Spring Fling

Chef Michael Scelfo shares his secrets for the ultimate al fresco dinner party.


michael scelfo dinner party recipe

Short ribs get a sprinkle of sea salt and coarse ground black pepper before they’re served.

The Short Ribs

Scelfo prefers to finish off his ribs in a smoker. Don’t own one? Simply bake your ribs in the oven. The chef uses zinfandel in his braising liquid—if you don’t have any on hand, go with “any red wine you’d be happy to drink,” he says.

5 lbs. boneless beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 medium onions, chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 bottle of zinfandel (750 ml.) 

10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

8 sprigs thyme

2 sprigs rosemary

4 fresh or dried bay leaves

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

4 c. low-salt beef stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, brown short ribs on all sides (about eight minutes per batch). Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off and discard all but 3 tablespoons of drippings from the pot. Add onions, carrots, and celery to the pot and cook over medium-high heat. Stir often, until onions are browned (about five minutes). Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red (about two to three minutes). Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices from the plate. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half (about 25 minutes). Add all herbs to the pot along with the garlic. Stir in the beef stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook the mixture in the oven until the short ribs are tender (about two hours). Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain the sauce from the pot into a glass measuring cup. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce and discard. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

The Ginger-and-Lime Shrub

This tangy, herbaceous syrup is fantastic drizzled on short ribs or mixed into gin- or vodka-based cocktails. Makes 2 1/2 cups of syrup.

2 c. apple-cider vinegar

2 c. sugar

4 tbsp. finely minced ginger

2 limes, halved

1 c. mixed mint, basil, and thyme

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

Combine cider vinegar, sugar, ginger, and limes in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add herbs, reduce heat to low, and simmer for five to seven minutes. Allow mixture to cool, then chill. Pour mixture into a fine strainer and let drain, pressing to extract all liquid. Reserve solids for future use. Transfer syrup to a covered jar, and refrigerate until ready to use. If you have a smoker, heat your smoker to 80 degrees and fill with chips. (Scelfo uses hickory, but other varieties, like mesquite, alder, and cherry, will work.) Place the short ribs in the smoker, and brush every 15 minutes with the ginger-and-lime shrub for about an hour and a half. If you don’t have a smoker, use the oven, still at 350 degrees. Cook the ribs for an additional hour and a half in the oven, brushing with the shrub mixture every 15 minutes. To plate, reheat the short-rib sauce until it’s been reduced by about half. Place the short ribs on a platter, and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with fresh mint.

michael scelfo dinner party recipe

Ginger and lime anchor the glaze for the braised short ribs.