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September, 2009

Braised Short Ribs

By Heidi Allison

There is nothing quite as comforting and rich on a cold fall night as braised short ribs.

Braised Short Ribs
This well-marbled, flavorful cut of meat is perfect for braising— a long, slow culinary technique that breaks down connective tissue, rendering fall-off-the-bone, fork-tender meat. Braising, done right, transforms tough cuts of meat into succulent morsels. It is a two-fold (combination) cooking method using both moist and dry heat; usually the meat is first seared at a high temperature to seal in the juices and then finished in a covered pot with liquid. It is imperative to get a good caramelization (brown crust) on the meat first before adding the liquids to get the requisite flavor this dish demands. Also, it is crucial not to add too much liquid—it should just cover the top of the meat.

In this recipe, the secret is marinating the short ribs in a red wine marinade with garlic, celery, carrots and onions for 48 hours, then braising the ribs with the wine, vegetables and stock. While any short ribs will do, this dish works best with flanken-style short ribs, which are ribs cut across the bones instead of parallel to them. Flanken-style ribs not only deliver a more intense “meaty” flavor than other short ribs, but create a more tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat in the finished dish. Flanken-style ribs can be ordered at butcher shops.

Braised Short Ribs
Serves: 6

Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. grape seed oil
6 flanken short ribs with bones, cut 2 inches thick (about 4 to 5 pounds)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
3 ribs celery, chopped into ¼-inch dice (about 1/3 cup)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thickly sliced
½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, roughly chopped)
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cups rich chicken stock
1 cup water

Preparation:
Season meat with salt and black pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat oil on moderate heat. Add seasoned ribs, turning once until browned—about 20 minutes. Remove ribs to a 9x13 inch, shallow (2-inch) glass baking dish and place in a single layer.

Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic to Dutch oven and reduce the heat to low. Cook until vegetables are soft and lightly caramelized—about 15 minutes. Add thyme and red wine and bring to a simmer. Pour wine mixture over meat. Cover and let cool. Place platter in refrigerator overnight, turning ribs once. Marinate ribs in wine mixture for an additional 24 hours. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Transfer ribs to an enameled Dutch oven and add stock and water. Bring to boil.

Cover and cook ribs in lower third of oven for 3 hours. Take meat out of oven and uncover. Simmer on medium-low heat until sauce is reduced by half. Remove meat and set aside. Strain the juices into large measuring cup and skim off fat. Return juices to pot and heat on high until reduced by 1/3. Pour juices over meat, cover and put in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, or until the hard fat has risen to surface. Remove congealed fat and place meat and juices back into the Dutch oven. Cover and heat on medium-low until heated through—about 10-15 minutes. Serve with egg noodles tossed with a bit of unsalted butter and with fresh, chopped flat-leaf parsley.