We believe the winter may finally be over or moving in that direction, judging by the warmer temperatures and the long-range forecast. But March has been known to surprise us with one more late season storm! However, we are thinking positively and thinking spring. But before I start writing about spring ingredients and offerings, I thought I’d say goodbye to winter by sharing one final, hearty braised recipe: Wine-Braised Beef Short Ribs.
Braising is the ideal method for transforming inexpensive, not-so-tender cuts of meat—for example, oxtail, tripe, beef short ribs, and veal, lamb, venison, or wild boar shanks—into meltingly tender ones. The process is quite simple and requires very little tending once assembled and in the oven.
From the examples noted, we are going to explore one of the many possibilities for preparing a big one-pot meal of beef short ribs. These ribs make one of the most succulent braises compared to the other meat choices mentioned because they have one of the best marbling ratios of lean meat to fat, and once cooked they have an extraordinary flavor.
Beef short ribs can be cut two ways: along the bone, called English Style, or across the bone called Flanken Style. My preference is the Flanken, cut approximately 1-1/2 inches thick, three rib bones per piece which would yield approximately a 1 lb serving per person.
8 beef short ribs, Flanken cut 1-1/2 inches thick, 3 bones per piece
Minced garlic, rosemary, thyme
Salt and pepper
All-purpose flour for dusting
The braise (soffritto):
Diced garlic, onion, celery, carrot, fennel, and leek (white and light green)
Sprigs of parsley, rosemary, and thyme, along with some crushed fennel seed and bay leaf wrapped and tied in a dark green leak leaf wrap or cheesecloth
2 to 3 plum tomatoes, rough chopped
1-1/2 750 ml bottles of red wine (for example: Barbaresco, Barolo, Cabernet, Chianti, Rhone, Rioja, Syrah, Zinfandel—your call, they are all good choices)
3 cups stock or water (again, your choice, as there are many options)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon dark semisweet chocolate
Salt and pepper
Season the meat and let it rest for at least 4 hours covered, or refrigerate overnight. Bring back to room temperature before starting to cook.
In a large ovenproof pot with a lid, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Dust the ribs with flour and brown the ribs on all sides, working in batches so as not to crowd the browning. Remove to a platter, cover, and set aside.
In the same pot, heat some more olive oil and sauté the soffritto along with the herb wrap. Stir frequently until the soffritto begins to soften and takes on some color. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Return the ribs to the pot, arranging them on top of the soffritto. Add the tomatoes, pour the wine, and the stock over, sprinkle with the cocoa and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and place in the center of a preheated 325-degree oven. The goal is a slow, even braising, yielding fork tender, fall off the bone short ribs. Cooking time is 2-1/2 to 3 hours, but check after 2-1/2 hours to determine how tender the ribs are at that point.
When cooking is done, remove the pot from the oven and allow to cool completely, leaving the ribs in the braise while cooling. This dish is best eaten the next day, so the next step is to refrigerate the entire covered pot overnight.
The next day take the pot from the refrigerator, skim off and discard all the fat that has hardened on top. When the pot has reached room temperature, carefully remove the ribs to an ovenproof platter, sheet pan, or large baking pan, and set aside. Some of the bones may have fallen off, but that is okay.
Return the pot to the stove and heat up the braising liquid over medium-high heat to begin to reduce and thicken. If you are using the chocolate, add it at this time and stir to melt and incorporate. Check and correct the seasoning at this time as well.
When the braising liquid has reduced and thickened, lower the heat to keep warm. Place the ribs in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes to glaze and completely heat through. Place one 3-rib cut per plate and ladle some braising liquid over.
As you might imagine, there are as many variations of this dish as there are cooks to prepare it. The same goes for the accompaniments. Mashed potatoes are always in play here, however the potato mash could be punctuated by incorporating another mashed root vegetable such as celery root, rutabaga, or even braised artichoke hearts. Polenta is a good substitute for the mashed potato, especially if asiago or an aged pecorino is grated into the mix before serving. To finish the dish, sprinkle the classic gremolata (minced parsley, lemon zest, and garlic—or substitute fresh grated horseradish for the garlic) over the short ribs just before serving.
Why not give this hearty dish a try? It provides you with a blank canvas to be creative in the kitchen both with the short rib preparation you choose as well as with the accompaniments. I would be interested in what you come up with as I am always looking for new modifications to the master recipe.