Short Ribs Braised in Ancho Chile Sauce

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Snow was the stuff of dreams when I was a kid. It’s not that it didn’t snow in Cyprus. It did, but only high up in the mountains and it was a rare occasion that we would drive up there to experience it. Our car was not equipped for snowy or icy roads and my parents were reluctant to risk going up there unless the roads were plowed and the forecast was clear. Where we lived, down in the mainland, it pretty much never snowed. Which meant that my sister and I spent winters wishing for those perfect conditions that would get us up there, so that we could build a snowman and have a snowball fight. Because we knew that snow would never arrive out our house.DSC04283 (1)

And then one year, I must have been eight or nine years old, it happened. The temperature dropped and clouds gathered. The forecast was definitive. There would be snow all the way down at sea level. Our parents woke us up in the morning and told us to come to their bedroom. All four of us got under the covers and watched the snowflakes gently fall outside the bedroom window. My mom talked about how serene and calming it was but my sister and I wanted only one thing: to go outside and play in the snow. “It’s not snowing enough to stick,” my dad told us, but we were undeterred. Thirty minutes later my sister and I were throwing mud balls at each other, much to my mom’s displeasure.

We are getting a snow blizzard this weekend here in the Northeast. In New York snow always starts out beautiful, drowning out the noise of the city and erasing the harsh lines of the buildings and sidewalks. It eventually turns into black sludge and everyone hates it but for a few hours, it’s quite magical. If you are going to be in the path of this storm or any other snow storm, make these short ribs. They will warm your soul and nourish your body to get it ready for those snowball fights or shoveling chores. DSC04288 (1)

Short Ribs Braised in Ancho Chile Sauce – Slightly adapted from Epicurious

Note: The recipe uses a roasting pan but I’ve always used a dutch oven. I brown the ribs in the dutch oven, remove them and cook the chile puree in it, add the remaining ingredients and the ribs and braise them. This way I only use one pot.


4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and ribs discarded
2 cups boiling-hot water
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
6 lb beef short ribs
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup brewed coffee


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Soak ancho chiles in boiling-hot water until softened, about 20 minutes, then drain them reserving the soaking liquid. Transfer ancho chiles to a blender and purée with onion, garlic, chipotles with sauce, maple syrup, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Pat ribs dry and sprinkle with pepper and 2 teaspoons salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown ribs in 3 batches, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a roasting pan just large enough to hold ribs in 1 layer.

Carefully add chile purée to fat remaining in skillet (it will spatter and steam) and cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add reserved chile soaking liquid (or 1 1/2 cups water) and coffee and bring to a boil, then pour over ribs (liquid should reach about halfway up sides of meat).

Cover roasting pan tightly with foil and braise ribs until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim fat from pan juices.

Serve ribs with mashed potatoes or soft polenta and with pan juices.

Red Wine Braised Octopus / Χταπόδι κρασάτο


I had been in the U.S. for probably a couple of months. I was a freshman in college and on that particular night, my new American friends and I were sitting around the lounge of our college dorm talking about the kinds of things only freshmen can find interesting. At some point, the discussion turned to food and more specifically, food people found disgusting. Liver, intestines, tongue, brains, anything with a head on it, anything with tentacles, all were things tossed around by everyone in their attempt to out-disgust each other.

Everyone but me, that is. Because, as I explained to my increasingly horrified audience, these were all things I grew up eating. As I described a few occasions when my family sat down for a special Sunday lunch and my sister and I each got a whole, roasted baby lamb’s head in our plates, how we used to spread the soft-like-butter brains on our piece of bread — “to get smarter” our dad told us with a wink while he ate the eyeballs, because even we had limits and wouldn’t eat the squishy orbs — and how we used our forks to scrape the melt-in-your-mouth cheeks off the lamb skull, I realized that a couple of people were ready to pass out.

So I kept going and described the traditional Easter dish of kokoretsi: liver, heart, lung, kidneys, and other organs wrapped in intestines and cooked on a skewer over hot coals.


I soon learned to accept the squeamishness of most Americans when it comes to a lot of food I have no problem eating. But there’s one case I still find baffling: those who don’t like to eat “things with tentacles.” That means octopus (or squid). How could you not love octopus? Nothing compares when it comes to texture and taste. If cooked properly, it’s tender with a tiny bit of chewiness, with the taste of the ocean along with a distinct meaty flavor that pairs so well with red wine or vinegar.

This recipe comes from my mom. It’s the way I always ate octopus growing up. Braised in red wine and vinegar for a long time, until it melts in your mouth. The toughest part about this recipe is cutting the octopus, which can be a little slippery, but once that is done, the rest is a piece of cake. Try it, even if you are not a fan of “things with tentacles.” I bet you’ll change your mind.


Red Wine Braised Octopus

Makes 3-4 servings

Note: I usually buy whole octopus frozen and defrost it in the fridge. It’s preferable to buy frozen octopus. In fact, freezing freshly caught octopus and then defrosting it is a good way to tenderize it. Do not add salt to the octopus when cooking it. It is naturally salty. In fact, most of the octopus is salt water that will evaporate in the first part of the recipe.


3 lbs octopus, cleaned and cut into 1.5″-2″ pieces
1 cup red wine
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2-3/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
black pepper


Place cut octopus in a large pot. Do not add anything else in the pot. Turn the heat on medium and cook octopus until almost all of its water has evaporated (or as my mom always says “until it drinks its water”). The octopus pieces will turn deep pink and shrink considerably.

When only a little bit of liquid remains in the pot, add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer with a lid loosely covering the pot until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened (1.5-2 hours). Taste and season with black pepper if necessary.

Serve with rice or pasta.