Makes 4 servings

Time: about 3 hours, largely unattended


1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil

4 lamb shanks, each about a pound

1/3 cup dark soy or 1/2 cup light soy

5 nickel-sized slices of ginger (don't bother to peel)

4 pieces star anise

2 to 3 cups peeled and cubed rutabaga or white turnip

1/2 cup trimmed and minced scallion


1. Put the oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to high. A minute later, add the meat (you can cover the pot loosely to reduce spattering; alternatively, you can brown it in the oven as in the short rib recipe) and sear for at least 5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. While the meat is browning, combine the soy sauce, ginger, anise, and 2 cups of water in a casserole big enough to fit the meat snugly. Bring this mixture to a boil, then adjust the heat so that it simmers.

2. When the meat is browned, add it to the simmering liquid and cover the pot. Cook, turning the meat once or twice an hour and adding more water if necessary, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is just about tender (poke it with a thin-bladed knife; when the meat is done it will meet little resistance). Fish out the star anise and add the rutabaga, stirring to make sure it is coated with liquid (again, add more water if necessary). Re-cover and cook until the rutabaga is very tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Garnish with the scallion and serve, preferably with white rice.

Butter-Braised Vegetables

Makes 4 servings

Time: about an hour


2 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons butter, more or less

1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

1 white turnip, peeled and cut into chunks

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks

1 medium waxy ("new") potato, peeled and cut into chunks

About 20 green beans, trimmed

6 to 8 pearl onions, peeled

4 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper

4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish


1. Melt the butter in small casserole or medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons water and all the vegetables except the scallions, along with some salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, at least 30 minutes.

2. Uncover, add the scallions, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the scallions wilt. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish, and serve.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.