Red Wine Braised Beef Shortribs

I knew I wanted to braise something with bones…Anytime you take a cut of meat that has lots of fat and big bones in it, cook it for ten or twelve hours with some booze and vegetables, it will be awesome.

I bought some beautiful grass-fed beef short ribs from John Ford Ranch at the farmers market, and I knew I had found the ingredient I was looking for.  In addition to having a velvety, luscious flavor and a beautiful rustic aesthetic, these red wine braised short ribs are also really simple to make and will make the people you’re feeding have happy bellies. This is a great dish to make for entertaining (since you do all the work in the morning), it makes the house smell amazing all day, there’s a really quick clean-up since it’s basically a one pot meal, and the flavor only gets better if you let the sit in the fridge for a day or two.

This is the kind of dinner I like to start in the morning, when the kitchen is still cold and dark and the sun isn’t even fully up.  It starts the day off on the right foot, saying:  today will be the kind of day that we will smell roasting things while we do our work, and we will take the extra care to sit down for a meal in the evening.  If I wait to make dinner until the end of the day, it can be hard to find the energy and inspiration.  Usually, my feet just hurt from working and I’d rather have a bowl of cornflakes.  (Oh my god, we even had macaroni and cheese from a box this week! Shocking, right? I had turned about 100 lbs. of citrus into marmalade that day and the idea of cooking dinner made me want to stab myself in the eye.)This meal was so good and I think everyone should make it, so I’m forcing myself to write a recipe.  I don’t think braises should be precise recipes, though.  They’re more of a technique that you can adapt to pretty much anything.

  • Season the meat.
  • Sear the meat in some kind of fat.
  • Take the meat out of the pan and saute some chopped vegetables in the fat.
  • Deglaze the pan with some kind of booze or stock.
  • Add the meat back in. Make sure everything is just covered with stock or some kind of cooking liquid.
  •  Cook it in the oven for a really long time (5-10 hours) on low heat.
  • Serve over something like mashed potatoes, polenta, noodles, rice, etc., maybe topped with some kind of cheese

I love this technique of cooking, and I do it often during the winter.  Osso Bucco is another one of my favorite braises, and so is this Wild Duck alla Cacciatora.

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs

Cook Time: 10+ hours (active cooking time: 25 minutes)

Serves: 2 with leftovers

Ingredients:

  • 3 beef short ribs
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 leek, cleaned and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • a big sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2-1 bottle of dry red wine (however much you’re willing to sacrifice into the pot and not drink yourself — a whole bottle is great, but then there’s none left for the cook)
  • water or beef stock to cover, about 4 cups
  • salt and pepper

If your short ribs have any huge chunks of solid fat on them, trim it off.  Don’t go too crazy, though, because the fat is what makes these so good.  Heat the olive oil in a fairly large pot or dutch oven on the stove top, on medium heat.  Season the short ribs with salt in pepper and dredge in the flour. Sear the short ribs in the olive oil so they’re nicely browned on all sides.  Remove them from the pan and set on aside on a plate.  Add the chopped vegetables, fresh herbs and garlic, season with a sprinkle of salt, and saute until everything is slightly translucent.  Add extra olive oil or butter if the pan is too dry and they start to stick or burn.  Turn the heat to high, and once everything is really sizzling like crazy, pour in the red wine.  Add the short ribs back into the pot.  Pour in enough stock to come to the top of the meat.  Put in the oven, uncovered, for anywhere between 3 and 10 hours.  At three hours they should be fine and tasty but by 10 hours you’ll roll your eyes and make silly noises when you taste it.

Once you get to a point where you want to serve the meat soon, take the pot out of the oven.  Use a slotted spoon to lift the short ribs out of the sauce and set them on a plate.  Put the pot on the stove top and turn the heat to high to reduce the liquid down to just a couple cups.  Once it’s reduced, puree the vegetable/broth mixture with whatever tool you puree things with in your kitchen. (If you’re working at the French Laundry or you have the Obamas over for dinner that night, you can strain this puree through a chinois to make it perfectly smooth.)  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Add the meat back in to the sauce and serve.

Serve over polenta and top with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  I like a simple butter lettuce salad with a basic mustard vinaigrette for the side dish; I think the sweet lightness of butter lettuce is a good counterpart to the richness of the short ribs.

Like I mentioned earlier, this dish holds incredibly well in the fridge.  You could easily cook it for a dinner party the day before and then just heat it up when you’re ready to serve your guests.

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