Braised Beef Short Ribs

In December 2016 I had a theme of “Quick(er) Meals for the Holiday Season.” There were three skillet meals plus one loaded baked sweet potato recipe. Some were quicker than others, but all had some sort of time-saving quality.

This week I present a quicker holiday meal, one you’d like to serve to guests. These braised short ribs are not as hands-off as meat thrown in the crockpot for a day, but they are still mostly hands-off, and can be made a day or so ahead.

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, the blog that I want my blog to be when it grows up. I love the way Deb talks about how she came to make a particular recipe and both the hows and whys of making it.

The first step in cooking the ribs is to sear them. If you’re not familiar with searing, or want additional information see The Kitchn’s article, or, if you prefer videos, Real Simple has one.

Smitten kitchen has some pretty simple but decadent side suggestions for the beef. One is mashed potatoes, which is pretty classic, and the other is chard with pearl onions. I would love to see pearl onions at the market! For now I’ll content myself with regular onions. I also did not pick up chard at market that week, but I did get kale. I also substituted mashed cauliflower for the mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately my photo is currently missing. I’ll update as soon as I can find it!

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 (generously) to 6

6 large beef short ribs, about 14 to 16 ounces each (if ribs are tinier, buy by weight, not number)

1 tablespoon thyme leaves and 4 whole sprigs thyme

1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1/3 cup diced carrot

1/3 cup diced celery

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups port

2 1/2 cups hearty red wine

6 cups beef or veal stock

4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the short ribs with 1 tablespoon thyme and the cracked black pepper. use your hands to coat the meat well. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Take the short ribs out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking, to come to room temperature. After 30 minutes, season them generously on all sides with salt.

When it’s time to cook the short ribs, preheat the oven to 325 F. Heat a large Dutch oven [or a large saute pan, if you would like to use a separate braising dish; I aimed to use fewer dishes] over high heat for 3 minutes. Pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil, and wait a minute or two, until the pan is very hot and almost smoking. Place the short ribs in the pan, and sear until they are nicely browned on all three meaty sides. Depending on the size of your pan, you might have to sear the meat in batches. Do not crowd the meat or get lazy or rushed at this step; it will take at least 15 minutes. [I find this takes closer to 45 minutes if you’re really thorough. Be thorough!] When the ribs are nicely browned, transfer them to a plate to rest.

Turn the heat down to medium, and add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme springs, and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the crusty bits in the pan. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables just begin to caramelize. Add the balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine. Turn the heat up to high, and reduce the liquid by half.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Arrange ribs in the pot, lying flat, bones standing up, in one layer. [If you used a saute pan for previous steps, transfer the ribs to a braising pan at this point.] Scrape any vegetables that have fallen on the ribs back into the liquid. The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs. Tuck the parsley sprigs in and around the meat. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and a tight-fitting lid if you have one. Braise in the oven for about 3 hours.

To check the meat for doneness, remove the lid and foil, being careful of the escaping steam, and piece a short rib with a paring knife. When the meat is done, it will yield easily to a knife. Taste a piece if you are not sure. [If you would like to cook these a day ahead, this is where you can pause. The next day, you can remove the fat easily from the pot — it will have solidified at the top — bring these back to a simmer on the stove or in an oven, and continue.]

Let the ribs rest 10 minutes in their juices, and then transfer them to a baking sheet.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.

Place the short ribs in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to brown.

Strain the broth into a saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables with a ladle to extract all the juices. Skim the fat from the sauce (if you made these the day before, you will have already skimmed them) and, if the broth seems thin, reduce it over medium-high heat to thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Serve on top of greens and spoon braising liquid over top. Serve mashed potatoes or cauliflower on the side. Find a printable recipe here, including for Smitten Kitchen’s recommended sides.

Heather Cross