I like to think of braised short ribs as beef in a tuxedo, because there are few things more luxurious to eat. Seared until golden and braised for several hours, the meat is meltingly tender and rich, perfumed with wine and aromatics. I served it for my friend Paul’s birthday dinner last week with a sharp little frisee salad and a heap of grainy mustard mashed potatoes.
Midway through the meal, Paul said: “I forgot to eat the meat for a bit while I was eating the potatoes. I just had my first bite again. HOLY CRAP, that is good!”
My pathetic reply: “Just keep saying things like that to me for the rest of the dinner; cooking compliments are like my porn.”
Here are a few bits of advice that will help you achieve delicious short ribs and, as a result, receive compliments of possibly pornographic proportions.
1. Be patient when you sear the meat–I’m talking a full 4 to 5 minutes per side. The reward will be a gorgeous, seared crust jacket on the outside.
2. Give the meat at least 3 hours to braise in a fairly low oven to ensure the meat gets sufficiently tender and the bits of fat melt into the meat and liquid.
3. Braise the meat 1 day before serving! This removes the painful step of skimming the fat off the top. Cool the ribs in the braising liquid, and stick the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, the fat will have hardened and you can simply pluck it off the top in pieces, sort of like really unattractive peppermint bark.
4. Serve the short ribs with a fresh, bright counterpart, like a gremolata of garlic, lemon and parsley; or, in this case, a bitter frisee salad with red wine vinegar, chives and parsley. This will make you appreciate the deep flavors in the dish even more.
Braised short ribs with frisee salad
adapted from Chow.com
3 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 medium onion, large dice
1 medium leek, rinsed well and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
3 carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 stalks celery, large dice
Salt and pepper
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 cups dry red wine
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 heads frisee, roughly chopped
1 bunch chives, minced
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, stems removed (keep the leaves whole)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the ribs: Rub the short ribs all over with about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven or other oven-safe pot over high heat, and add the short ribs.
Sear for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until the ribs are golden brown. Remove them from the pot, and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium. Drain most of the grease from the pot, and add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil along with the onion, leek, carrot, celery and garlic. Season with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and sauté the vegetables until they become tender and slightly caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes.
Pour in the wine, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, then add the short ribs back to the pot along with the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in a 300F oven for 3 hours, until the beef is falling off the bone. Strain out the vegetables and return the braising liquid to the pot with the short ribs.
Cool on the stovetop and then refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove the fat from the top and slowly reheat the short ribs in their braising liquid over low heat on the stovetop until the liquid is bubbling and the meat is hot, at least 20 minutes.
For the frisee salad: Place the frisee, chives and parsley in a large bowl. In a separate non-reactive bowl, mix the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed. Just before serving, pour the vinaigrette over the frisee and herbs and toss well to combine.
To serve, place 1 to 2 short ribs on each plate (depending on the size), along with a few spoonfuls of the braising liquid. Heap some frisee salad alongside the meat. This dish is made complete with a pile of mashed potatoes or creamy polenta for soaking up the juices. If preparing two-day short ribs is more than enough work by itself, simply tear off a few hunks of crusty bread for each guest. This recipe serves 4.