It is cheap, it is easy, it is fun to improvise with and best of all, it tastes great! If you can manage to sear meat and dump a bottle of wine in a pot, you can do this. It does take time, so this may be a weekender…
I have discovered that the taste-to-price ratio of beef short-ribs is off the freakin’ chart. These things are like 5 bucks a pound and after 3 hours of braising in the oven, you would pay a million dollars for them again, or worse… Now, braising sounds like one of those fancy French words (and it is), but don’t be skeered, it only means to cook meat in a liquid for a long time. The liquid can be just about anything. From water to wine to stock or even beer. The choices are endless depending on how you want your dish to taste. With beef, in particular beef short-ribs, I go with 50/50 red wine and beef stock. After you are done cooking (braising) the meat, you can reduce the liquid even further to make a “gravy” that is worthy of being put in an I.V. bag and carried around on a pole.
When getting ready to braise your short-ribs, you should get a good sear on all sides of the meat. Some people that get paid to write this kind of stuff will tell you it “seals in the juices”. This, is a bunch of crap. You are searing for the flavor on the outside, not to mention “fond”, another fancy French word which is the brown stuff on the bottom of your pan that does add a whole bunch of flavor once you dissolve it. To get a good sear, make sure the meat is dry and the pot is hot. DO NOT overcrowd the pot when searing. Everything will steam instead of sear, so do this in batches if your pot is too small.
As far as the wine I braise with… You should want to drink it. I have mentioned “cooking wine” before. It does not deserve to have the words “cooking” or “wine” associated with it in any way. There is actually a reason why an 8 year old can buy it at the stupermarket without a fake i.d., it is dyed red salt water, who the heck wants that?!? Since that is cleared up, just go buy yourself a $10 bottle of red (unless you are under 21), have a glass and get ready to dump the rest in the pot.
Ingredients for Braised Beef Short-Ribs: For 4
8 Beef short-ribs at room temp, dried with a paper towel
2 Tbls unsalted butter
2 stalks celery- chopped in 3 inch chunks
1 yellow onion- quartered
2 carrots- 3 inch chunks
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 Cup tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
28 oz beef stock
1 bottle red wine (minus 1 glass for yourself)
Heat oven to 325
In a large heavy bottomed pot (dutch oven), melt butter over medium high heat. Pat ribs dry with paper towel, coat liberally with salt and pepper. Once butter is melted and done foaming, place ribs in the pot and sear on all sides (3-4 minutes per side). While ribs are searing, put garlic, celery, onion and carrot in a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Remove ribs and set on a plate. Add puree’d vegetables to the pot and brown while stirring constantly. Once veggies are browned (5 minutes), add tomato paste and thyme, stir to combine. Cook tomato paste 5 more minutes then add beef broth and wine. Scrape up all of the “fond” from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and bring your-now-braising-liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, put ribs back in the pot and cover. Place in the oven for 3 hours. After 3 hours, carefully remove the ribs to a plate and cover with foil. Pour braising liquid through a sieve (metal screen) into a saucepan to filter out the veggies. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce by half, season to taste with salt and pepper.
You now have finished short-ribs and a great sauce to go with them. I usually serve them on top of garlic mashed potatoes, however, buttered egg noodles are pretty darn fantastic too (saute’ some pearl onions and mushrooms to go on top). This is a great dish for entertaining since once it is in the oven, you don’t really have much to do for 3 hours. If you forget about it and 4 hours go by, it will probably be even better.