Braised Short Ribs
Long To Cook But Well Worth It
Based on a recipe in The Balthazar Cookbook
- Servings: 4.
This classic dish is on the winter menu of nearly every bistro in Paris. It's made with a slow braise of short ribs of beef, meaning the meat is cooked for several hours totally submerged in a rich liquid of wine, meat or chicken stock, and a base of carrots, onion, and celery. By the time it's done, the meat is butter-soft and is heaven when served with its own sauce and creamy mashed potatoes.
Short ribs are a tough cut of beef that's easy to find at any good butcher. The meat comes in thick pieces, attached to wide pieces of bone. As the meat cooks the bones may become detached so to keep them together, at least for the duration of the cooking, simply tie a piece of cotton butcher's twine around each piece.
A key step in making the dish is the browning of the meat. Be patient in doing this, taking the time to get a golden brown on each surface of the ribs because the browning adds important flavor.
The better the stock you use, the better the final flavor will be, so this is a good recipe to use any homemade stock you may have in your freezer. But you'll also get a very good result if you use good quality boxed chicken stock.
- 4 to 6 beef short ribs (4 to 6 pounds)
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 large or 2 small bay leaves
- 1 large celery stalk, cut in half
- 3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 shallots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2-cup ruby port
- 2 cups full-bodied red wine
- 6 cups chicken or veal stock
- Preheat the oven to 325º F.
- Using cotton butcher's twine, tie a single piece of twine around each rib so as to hold it together while it cooks.
- Also using butcher's twine, use the 2 halves of celery as a container, holding the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves inside and tying the twine around it to hold it together.
- Season the short ribs with about 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in an oven-proof large Dutch oven that has a cover (a cast iron enameled pot is perfect for this). Heat the oil until it's very hot -- just starting to smoke.
- Brown the short ribs well on each side, taking the time to get a nice brown crust on each surface. If your pan isn't big enough to brown all the pieces at once, do them in batches so that you get a better result. This step can take 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the ribs to a side plate when done and remove all but about 3 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Lower the heat to medium.
- Add the carrots, onion, shallots and garlic to the pan, stir to coat with the fat and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion softens and begins to get a little brown on the edges.
- Add the tomato paste and stir, cooking for about 2 minutes until the paste has essentially melted all over the vegetables.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until all the white of the flour has disappeared.
- Add the port, red wine and the celery holding the bay leaves and thyme and raising the heat to moderately high, cook until the liquid has reduced by about a third. The liquid will be gently boiling and will have a dark plum color. As it boils it will reduce and also take on an opaque finish from having added the flour. This is the way it's supposed to look. This step will take about 5 minutes so don't leave the pot too ignored.
- Return the ribs to the pot and add the stock and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. It is important that the ribs be fully covered by liquid so if 6 cups of stock is not enough, add water until the meat is covered.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 3 hours.
- Set your timer so that about once every 45 minutes you check the pot and turn the ribs over so that they all cook evenly and completely. The ribs are done when the meat is falling off the bone and is fork tender.
- Take the pot out of the oven and transfer the ribs to a platter. Remove and discard the twine holding the ribs to the bones.
- Strain the liquid into a saucepan using a sieve and discard the vegetables and all the other solids, leaving a smooth sauce. Skim off any obvious fat on the surface.
- Over a medium heat, bring the sauce to a low boil and cook uncovered to reduce the sauce by about half. This can take 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and make sure the heat is not too high.
- Taste and adjust for salt and pepper -- don't do so prior to this step because in the process of reducing the sauce, you will intensify any seasonings and you'll run the risk of over-salting it.
- Return the meat to the sauce to re-warm.
Serve with mashed potatoes and carrots that have been cooked separately.
Tip: This recipe is another example of why you should keep a spool of 100% cotton butcher's twine in your kitchen tool kit. You can buy the twine at any cookware or kitchen store.