Whenever we're out to dinner and there are short ribs on the menu, it's game on.
Now, because of Bryan's status as a short rib aficionado, I've seen a wide variety of cooking techniques. Obviously short ribs need to be cooked long and slow in order to get that "fall off the bone" tenderness. But some are cooked without enough braising liquid, like red wine and beef stock, so they get dry. And a dry short rib just tastes like dry beef, no matter how tender or how much sauce is piled on. No good.
Then there's the opposite issue; braising it for too long in too much liquid. Sure, the meat gets really tender, but it falls off the bone in the liquid and becomes more of a liquid-y stew. Great if you're going for a soup angle, but not so great for classic short ribs.
That said, when making short ribs it's really important to maintain the balance between tender, moist and good structural integrity.
After watching my husband eat enough short ribs to fill a small tank, I decided to make them myself. They are not expensive - maybe $9 for six beef ribs - and the rest of the ingredients (think carrots, celery, onions, leeks, herbs and dry red wine) don't break the bank either.
When I was looking for recipes, I turned to my go-to cookbook series: Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa. This specific cookbook is Barefoot Contessa Family Style, and it is seriously fantastic. I love cookbooks with great insider tricks, tips and a narrative that conveys the chef's trial and error experiences making the dishes. On top of that, over-sized, glossy photos of the finished presentation makes or breaks the cookbook bank for me.
So I decided Ina was going to help me through my inaugural round of short ribs. Apparently her recipe is adapted from Scott Bieber, head chef at Eli's Manhattan Restaurant in NYC. So I figured having the experience of two big time chefs behind me couldn't hurt! I have to say it worked out really well, even if I did discover that it was a bit too liquid-y for me. But that's easily fixed by controlling the amount of sauce you add to the plate.
Here's how to make it:
- 6 beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black paper
- 1/4 good olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (~ 2 onions)
- 4 cups large-diced celery (~ 6 large stalks)
- 2 carrots, peeled and large-diced
- 1 small fennel, fronds, stems, and core removed, large-diced
- 1 leek, cleaned and large-diced, white part only
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 750-mL bottle burgundy or other dry red wine (I used a 2005 J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon)
- Fresh rosemary sprigs (I used 4)
- Fresh thyme sprigs (I used 6)
- 6 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and add the onions, celery, carrots, fennel and leek and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
Pour the wine over the vegetables, bring to a boil, and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. (Note: I found that this was closer to 20 minutes).
Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine and add to the pot. (Tip: Don't have kitchen twine? Dental floss accomplishes the same thing. Don't worry if it's mint. The flavor won't hurt it at all.)
Place the roasted ribs on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven and add the beef stock and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside. Discard the herbs and skim the excess fat. Cook the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, until reduced. Put the ribs back into the pot and heat through. Serve with the vegetables and sauce.