Served over mashed potatoes, comfort food at its finest
Spring may be coming, but it’s still plenty chilly in our part of the world. So we’re not putting away our braising pot just yet. And what better than braised beef short ribs to chase away the last days of winter?
After a few hours luxuriating in a rich wine sauce over low heat, the meat becomes soft, yet retains its toothsome character. And the rich flavor is succulent beyond belief.
Best of all, this dish tastes better cooked a day or two ahead, then reheated. So it makes perfect party food.
It’s so good your guests will applaud. Or even better, request seconds.
Recipe: Wine-Braised Beef Short Ribs
Braising is nothing more than slow cooking in liquid in a covered pot. In other words, pot roasting. The slow part is important, though, because the cut of meat we use in this dish tends to be rather tough (all those connective tissues); slow cooking takes care of that.
This recipe has two key stages. First you brown the meat. Then you cook it at the barest simmer in a rich wine stock, with onions and carrots to help flavor the dish.
We’ve made similar dishes before, including Boeuf Bourguignon and Wine-Braised Beef Pot Roast. BTW, almost every cuisine features some sort of braised dishes. In fact, one of our favorites is Chinese: Red-Braised Beef.
We usually make this dish over three days, and our procedure reflects that. But you can make it all in one day if you prefer – see Notes for instructions. In fact, you can even make this dish using the procedures we set out in our Boeuf Bourguignon and Wine-Braised Beef Pot Roast recipes. They’re very similar to this recipe, but a bit more streamlined. We think this recipe does yield superior flavor, though.
Prep time for this dish is about 45 minutes. Total cooking time adds about 3 hours, most of it unattended.
This recipe serves 4, probably with leftovers (see Notes). Leftovers keep for several days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
We like to serve this dish over mashed potatoes. But it’s equally good served over Polenta, risotto, Homemade Noodles, or whatever you fancy. You could even serve it with dumplings. Or Spätzle.
- ~1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 cups hot water for soaking the porcini mushrooms
- 8 three-inch beef short ribs (about 1 pound, usually more, per person before cooking; not as much as it sounds – see Notes)
- salt for seasoning the short ribs (about 2 to 3 teaspoons total of kosher salt; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup of red wine or water for deglazing the browning pan
- 1 large onion
- 4 carrots
- 1 rib celery
- 1 additional tablespoon olive oil
- additional salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt; see Notes)
- 4 cloves garlic
- a handful of mushrooms (about ¼ pound; optional)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 bottles of red wine (less the 1 cup listed above used for deglazing the browning pan; or 1 bottle of wine plus about 3 cups beef stock)
- 1 cup ruby port (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons beef base (optional; may substitute 2 cups beef stock – see Notes)
- additional salt and black pepper to taste (for Step 15)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 6 tablespoons water (optional)
- parsley for garnish
- mashed potatoes for serving (we also like to serve short ribs with braised carrots and sautéed mushrooms)
- Cover the dried porcini mushrooms with 2 cups of very hot water. Allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes (longer is OK).
- Dry the short rib pieces, then season them with salt to taste (we like lots of salt when browning meat; see Notes). Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (about 15 seconds – it’ll shimmer), add as many pieces of short rib as you can without crowding the pan. Brown the pieces on each side (about 4 minutes per side). Take your time; the browner the meat, the better the flavor. Set the short rib pieces aside when browned. (Note that you’ll be juggling this step and the next few steps at the same time.) When the meat pieces have finished browning, there may be a crust remaining on the bottom of the pan. You’ll want to deglaze the pan and use this crust for extra flavor: Pour off any fat that remains in the pan, then add about a cup of wine (or water) to the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then use a wooden spoon to scrape the crust and loosen it. Add the liquid to the cooking pot in Step 8 when you add the rest of the wine.
- Meanwhile, peel the onion and cut it into rough dice. Wash and peel the carrots and cut them into rough dice. Wash and peel the celery and cut into rough dice.
- Place a 4-quart cooking pot over medium stovetop heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is heated, add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery. Add salt to taste. Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes (until the onion is translucent).
- Meanwhile, peel the garlic and cut each clove in half. If using mushrooms, wipe them off to remove any dirt, then cut them into halves or quarters.
- After the onion mixture has sautéed for about 5 minutes (Step 4), add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and thyme to the onion mixture, then cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the wine and port (if using) to the onion mixture. Stir in the beef base, if using. Add the porcini mushrooms (from Step 1) and their liquid (we usually strain the liquid to trap any sand that may be in the mushrooms). Bring the mixture to a boil, then let it cook for 10 minutes (this helps meld all the flavors).
- Allow the wine-and-veggie mixture to cool. While it’s cooling, place the browned short rib pieces into a container that’s large enough to hold them plus the wine mixture (we generally use a large stainless bowl). When the wine mixture is cool, pour it over the short ribs. Cover the container with a lid or plastic shrink wrap, then refrigerate the short ribs overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Remove any solidified fat from the surface of the braising liquid in which the short ribs have been stored. Place the short ribs and wine mixture into a large Dutch oven (one that holds about 6 quarts). Bring the contents to a simmer over stovetop heat. When the wine mixture is simmering, cover the pot with aluminum foil, then place a lid on the pot (the foil helps ensure a better seal and also reduces the amount of space in the cooking pot, making for a more effective braise). Place the cooking pot in the oven and set a timer for one hour.
- At the hour mark, remove the cooking pot from the oven and take a look. The sauce should be simmering gently. Adjust the heat up or down if necessary, then return the cooking pot to the oven for another 1½ hours.
- After the short ribs have cooked for 2½ hours total, remove them from the oven. Using tongs, transfer the short ribs to a large container and allow them to cool (select a container large enough to hold the beef and the wine braise – you’ll be refrigerating this overnight).
- Pour the braising liquid into a strainer that you’ve placed over a large bowl or measuring cup. Pour the braising liquid through the strainer into the bowl. Empty the onions and other veggies into the strainer. Using the back of a large spoon, press the liquid out of the veggies. You can either discard the veggies, or save them as a treat for the cook.
- Allow the braising liquid to cool. After the meat and liquid have reached room temperature, pour the braising liquid over the short ribs. Cover the container, then refrigerate overnight.
- You can refrigerate the cooked short ribs in their liquid for a day or two. When ready to serve, remove any solidified fat from the surface of the braising liquid (there probably will be a lot of fat). Pour the braising liquid into a cooking pot large enough to hold the short ribs (but don’t add the meat yet). Over low stovetop heat, reduce the braising liquid to about 3 cups or a bit less (it will reduce a bit more as the short ribs reheat). Taste, then add seasoning if necessary (salt and/or black pepper; we suggest you under-season slightly, and test again right before serving). Then add the short ribs and adjust the heat so the liquid is just simmering. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes (or you can keep it warm for an hour or so).
- When ready to serve, remove pot from heat and with tongs remove the short ribs from the pot and put on a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Check the consistency of the sauce. If the sauce isn't as thick as you'd like, either cook it down until it has the consistency you like (many people like it when it will coat a spoon), or you may want to thicken it even more. In that case, stir in most of the cornstarch-and-water mixture (do this off heat). The mixture should thicken in a minute or two. Add the rest of the cornstarch mixture if you want a thicker sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning again.
- Place a piece or two of meat on each serving plate over a bed of mashed potatoes. Add some sauce, then garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve along with your choice of additional veggies (we like carrots and mushrooms).
- A pound of short ribs per person? Are we nuts? Yes, but hear us out. Short ribs have a lot of bone and a lot of fat (most of which gets cooked out). So they shrink quite a bit in cooking. We always plan on serving two 3-inch pieces per person, but many people find one piece to be enough. So no one goes hungry and we generally have some leftovers (which are really good). Win win.
- BTW, many supermarkets cut their short ribs into 2-inch pieces (unless you order them specially), so that’s what you may find in their meat case. They don’t look as dramatic as the 3-inch cut, but two of these may be a more reasonable serving size. They’ll still amount to about ¾ pound per serving before cooking, which is adequately hefty.
- Short ribs usually are cut across the bone (a “flanken” cut). You sometimes see them cut parallel to the bone, in which case the bone may be 5 or 6 inches long (an “English” cut).
- We prefer short ribs that are cut from the chuck or rib, but they can also be cut from the brisket or plate. In fact, short ribs probably are most often cut from the plate. They’ll be good no matter where they come from.
- We like to cook short ribs for a total of about 3 hours, which makes them very tender. Do note that the meat has a tendency to fall off the bone when cooked that long. You can reduce cooking time to 2 hours or so if you prefer. The meat won’t be quite as tender, but it’ll still be good (and the short ribs will remain more intact). But in any case, when you serve these you’ll be covering them with the sauce you made from the braising liquid, so if the short ribs look a little messy you can camouflage them.
- This dish tastes best if you spread the cooking time over several days, as the Procedure instructs. That’s because the short ribs absorb flavor from the braising liquid as they rest in the refrigerator. But if you want to make this dish all in one day, just skip the parts where you refrigerate it. Or if you want to spread the cooking over two days, make the dish through Step 14 on day one, then proceed from there.
- Be aware that because short ribs are so fatty, they render quite a bit of greasy stuff as they cook. So if you cook this dish all in one day, you’ll have to plan on some major degreasing. It’s easiest if, after Step 13 (where you pour the liquid through a strainer and remove the veggies), you then pour the liquid into a fat separator.
- Port isn’t traditional in this dish, but we read about using it several years ago (wish we could remember where) and have been experimenting with it. It adds some nice depth of flavor and a bit of brightness. Ruby port has wonderful flavor and we recommend using it. Don’t use an expensive port, though – something that costs around $15 per bottle (or even a bit less) is perfect. If you’re not going to use the rest of the bottle within a couple of weeks, we suggest refrigerating the port. Even though it’s fortified and will keep for quite a while, it will oxidize over time and the flavor will decline.
- What kind of red wine to use in this dish? Nothing too fancy, but something that tastes good. Côtes du Rhône is our favorite for this kind of dish, and you can find something that costs $8 to $12 per bottle. If in doubt, ask your friendly wine merchant what they recommend – they’ll have some great ideas.
- Two bottles of wine sounds like a lot, but when reduced it makes a wonderful sauce. Though you can use just one bottle if you prefer, along with several cups of beef stock.
- Beef base is concentrated beef stock. You’ll find jars of it in the soup aisle of your supermarket. If there are several brands, try them all until you find one you like. Do be aware that beef base contains a lot of salt, so use less salt than you might think necessary when making any dish that contains it.
- We suggest using salt to season the meat before browning, and then to season the onion mixture when we sauté it. And again at the end of the dish (Step 15) when you taste the dish before serving. By adding salt to the meat and veggies at the beginning of the dish, you’re seasoning them when they benefit from it most. That may be all the salt you’ll need.
- If you don’t salt the meat and veggies at the beginning, the dish will probably taste flat, and you may find yourself using more salt than you would have had you seasoned some of the ingredients during the early stages of cooking.
- Speaking of salt, we use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt is less salty by volume than regular table salt, because its texture is more coarse and it doesn’t pack down as much in a measuring spoon. If using regular table salt, we suggest starting with about half as much as we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- If you don’t want to use porcini mushrooms in this dish, just use extra regular mushrooms (Step 6) when braising the short ribs – maybe a pound in total. BTW, using porcini mushrooms is an idea we read about some time ago (but again we can’t remember where). Porcinis do add a lot of flavor to the sauce.
- Cornstarch isn’t a traditional thickener for this dish, but we like it because it’s easy to add at the last minute, and it gives a nice gloss to the dish. We don’t always thicken the sauce, though – it really depends on our mood.
- Carrots and red wine are a dynamite combo. Ditto mushrooms and red wine. So we like serving them as sides with this dish. And who can resist mashed potatoes? They make a wonderful bed for the short ribs and sauce.
“Great dish,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Your best rendition of short ribs, ever.”
“The most complex recipe too,” I said. “Short ribs, but no short cuts.”
“And it’s stick-to-your-ribs food,” said Mrs K R. “So to speak.”
“You wouldn’t be ribbing me now, would you?” I said.
“I’d never do that to a meat-and-potatoes man,” said Mrs K R. “That’s the long and short of it.”
True. Mrs K R never ribs me the wrong way.
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