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Barbecue-Braised Vietnamese Short Ribs with Sweet Vinegar Glaze

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Serves four.

Thought you couldn't get slow-cooked flavor from the grill? When barbecue-braising, your grill performs like an oven: You just put your pot on the grill, cover, and let the meat simmer. After braising, add the flavor-packed glaze. The result is delicious, saucy, fall-off-the-bone meat, perfect for summertime entertaining.

For the ribs:
  • 1 Tbs. mild pure chile powder, such as ancho (or substitute hot Hungarian paprika)
  • 1 tsp. five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lb. English-style beef short ribs
For the braising liquid and glaze:
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic  
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Asian fish sauce
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 whole star anise
For serving:
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
  • Cilantro sprigs
Season:

In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, five-spice powder, brown sugar, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle generously all over the ribs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

Sear:

Prepare a gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Grill the ribs until all sides are nicely browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Let cool briefly and then tie with a couple of loops of butcher’s twine.

Braise

Prepare the grill for indirect grilling. Set an 8-quart heavy-duty pot over medium heat and when hot, add the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1 minute more. Pour in the chicken broth, 1/4 cup of the vinegar, 1 Tbs. of the brown sugar, the fish sauce, and the soy sauce. Add the star anise, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat.

Put the ribs in the pot and set the pot on the grill over the cool zone. Cover the pot, close the grill lid, and cook for 30 minutes. Check the ribs and rearrange so they remain submerged in the simmering liquid. Check the ribs again after 30 minutes and move them around if necessary. After another 30 minutes, check the ribs for tenderness. They should be fork-tender but not falling apart. If they’re not tender enough, continue to cook, checking every 15 minutes. Remove the ribs from the pot and set aside.

Pour the liquid into a heatproof vessel, such as a Pyrex measuring cup, and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Skim off and discard the fat. Taste the liquid; if it’s too watery, return to the pot and boil over high heat until flavorful.

Glaze

Prepare the grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Pour 1 cup of the braising liquid into a small saucepan and stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. brown sugar and 2 tsp. rice vinegar. Over medium-high heat, reduce the liquid until it becomes syrupy, about 12 minutes—you’ll have about 1/3 cup.

Brush the glaze over one side of each short rib and grill glazed side down until the glaze begins to bubble and lightly darken, 2 to 3 minutes. Brush another surface with the glaze and turn the ribs. Continue to brush and glaze, turning frequently, until all sides are nicely glazed. Transfer the ribs to a warm platter, drizzle with the remaining braising liquid, and garnish with the scallions and cilantro.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make this dish through the braising step the day before serving. Just cool and wrap the meat and braising liquid separately. Refrigerate overnight and glaze the next day. To spread out the work even more, you can season the meat the day before you braise.

Variations

To use a charcoal grill: First build a medium-high fire for searing: Ignite about 5 quarts of charcoal (80 to 100 briquettes), using either a chimney starter or an electric starter. When the charcoal is burning well, spread it out over the surface of the charcoal grate and put the cooking grate in place. Let the charcoal burn down until it's coated with gray ash. To test the temperature, hold your hand about two inches above the cooking grate; when you can hold your hand there for 2 to 3 seconds (a medium-high fire), you're ready to sear the short ribs.

After searing, divide the coals evenly, banking them against two sides of the grill (use long-handled tongs to move the coals). Put the cooking grate in place; if your cooking grate has hinged sections, position them over the charcoal. Place an oven thermometer on the grate over the cooler area, close the lid, and let the coals burn until the thermometer reads about 350ºF. When ready, place the pot over the cool zone and braise as directed above. Check the thermometer every 20 minutes, replenishing the charcoal as necessary to keep the temperature between 325ºF and 375ºF. If the coals are still burning well, you can simply add a handful of unlit coals on top. Otherwise, you'll need to add lit coals.

To glaze the ribs, rebuild a medium-high fire as you did for the searing step, and cook as directed in the recipe.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with rice noodles, steamed rice, or Spicy Slaw with Radiccio & Green Mango.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 580; Fat (g): 31; Fat Calories (kcal): 280; Saturated Fat (g): 11; Protein (g): 50; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14; Carbohydrates (g): 25; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): 1750; Cholesterol (mg): 110; Fiber (g): 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

By far, the best short rib recipe yet. Made in the oven with a few modifications: Seared ribs on stovetop; bought braise to simmer after adding the ribs; braised at 300 for at least 2.5 hours, turning/checking every hour until done. Didn't make the glaze -- didn't have enough liquid; next time I'll add some alum foil to better seal the pot -- but strained and defatted the liquid, added a bit of brown sugar, and reheated the ribs, in foil, with the liquid.

Pretty tasty but I think too much work for something just pretty good. I didn't cook my pot on the grill and did it on the stovetop. Used mint instead of cilantro which was nice. Probably won't do it again but did enjoy the dinner.

Turned out fantastic!

I made these short ribs for a tasting for a "high end" party. They beat out my BBQ brisket and skewered tenderloin. They are excellent!

Absolutely fantastic. Very easy to make and can easily be made the day before.

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