Braised short ribs with Swiss chard, and the Swiss Hotel

An offshoot of investigations into Swiss Steak: three recipes for braised shortribs (or short ribs) with Swiss chard, one of them from the restaurant of the Swiss Hotel in Sonoma CA. Braised shortribs and Swiss steak are both braised beef dishes, but Swiss steak is boneless, is standardly pounded flat before searing and stewing, and is often cut into pieces before cooking; otherwise, the dishes are very similar.

Swiss steak isn’t Swiss, in the sense that the American dish as we know it isn’t part of Swiss cuisine — it is, instead, American — but it might be steak à la Suisse, steak in the Swiss style, with reference to some ingredient or cooking technique that is, or at least is believed to be, associated with Switzerland, in the way that spinach is associated with the city of Florence, in the modifier Florentine ‘with spinach’. (That would be to treat Swiss steak as a relational, rather than predicational, composite, like Swiss cheese; see my 7/10/18 posting “Swiss cheese isn’t Swiss”.)

Meanwhile, Swiss chard (aka chard and several other things) isn’t Swiss either, certainly not by origin, though the details of its association with or relationship to Switzerland are not at all clear — perhaps only by its being a everyday green vegetable throughout the country (in a way that it is not in the US or the UK).

The Swiss Hotel in Sonoma (serving Italian / American food) isn’t Swiss, either, but it is historically related to Switzerland, in particular to Italophone Switzerland in the 19th century.

The pairing of braised shortribs (not in itself a particularly Swiss dish) with Swiss chard on several occasions, once from a restaurant with Swiss associations, might suggest an association between Switzerland and braised meat, braised beef in particular — a relationship that could help to account for the Swiss of Swiss steak.

The three braised shortrib recipes:

braised beef short ribs with red wine gravy and Swiss chard, from bon appétit magazine on October 2009 (recipe by Nancy Brunner of The Swiss Hotel in Sonoma) — recipe to come

braised short ribs with Swiss chard and polenta, on the Shared Appetite site (polenta is cornmeal used as a starch — like rice, mashed potatoes, or grits — in northern Italy and Italian Switzerland) — illustrated below because this one has the best of the photos:


braised short ribs with potato puree, Swiss chard, and horseradish cream, on the cookstr site (horseradish cream is a mixture of grated horseradish and sour cream, classically served with roast beef, especially prime rib)

The bon appétit recipe, with the ingredients list folded into the instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place [6 pounds 3-inch-long meaty beef short ribs] on rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour over; toss to coat. Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large wide pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook ribs until browned all over, about 10 minutes per batch. Return to sheet. Wipe out pot. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil to pot. Add [3 cups chopped onions. 3 3/4 cups cubed peeled turnips, 2 cups chopped peeled carrots, 2 cups chopped celery, 8 garlic cloves, peeled]; cook until tender and slightly browned, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add [1/4 pound sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup fresh thyme sprigs, 5 large fresh sage sprigs, 5 bay leaves]; stir to coat. Return ribs to pot, placing on sides to fit in single layer. Add [2 cups red wine]. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add [4 cups chicken] broth; cover and bring to simmer.

Transfer pot to oven and braise until ribs are tender, about 2 hours. Let stand, covered, at room temperature 15 minutes. Carefully transfer ribs to large bowl, keeping meat attached to bones if possible (some bones may separate from meat). Remove herb sprigs. Pass all braising liquid and vegetables through food mill into large bowl; return to pot. Spoon fat from surface. Season gravy to taste with salt and pepper and a few drops of balsamic vinegar, if desired. Rewarm gravy. Return ribs to gravy; cover and simmer to rewarm, about 5 minutes.

Swiss chard [2 pounds, ribs removed, cut into ribbons]: Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add [4 thinly sliced garlic cloves]; stir 30 seconds. Add half of chard; toss to wilt, adding water by tablespoonfuls if dry, about 1 minute. Add remaining chard. Toss until wilted but bright green, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide ribs among plates. Divide chard among plates. Spoon gravy over ribs and serve, passing remaining gravy alongside.

Chard. For some discussion of chard, see my 3/9/15 posting “Morning name: salsify (with Swiss chard as a bonus)”.  Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris), is essentially beet greens; originally a Mediterranean plant rather than an Alpine one, its association with Switzerland isn’t obvious (though it is a standard green throughout the country). The terms for leaf chard used as a vegetable: in German, masc. Mangold; in French, fem. bette; in Italian, fem. bietola. (The plant whose leaves — chard — are used as a vegetable, the plant whose roots — red beets — are used as a vegetable, the plant whose roots — sugar beets — serve as sources of sugar, and the plant whose roots — mangels or mangelwurzels — serve as fodder for animals are very closely related botanically.)

The Swiss Hotel. From the hotel’s own site, with text veering into ad copy:

In 1835, fifteen years before the Bear Flag Rebellion that established the California Republic, Mexican General Mariano Vallejo laid out the streets of Sonoma around an 8 acre town square. The square is known locally as The Plaza, and is the crown jewel of Sonoma’s architectural heritage.

Between 1836 and 1840, the General’s Brother, Don Salvador Vallejo, built his family home in the middle of the block on the north side of the Plaza. That beautiful adobe structure still stands today. As a hotel, the home is said to have served as a stagecoach stop in the 1870’s. In 1892 it was acquired by the Toroni family and run as the Ticino Hotel [after the Italophone canton of Switzerland from which the family came], serving railroad passengers and employees who stopped in Sonoma to spend the night. When another hotel on the west side of the Plaza burned to the ground, the Toronis simply took its name for their own, and to this day the Vallejo home is known as the Swiss Hotel.

(#2) The hotel ca. 1910 (photo by Jack London — yes, that Jack London)

Hank Marioni is the fourth generation of his family operating the Swiss Hotel as a hotel and restaurant. His great grandfather, Mose Mastelotto, purchased the building in 1923, and it passed from him to his daughter, Antonetta and her husband Henry Marioni in 1929. In 1945, their daughter, Helen, and her husband Ted Dunlap took over, running the Swiss Hotel until 1991. At that time, their nephew Hank Marioni spent one and a half years remodeling and retrofitting the building, and re-opened the Swiss Hotel as a modern hotel and restaurant while preserving the historic charm.

With a bar that is virtually unchanged through four generations, and walls covered with a photographic history of the town, its people and notable visitors. The Swiss Hotel remains today, as it has for well over 100 years, a beautiful reminder of Sonoma’s colorful past.

(#3) The hotel today; flags from left to right: U.S., Califoria, Italy, Switzerland

Ticino. From Wikipedia:

The canton of Ticino, formally the Republic and Canton of Ticino, is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. Ticino borders the canton of Uri [Germanophone] to the north, the canton of Valais [Francophone] to the west (through the Novena Pass), the canton of Graubünden [Grisons, Swiss ski-land, with German, Italian, and Romansh speakers] to the northeast, Italy’s regions of Piedmont and Lombardy to the south, and it surrounds the small Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia.

Named after the river Ticino, it is the only canton where Italian is the sole official language and represents the bulk of the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland, along with the southern parts of Graubünden.

The land now occupied by the canton was annexed from Italian cities in the 15th century by various Swiss forces in the last transalpine campaigns of the Old Swiss Confederacy. In the Helvetic Republic, established 1798, it was divided between the two new cantons of Bellinzona and Lugano. The creation of the Swiss Confederation in 1803 saw these two cantons combine to form the modern canton of Ticino.

The capital is Bellinzona, the largest city Lugano. Obligatory ridiculously picturesque photo of Switzerland:

(#4) Lugano at sunset (from the geniusjourney site)

3 Responses to “Braised short ribs with Swiss chard, and the Swiss Hotel”

  1. Stephen R. Anderson Says:

    “Swiss chard” (French côtes de bette, German Mangloldblätter, Rumantsch Grischun urtais, Surmiran mangold) is the crucial ingredient (as wrapper) in one of the most distinctive dishes of the Rumantsch speaking parts of Graübunden, capuns. I have two cookbooks with nothing but recipes for capuns, hundreds of different variations.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Karen Schaffer on Facebook:

    The story I’ve heard is that the term Swiss chard derives from a derogatory usage of Swiss (similar to Dutch courage), in this case where chard stands for cardoon (chardon). The implication is that the stems of the chard (more prized in traditional European cuisine than the greens) were the poor person’s substitute for cardoon. I’d love to hear if there’s any justification for that or if it’s just creative folk etymology.

    New to me, and I’m suspicious of it.

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