Fresh eats

Some of Missoula’s newest restaurants help prepare a heaping holiday feast


If you read enough cooking magazines or watch your fair share of the Food Network, certain culinary buzzwords start to seep into your vocabulary. Locavore. Farm-to-table. Fusion cuisine. Blah blah blah. It’s useless trying to keep up with all of them. But when it comes to good food, there’s one buzzword that never falls out of flavor, er, favor: fresh.

Missoula Independent news
  • Cathrine L. Walters

That’s why we decided to focus the Indy’s annual holiday food issue on some of Missoula’s freshest restaurants. The Garden City has been fortunate in recent years to see an influx of exciting new eating establishments. We asked six of them—as well as Missoula’s first microdistillery—to help us put together the ultimate Thanksgiving feast, from main dish to after-dinner cocktail, and everything in between. The result leaves us grateful for our area’s bountiful restaurants and their creative chefs—and bacon, because my goodness there’s a lot of bacon in these recipes.


Braised beef short ribs

Walker Hunter, Burns St. Bistro

Braised dishes are an excellent choice for the holiday season because they are not only delicious and seasonally appropriate, but are also best prepared a day in advance. This helps cut down the distractions on the holiday itself, and starts the gauntlet of cookery with a delicious smelling house.

The Bistro chefs chose this short rib recipe to highlight some of the spectacular fall foods Missoula makes available, as well as our great local beer. Celery root, plentiful in this season, adds a nice sweetness to the dish. Other beef cuts can be used if short ribs are unavailable or too expensive. If you’re looking for alternatives, choose a good braising cut, such as chuck or brisket—or tongue or cheeks if you’re more adventurous.

Oh, and feel free to call the Bistro if you get into trouble with the recipe. Seriously, we’ll do our best to help.

Missoula Independent news
  • Cathrine L. Walters


5 pounds beef short ribs, brightly colored and clean smelling. (We like the ones from Big Sky All Natural Beef, which are often available at the Missoula Food Co-op next to the Bistro.)

1 cup of flour

Canola oil

2 medium yellow onions, rough chopped

3 medium carrots, rough chopped

1 celery stalk, rough chopped

1 small celery root, rough chopped

2 garlic bulbs, halved crosswise

3 dry or 2 fresh bay leaves

5 hardy sprigs of fresh thyme

A few black peppercorns

Small can of tomato paste

A growler of your favorite cooking beer (We suggest something medium-bodied and not too bitter, like Kettlehouse Cold Smoke or Draught Work’s Gwin Du Stout)

Beef stock (Your own or low-sodium canned)

Red wine vinegar


Salt and pepper

Missoula Independent news
  • Cathrine L. Walters


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

It’s best to remove the short ribs from the fridge an hour before, to let them come up to room temperature. Season generously with salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the ribs in flour lightly and sear on all sides. You’re looking for a good brown crust. Remove from pan and place bones down in a large roasting/braising pan.

Add vegetables, thyme, bay leaves and black peppercorns to skillet and sauté, stirring only occasionally. Once the vegetables have taken on some color and softened, add the tomato paste and continue cooking for a few more minutes, stirring frequently.

Add enough beer to cover the vegetables halfway and stir to remove any food from the pan. Reserve the rest of the beer for personal amusement while waiting for the meat to finish. This step often takes three hours, so you may want to plan accordingly when shopping at the brewery or beer aisle. Reduce only slightly, then add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil.

Carefully pour the liquid and vegetables over the ribs. The liquid should come halfway up the ribs, though a little more is not a problem. Cover with parchment paper laid flat across the surface or loosely fitted foil. Place in center of oven. Have a beer. You can check the ribs after a few hours by inserting a skewer or similar probing device. When it comes out easily without lifting the rib out of its braising liquid, it’s done.

Cows are their own people, and their ribs unique to them. We’ve seen some ribs take upwards of three hours to cook. When you are satisfied they are finished, remove from oven and cool. Set it outside if it’s cold and there aren’t hungry dogs, as to avoid steaming up your fridge. Once cool, refrigerate overnight. You can do this up to two days in advance if you really want to get ahead of things.

Day of, remove ribs from the braising liquid, which may be quite stiff. Reheat in a warm oven with beef broth. Meanwhile, strain your braising liquid into a pot, add a splash of red wine vinegar and reduce over high heat, scraping down the sides as you do, until it’s thickened to a glaze that coats the back of a spoon. Taste for salt. If you are plating these yourself or otherwise serving immediately, finish by whisking in some butter. If you plan to set this out for a while, ignore the last step.

Serve with damn near anything.

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