I’ve arrived at some of life’s pleasures a little late. Take wine, for instance: the first time I tried it, my friends and then-roommates insisted that a $6 bottle of Australian Chardonnay, purchased at the nearest gas station, paired well with most pizza rolls and string cheese. For a girl who didn’t like the taste of alcohol and who that very night enjoyed a responsible number of Smirnoff Ices, this might not have been the best approach (Disclaimer—I’ll still drink a Smirnoff Ice and enjoy it, only in a dark closet where no one can see me with my phone switched safely to airplane mode). I thought the wine tasted like acidic wood with light notes of rotten apple, and I was having none of it. I wouldn’t try wine again for two more years—but now you can’t find me without a glass of the stuff in my hand and and a bottle chilling in the toilet tank. Most of that is true.
I’m also late to the table with certain foods: I ate raw oysters for the first time last year (at Hog Island Oyster Farm on Tomales Bay, no less), and I thought flan was an adjective used to describe prairies until Micah asked Kyle to make it for him. And I remained woefully ignorant of the wonder of braised beef short ribs until I moved to Hawai’i in 2012. Suddenly every menu I encountered featured the words braised, red wine, and short ribs. I think this also might have been the moment when foodies reached past the trendy pork belly for this slow-cooked beauty that previously took a back seat to more popular cuts like filet or flank. I bought my first short ribs shortly after moving here, and—like the brazenly confident ignoramus I am–I tried cooking them in a sauté pan. I thought that without a Dutch oven, I could still achieve the slow braise that would elevate this meat to its full potential. I was wrong. And I knew enough at this point to recognize that, if the short ribs weren’t falling apart on the fork, they hadn’t been braised sufficiently.
So I bought a Dutch oven, and that, my friends, has made all the difference (thanks R. Frost). I nearly dropped the heavy pan on my foot that first attempt, and I’m thankful for many things, but mostly for the complexity of flavor one can achieve cooking short ribs and that I’m not typing this entry with two less toes. I’m like that Rice Krispy Treat commercial from the 80s, “slaving away” in the kitchen with a sly wink to camera. Time simply does most of the heavy lifting for you. Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I like to puree the sauce before pouring over the short ribs; however, the recipe works just fine when omitting this step, and those veggies are so tender. The hardest part of the process may be deciding whether to serve the short ribs over creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, or straight from the pan.
If you need any help deciding, I’ll be at my neighborhood Sam Goody’s looking for a Nirvana CD. Have y’all heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” yet? That shit is dope.
- 3 pounds short ribs, bone-in
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2-3 cups of a hearty red wine (I like to use merlot or shiraz)
- 2-3 cups beef stock
- Bouquet garni of fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
- Place the Dutch oven over medium heat. While it heats, blot your short ribs with a paper towel. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the Dutch oven. Once it is sufficiently heated, brown the short ribs in batches, taking care to sear them on all sides. Set aside on a plate when finished, and work on the second batch. Set all the short ribs aside.
- Using the same pot, add the carrots, onion and celery, and cook for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the tomato paste, and cook for about 3 minutes. It should form a brown crust while you stir the tomato paste, but you do not want this to burn, so take care to keep stirring.
- Add the butter and let it melt. Whisk in the flour until fully incorporated.
- Add 2 cups of the red wine and whisk in. Add 1 cup of the beef stock and bring the mixture to a low boil. Turn the heat down, and add the short ribs back into the pot, one at a time.
- At this point, you want to make sure the short ribs are covered. So adding in ½ cup increments, pour wine and beef stock into the Dutch oven until the short ribs fully submerged.
- Add the bouquet garni and the bay leaves. Cover, and place carefully in the oven on a rack positioned in the lower third of the oven.
- Cook the short ribs for approximately 2 ½ hours. You will know they are done once the meat slides easily off the bone.
- At this point, you can serve the short ribs and spoon the vegetables and sauce over them. However, if you would like to refine them, remove the short ribs and bones from the sauce, and set aside on a sheet pan. Discard the bones if they have separated from the meat. Tent with foil.
- Remove the bouquet garni and bay leaves from the sauce. If you have time to spare, let the sauce sit for 30 minutes so that some of the fat separates, and skim it off the top.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth, and then run it through a sieve to remove any lumps. Return the pureed sauce to a saucepan and keep warm on low heat. Season to taste.
- While the sauce is on low heat, set the oven to broil. Remove the foil from the sheet pan, and place the short ribs in the oven, broiling for approximately 2 minutes. This will crisp the short rib exterior while keeping the meat tender. You can also turn the oven down to 300 degrees and simply keep the meat warm.
- To finish, serve the short ribs over creamy polenta or mashed potatoes and cover with sauce. Garnish with chopped chives, micro-greens, or something green.