Football and civility.

I’ve come up with a new game day recipe and it makes me nervous. Here’s why:

Growing up, rooting for the home team was like picking up trash off the sidewalk or holding the door open for someone. You weren’t saving lives or achieving world peace, but these were generally good and valuable activities to participate in. There was a civic mindedness about them that makes our society more friendly and smoothly functioning.

Growing up in New England rooting for the home team made me a fan of the Red Sox,  the Celtics, the Bruins and, of course, the Patriots. You didn’t have to be a die hard fan to wish your fellow New Englanders good luck before a big game,  the same way you’d say “happy holidays” when checking out at the grocery store in December.

I saw a Facebook thread last weekend when the Pats and Eagles were announced as the teams playing in this year’s Super Bowl. There was a shocking amount of vitriol and mean-spirited language that went far beyond the jocular barbs encouraged by friendly rivalries.

Whether you’re rooting for iPhone vs. Android or the Pats vs. the Eagles, it’s just not that big a deal. If we can’t moderate the tone of these exchanges, how can we ever hope to return civility to our political or religious discourse?

Which is why I am nervous. Inspired by the Eagles I set out to create a white and green Super Bowl snack – spinach and artichoke dip was an obvious first step. Then, one of Philly’s great treasures, the cheesesteak, inspired this sandwich of red-wine braised short ribs with a cheesy spinach and artichoke dip with plenty of mozzarella on a hoagie roll.

I worry that even comparing this sandwich to its cheesesteak inspiration will incur outrage and a potential ban from ever entering Philadelphia again. So please, whatever your feelings about this recipe, please share them with a measure of civility. It’s a good place to start.

Short Rib Spinach and Artichoke Cheesesteak

Serves 6

For short ribs:

  • 4-5 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 750 ml bottle of dry red wine like Bordeaux
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 3-4 sprigs parsley
  • Sherry vinegar

For spinach and artichoke dip:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb spinach, cooked with 2 cloves of garlic and oil, drained
  • 12 chives
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (13.75 oz), drained
  • 5.2 oz Boursin cheese
  • 7 oz mozzarella, grated (1 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Nora chile powder, or Paprika
  • 1 tsp Sherry Vinegar

To assemble:

  • 6 six-inch hoagie rolls


  • Make ribs: Preheat oven to 375F. Pat ribs dry and season with salt and pepper. Warm vegetable oil in a 6-8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place ribs in the pot, meat side down, and cook until they are seared and release easily from the pan. Turn and sear each of the long sides of each rib. Remove from pan and reserve.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrot and celery. Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste. Stir through and cook 1 minute longer. Add wine and turn heat to medium high. While it comes to a boil, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return ribs to pan, bone-side down, nestled in the vegetables.
  • Add water until the liquid comes to 1/4″ from the top of the meat. tuck bay leaves, thyme and parsley in around the ribs. Bring liquid to a boil, cover the pot and place in the oven.
  • Cook for three hours, checking at two and adding water if needed.
  • Remove short ribs to a platter. Strain braising liquid through a mesh sieve and discard solids. If needed, reduce the liquid to 1 cup. Season liquid to taste with salt, pepper and Sherry vinegar. Shred meat using a fork, discarding the bones and any fat or sinew that is still tough. Toss through with sauce. Reserve.
  • Make spinach and artichoke dip: Warm olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/3 spinach, season with a pinch of salt, and cook to wilt. Repeat until all of the spinach is completely wilted. Let spinach cool. Wrap in a tea towel and squeeze out water.
  • Place spinach, chives, remaining garlic, shallot, artichoke hearts, Boursin cheese, mozzarella, 1 cup Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and chile powder in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped but not puréed. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Sherry vinegar.
  • Spread mixture evenly in a 3 quart (9″ round) baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Place in a 400 F oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until warmed through and cheese has melted on top.
  • Make sandwiches: Cut hoagie rolls in half lengthwise and toast. Top bottom half of each roll with about 3/4 cup shredded meat and 1/4-1/2 cup spinach artichoke dip. Serve with plenty of napkins!

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