The Chopped judge, who owns the popular Red Rooster in N.Y.C.’s Harlem neighborhood, hosted a campaign fundraising dinner at the restaurant for President Obama in 2011. “This was not the first time I cooked for the President, but it was one of the times that I will cherish the most with my staff because the first time was actually at the White House at the state dinner,” he tells PEOPLE in the video above. “This felt very special — home turf advantage for such a big occasion.”
“There was just as much action in the restaurant as outside,” he recalls of the evening. “There were like 4,000 people outside just wanting to get into the restaurant.”
For the event, he chose a recipe that was big on flavor — and that you can make ahead of time. “Short ribs are great for a big dinner, because they’re succulent and super delicious,” he says. “This is also an excellent dish to do the day before, because the slower you cook it and the longer it will sit, the better it will taste.”
And the reviews? Overwhelmingly positive. “The dinner went amazingly well,” Samuelsson says. “He was very happy with the short ribs.”
Get Samuelsson’s “presidential” recipe below to make it yourself at home.
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Obama’s Short Ribs
4 (8-z.) boneless short ribs
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, smashed, and minced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (1-in.) piece ginger, peeled and minced
½ cup dry red wine
3 cups beef or chicken broth
½ cup plum sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
Horseradish, preferably freshly grated, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and season all over with salt and pepper.
3. Heat the grapeseed oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the short ribs and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Put them aside on a plate.
4. Add the onion, carrot, celery, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger to the pot. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring to dissolve any of the brown bits that may still be on the bottom of the pot (the juice from the onions will have dissolved most already). Add the broth, plum sauce, soy sauce, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Return the short ribs to the pot, along with any of the juices, cover, and slide the pot into the oven. Braise until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours.
5. Transfer the meat to a plate. Strain the braising liquid into a fat separator. Discard the bay leaves and put the vegetables into a food processor. Process until smooth. Add 1½ cups of the defatted braising liquid to the processor and pulse to combine. Return the sauce to the Dutch oven and check for salt and pepper. Bury the short ribs in the sauce, cover, and leave on the back of the stove until you’re ready to serve.
6. Reheat the short ribs in the sauce.
7. Divide the short ribs among four shallow bowls. Top each with a spoonful of sauce. Put the rest of the sauce in a bowl for passing at the table, along with a bowl of horseradish if you’d like.
NOTE: Short ribs marry with many flavor combinations, and they taste much more expensive than they are. I chose plum sauce as an accent to this super-delicious braise; it adds an elusive flavor. We served this as part of a special menu when President Obama first came to the Red Rooster, and it’s a hit every time we put it back on. I love serving it with freshly grated horseradish on the side.
You’ll have extra braising liquid. Freeze it in ice cube trays, and you’ll have flavor bombs to use in pan sauces or pasta.