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Braised Short Ribs Recipe: Create Your Own

Learn the basic method for braised short ribs, so tender they fall off the bone, and you have hundreds of recipes at your fingertips.

by Susie Middleton

from Fine Cooking
Issue 103

A plate of braised short ribs has a Fred Flintstone-meets-Julia Child kind of appeal that’s hard to beat for a dinner party—or any midwinter meal, for that matter. Short ribs are beefy and bony and, well, manly, yet they have the comforting, rich flavor and meltingly tender texture of the best beef stew. Actually, I’ll take braised short ribs over beef stew any day.

The technique is simple. Start by searing the short ribs (get out your biggest pot). Then cook a handful of aromatics, deglaze the pot with anything from wine to beer to apple cider, and simmer the ribs in broth (or more wine or beer) for several hours. By following this sear-and-long-simmer method, you’ll quickly master the art of braising short ribs. What’s different about this approach is that you get to choose the ingredients—aromatics, liquids, and garnishes—to create a different dish every time.

Serves 6

Sear the ribs

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil over medium heat. Season 4-1/2 to 5 lb. English-style beef short ribs (8 to 12 ribs) with 2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Add half of the ribs to the pot (or as many as will fit without overlap), and cook, turning with tongs, until nicely browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the ribs to a platter and repeat with the remaining ribs. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.

Cook the aromatics

Add another 1 Tbs. vegetable oil and 2 cups your choice of aromatics (see options below) to the pan. Season with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the aromatics are soft and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Choose up to three aromatics for a total of 2 cups (use at least 3/4 cup onions or leeks)

  • onions
    Onions: Cut into medium dice
  • leeks
    Leeks: Thinly sliced or diced
  • carrots
    Carrots: Cut into medium dice
  • celery
    Celery: Cut into medium dice
  • fennel bulb
    Fennel: Cut into medium dice
Add flavor boosters

Add 3 to 5 herbs, spices, and flavor boosters—preferably at least one from each category (see options below) and cook, stirring, until well distributed and fragrant, about 1 minute. Try to always use tomato paste at this point, unless you're adding crushed tomatoes later as a braising liquid.

Spices

  • Star anise: 2 to 3 whole
  • paprika
    Ground paprika: 1 to 2 tsp.
  • ground allspice
    Ground allspice: 1/2 to 1 tsp.
  • ground coriander
    Ground coriander: 1 to 2 tsp.
  • chile powder
    Pure chile powder: 1 tsp.
  • cinnamon
    Cinnamon sticks: 2 whole
  • ground cumin
    Ground cumin: 1 to 2 tsp.
Herbs
  • rosemary
    Chopped fresh rosemary: 2 tsp.
  • thyme
    Chopped fresh thyme: 1 Tbs.
  • oregano
    Chopped fresh oregano: 2 tsp.
  • dried bay leaves
    Dried bay leaves: 2 whole

Flavor boosters

  • olives
    Pitted olives: 1/2 cup
  • jalapeno
    Finely chopped jalapeño or serrano chile: 1 to 2 Tbs.
  • tomato paste
    Tomato paste (no salt added): 1 Tbs.
  • anchovies
    Minced anchovies: 1/2 tsp.
  • dried mushrooms
    Dried mushrooms: 1/2 oz. (steep in hot water, then drain and coarsely chop)
  • dried figs
    Coarsely chopped dried figs: 1 cup
  • dried apricots
    Coarsely chopped dried apricots: 1 cup
  • prunes
    Coarsely chopped prunes: 1 cup
  • fresh ginger
    Finely chopped ginger: 1 Tbs.
  • garlic
    Finely chopped garlic: 1 Tbs.
Deglaze the pot

Pour 1/2 cup of the deglazing liquid of your choice (see options below) into the pot and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 Tbs., about 1 minute.

Choose a deglazing liquid

  • cider
    Sweet apple cider
  • beer
    Beer
  • dry red wine
    Dry red wine
  • white wine
    Dry white wine
  • rice wine
    Rice wine
  • brandy
    Brandy
  • tequila
    Tequila
  • whisky
    Whiskey
  • rum
    Rum
  • vermouth
    Vermouth
  • sherry
    Sherry
Add the braising liquids

Transfer all the ribs (and any juices that have accumulated) back into the pot. In a 1-quart measuring cup, combine 3 cups of your choice of braising liquids (see options below) with 1 cup water, and mix well. Pour the liquid over the ribs and using tongs, arrange the ribs as evenly as possible and no more than two layers deep. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the ribs with tongs about every 40 minutes, until they are fork tender, about 2-3/4 hours. (The meat may fall off most of the bones about midway through cooking; this does not mean that the ribs are fully tender.)

Choose up to four braising liquids for a total of 3 cups

  • chicken broth
    Lower-salt chicken broth: up to 1-1/2 cups
  • beef broth
    Lower salt beef broth: up to 3/4 cup diluted with 3/4 cup water
  • red wine
    Dry red wine: Up to 3 cups
  • white wine
    Dry white wine: Up to 3 cups
  • beer
    Beer: Up to 1-1/2 cups
  • canned crushed tomatoes
    Canned crushed tomatoes: up to 1 cup
  • soy sauce
    Soy sauce (lower sodium): up to 1/4 cup
  • mushroom soaking liquid
    Mushroom-soaking water: Up to 1 cup (if you chose dried mushrooms as a flavor booster)
Finish the sauce

Transfer the ribs to a serving platter or dish. Let the sauce and solids sit in the pot for a few minutes to cool and with a shallow spoon, skim off as much of the fat as possible from the surface. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and add 1 to 2 tsp. of a finish of your choice (see options below).

Choose a finish (optional)

  • lemon juice
    Fresh lemon juice
  • limes
    Fresh lime juice
  • red wine vinegar
    Red wine vinegar
  • white wine vinegar
    White wine vinegar
  • sherry vinegar
    Sherry vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
    Balsamic vinegar
  • cider vinegar
    Cider vinegar
Garnish and serve

Serve the ribs with the sauce spooned over, sprinkled with your choice of garnish (see options below). If making ahead (see box below), refrigerate the ribs and sauce separately.

Choose one or two garnishes for a total of 1 to 2 Tbs. (optional)

  • parsley
    Chopped fresh parsley
  • mint
    Thinly sliced fresh mint
  • basil
    Thinly sliced fresh basil
  • cilantro
    Chopped fresh cilantro
Cook Ahead

It’s best to braise short ribs a day (or at least several hours) ahead for a couple of reasons. First, this allows you to chill the sauce so it can be defatted thoroughly. Also, the flavors only get better with time. To reheat, arrange the meat snugly in a baking dish, cover with foil, and put in a 350°F oven. Reheat the sauce on the stovetop.

Serving Suggestions

Braised short ribs are delicious with starchy, rustic side dishes. Choose one that’s a good foil for the flavor profile you’ve picked. For example, the Tuscan short ribs are tasty with creamy polenta enhanced with a bit of Parmigiano or other cheese. Try the Hunter’s-style short ribs over fresh wide pasta noodles, like pappardelle. Spicy Tunisian-inspired short ribs are a natural with fluffy herbed couscous, whereas Southwestern short ribs call for a hearty rice pilaf spiked with toasted pine nuts or almonds. And any short rib dish, no matter the flavor, will be delicious served with potatoes—yes, good old mashed potatoes are a great match.


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