Home Cookin’ 4: Ronnie Suburban and Steve Zaransky

By Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

Steve Zaransky, Alan Lake, and Ronnie Suburban

Happening upon LTH Forum was a game changer for me. After nearly two decades, I returned home to Chicago knowing the streets but not what was on them any longer. The city had changed quite a bit in my absence.

A mention of LTH in the Reader (probably by Mike Sula but I can’t remember) teased me with a cut-to-the-chase of like-minded people in all things culinary.  Every weekend for the first year I was back, my sister would show up at my apartment asking “Whattayagot? ” in an accent heard only around these parts. By that she meant, where would we be eating based on my newly gleaned knowledge from LTH discussions the preceding week?  We sampled Thai grocers and Pakistani BBQ, attended a few events, and in so doing met a lot of new people. People I never would have met left to my own devices. While I had old friends here that helped tip the scale to come back, now I have new friends too – many of which who’ve come via LTH.

In reading the forums, certain writing stood out. I found myself laughing and agreeing with some, and shaking my head and wondering with others. The first time I was able to put a face to a name was during the historic Fanny’s debacle of ’06. Having been weaned on Fanny’s, I went in with high expectations. I left feeling I’d experienced an abortion (a.k.a. the meal) without anesthetic. Misery loves company, though, and the company was excellent. That evening I met a couple of people who would become my friends. And then I met more. And more. So it’s safe to say that LTH had significant influence on me (as it has on many that are reading this).  This is but one reason many of us at LTH take this community so personally.

As if we own the damn thing.

But we don’t. Steve Zaransky, Ronnie Suburban and Dave Dickson do. So, I’d like to introduce you to two people (one I met that fateful evening, the other a short time later) that act as caretakers for LTHForum. Steve Zaransky and Ronnie Suburban. Since we’ve fressed so often together over the ensuing years, both in their homes and in the many restaurants found here on LTH, I thought they’d be naturals for this Home Cookin’ series.

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Home Cookin’ 4: A Conversation with Steve Zaransky

By Alan Lake (Jazzfood)


Alan Lake: Let’s go back to early Steve food memories.  

Steve Zaransky: My dad was in the hotel business, which gave me a lot of exposure – but really, the earliest memories with food were of my mom cooking. I would sit on this little chair in front of the oven window watching choux pastry rise. Like it was a TV. I just couldn’t believe that this was happening in the oven in front of me. I was five or six and totally into watching this. My mom’s a great cook; she cranked out great dinners on a daily basis. She was a stay-at-home mom, who cooked full dinners for the family every night. That formed the memories for what she still cooks today.

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Braised Short Ribs

By Steve Zaransky


6 beef short ribs cut flanken-style
3 T. vegetable oil
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, halved
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces (for the braise)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces (to serve – optional)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 shallots, sliced ¼” thick
6 clove sof garlic, peeled and cut in half
3 T. tomato paste
3 T. flour
1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
6 cups of veal stock or chicken stock (enriched with demi-glace, if possible)
6 red potatoes, peeled
6 prunes (optional)
salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Season the short ribs generously with salt & pepper.

3. Put the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves between the two halves of the celery stalk and tie into a bundle with twine.

steveribs4. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until the oil starts to smoke, then brown the short ribs well. You will probably have to do that in two batches. Be sure to pour off most of the fat between batches. Remove the short ribs and set aside on a plate. Optionally, you can brown the short ribs over a charcoal fire instead of the Dutch oven to add a smoky note to the dish. That’s what I usually do.

5. Lower the flame to medium and add the tomato paste, cooking for a few minutes until it mellows out and mixes with the oil. Add the onion, the 1” carrot pieces, shallots and garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté until the onion softens and starts to brown slightly.

6. Add the flour and stir well to combine. Cook the flour for two minutes, constantly stirring; add the wine and the celery herb bundle. Raise the heat back to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by a third (20 – 25 minutes).

7. Return the short ribs to the pot, stacking in two layers, if necessary. Add the stock, optional prunes and a little salt (about a teaspoon). Be sure short ribs are completely covered by the stock. If not, add enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven for three hours.

8. At the one hour mark, add the potatoes to the Dutch oven and continue to cook. The short ribs are done when the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.

9. Transfer the ribs and potatoes to a platter, and then strain the braising liquid through a sieve or fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Skim the fat from the braising liquid and return it to the cleaned Dutch oven or a medium saucepan.

10. Bring the liquid to a strong simmer and reduce by a little more than half (approx. 1 hour). Add the optional ¾” carrots at the 20 minute mark. Return the short ribs and potatoes to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes to reheat for service.