Short ribs are full of fat and marbling, which makes them perfect for braising, and the addition of acidic balsamic vinegar helps balance some of the meat’s richness. Properly cooked, short ribs make a very sultry meal.
Braising is a good technique for entertaining, because you can essentially set it and forget it, and the leftovers are easily repurposed. Use the meat scraps in a hash (see Spring Vegetable Hash with Poached Duck Egg and Whole-Grain Mustard Hollandaise) or use the braising liquid as a base for Classic French Onion Soup. It can also be used in a new braise.
You need to keep a few things in mind when you’re braising. This cooking method requires a lot of liquid to keep the meat from drying out and you must have a tight-fitting lid or other cover so the liquid does not evaporate. The braising liquid should be highly seasoned, as well. This recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt in the liquid itself, which may seem like a lot, but the meat needs all of it to become properly seasoned in the liquid.
Short ribs take a long time to cook because of the delicious fat and gelatinous tissue that hold them together. The best way to test for doneness is to slice a small piece off the corner and taste it. When it tastes rich and tender, the ribs are done. Overcooked short ribs lose their lusciousness and end up tasting like pot roast, so be attentive and check often.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 4 (1-pound) bone-in short ribs, cut between the bones into 2-rib sections (8 ribs total)
- 5 tablespoons salt
- 4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 large yellow onions, roughly diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably Italian)
- 5 pitted prunes
- 3 lemon peel strips (from about ½ lemon)
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 3 cups homemade stock or other high-quality stock
- 2 cups red wine
- 0.25 cup 10-year aged balsamic vinegar
- Season each rib with 1½ teaspoons of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. (This may seem like an excessive amount of salt and pepper, but much of it will fall off when you sear the meat.) Heat a black steel pan over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until the surface is rippling but not smoking. Add half of the ribs and sear, pressing down with tongs and turning them as needed, until deep brown on all sides (avoid creating many black spots), 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the seared ribs to an enameled cast-iron or stainless-steel Dutch oven or a half hotel pan; don’t use an unlined cast-iron pan for braising. Because there’s so much acid in this recipe, an unlined cast-iron pan will leave a metallic flavor in your meat. Rinse and dry the pan and repeat with 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and the remaining ribs. Add the second batch of seared ribs to the Dutch oven and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse and dry the pan you used for searing the ribs once again. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the celery,
- carrots, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and caramelized, 7 to 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are deep golden brown. Add this mixture to the Dutch oven and repeat with the remaining vegetables, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon oil. Add the prunes, lemon peel, thyme, and garlic to the Dutch oven and set aside.
- In a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock, wine, and balsamic vinegar to a simmer. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, then pour the stock mixture into the Dutch oven. Cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook until the meat is very tender and nearly falling off the bone but not completely falling apart when teased with a fork or pressed between your fingers, about 2½ hours. Uncover the pot and let the beef cool in the braising liquid until it is cool enough to handle, 30 to 45 minutes.
- Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and carefully trim (or just pull off gently with your fingers) the flap of connective tissue where it meets the bone (it should be easy to peel back and cut off near the hole where the bone is; if the bone fell out during cooking, just fish it out of the liquid and discard it
- Strain the braising liquid and discard all of the solids. (I like to save the carrots, which I usually throw into a hash the next day.) Pour the braising liquid into a container and ladle off and discard as much fat from the surface as possible. You’ll use some of the braising liquid when serving the beef; freeze the rest for another use. Keep in mind that this braising liquid has incredible flavor but is aggressively seasoned, so use it sparingly.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the trimmed short ribs in a casserole dish and pour a few large ladles of the braising liquid over the top. Reheat the ribs in the oven, uncovered, until fully heated through, 5 to 7 minutes, basting as needed to keep them from drying out.
- To serve with Horseradish Gremolata and Orange-Caraway Glazed Carrots (see photo), roast the carrots up to 4 hours in advance. Reheat and glaze them immediately before serving. Make the gremolata while the ribs are reheating.
- Place 1 short rib on each plate and spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the braising liquid around the side. Arrange about ½ cup of glazed carrots to the side of the meat and sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of gremolata.