1/2 cup fino sherry, dry white wine, or dry vermouth
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
4 whole star anise
6 to 61/2 pounds beef short ribs on the bone (each 3 to 4 inches long)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil; more as needed
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch), peeled and cut into 8 slices
6 large scallions (white and green parts), cut into 2-inch lengths
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips (2 to 21/2 cups), rinsed, and dried well
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put the tomatoes, 2/3 cup water, the soy sauce, sherry, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir. Add the star anise.
Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with pepper. In an ovenproof pot that's large enough to hold all the ribs in no more than two layers, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Put as many ribs in the pot as will fit without crowding and brown them on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter. Brown the rest of the ribs, adding more oil if needed, and transfer to the platter.
Pour off the fat from the pan, reduce the heat to low, and add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, stirring and pressing them against the pot, for 1 to 2 minutes to bring out their flavor. Return the ribs to the pot and pour the tomato and soy sauce mixture over them. Bring to a simmer and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise the ribs, lifting and turning them about every half hour, until the meat is very tender and starts to fall off the bone when pulled with a fork, 21/2 to 3 hours.
Transfer the ribs to a serving platter (or if you're working ahead, transfer them to a baking dish; refrigerate, covered, when cool). Pick out and discard the ginger and star anise from the pot and pour the remaining sauce into a large, clear measuring cup. When the fat rises to the surface, after about 5 minutes, spoon it off and discard. (Or, if you're working ahead, cool the sauce in the pot, refrigerate it, and skim the solid fat off the top. When it's time to reheat the ribs, return them to the pot and heat gently in the oven.)
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat the sauce, season generously with pepper and more salt, if you like, and pour it over the ribs. Scatter the leeks over the top and serve.
Smashed Red-Skinned Potatoes with Boursin & Scallions
Smashing low-starch potatoes into a rustic side dish is the way to go to avoid gumminess. Besides, there is always someone who loves lumps.
1 3/4 to 2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 11/2- to 2-inch chunks
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
4 ounces boursin (with garlic and herbs), cut into pieces and at room temperature
3 scallions (white parts with some green), chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add a generous 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer, cover the pot partially, and cook until the potatoes are quite tender when tested with a metal skewer, 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain the potatoes -- reserving some of the cooking water -- and dump them back in the pot. Dry the potatoes over medium heat, shaking the pan and stirring, until most of the moisture has steamed off. Reduce the heat to very low.
Use the side of a big metal spoon to cut through the skins and flesh of the potatoes, reducing the chunks to a very coarse mash. Stir in the butter and then the boursin. You might need to loosen the mash with a few tablespoons cooking water or as much as 1/2 cup. Don't beat vigorously or the potatoes may turn gummy. Stir in the scallions, add salt and pepper, and serve right away.