This is a classic braise, using beef short ribs. It's been ages since I've made braised short ribs. I nearly forgot how delicious they are.
I'd forgotten, too, how the smell of braised beef short ribs cooking fills an entire home. The smells of delicious food are a natural stress reliever. My wife was about to do a Zoom reading of an essay for the Writers In Paradise program about selling the home that had been in her family since 1874, and she looked at me and said, "I can smell those ribs!" They were about midway through a three hour cook and that's when the aroma started to bloom, changing the feel of the room.
Why did she say that? Why do we almost invariably remark on the smells of cooking when we enter a kitchen? "It smells so good in here," we're quick to say. It's because we feel immediately relaxed. Smells affect our parasympathetic nervous system, the segment of our nervous system that calms us.
We cook with all our senses and we enjoy the cooking with them as well.
There are many reasons to cook your own food. Don't overlook how the act of one person's cooking affects everyone in the house.
The Classic Braise: Beef Short Ribs
The below recipe is a classic braise method, using wine and canned diced tomatoes for the liquid (braises require liquid to break down the tough collagen tissue in the meat), flavored with black pepper, coriander, marjoram, thyme, and the secret friend of virtually all braises, honey. (A chef named Powder, in Cleveland, taught me that—it really does round out the flavors in just about any braise.)
You don't have to sear the meat if you don't have time, but it really does make the dish better, setting the protein in the meat (so that no foam or gunk will come out of the meat) and adding flavor. And don't forget to pay attention to the amazing smell of floured meat going in to hot fat.
Making braised short ribs makes the home happy, calm, and nourished. (For more on braising, see my book, How To Braise. (And you might want to check out this post on a technique that combines roasting and braising.)
Braised Beef Short Ribs
- 4 pounds beef short ribs 4 to 6 depending on size and meatiness
- salt as needed
- freshly cracked black pepper as needed
- flour as needed
- vegetable oil as needed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tbsp black pepper (I use coarse ground bottled black pepper here)
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp dried marjoram (or dried oregano)
- 1 cup drinkable red wine
- 1 28-oz can diced tomato (or whole tomatoes crushed by hand)
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 carrots
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 small bunch of thyme (preferably tied with string for easy removal)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Season the short ribs with plenty of salt and pepper. Dredge in flour (I put the flour in a plastic bag and shake). In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, brown them in a quarter inch of vegetable oil on all sides.
- Preheat your oven to 300˚F.
- When the ribs are browned, remove them from the pan and pour out the oil. (If there's burned flour in you pan wipe it out and use a little fresh oil.) Return the dutch oven to the burner and add the onion. Give the onion a four fingered hit of kosher salt. Cook the onion still they're just beginning to brown.
- Make a well in the center of the pot and add the black pepper and coriander. Stir them to toast them, then stir the onions to coat them with the seasoning. Stir in the marjoram.
- Add the wine and let it simmer hard for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol, then add the tomatoes and honey and stir till it's all combined. Nestle the short ribs bone-side down in the sauce. Nestle the carrots and celery between the ribs. Press the thyme and bay leaves into the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover and put in the oven for an hour or so. Then remove it to the stove top, flip the ribs bone side up, cover and return the pot to the oven for 2 more hours. (If the ribs are completely submerged in the sauce from the get-go, you can skip this step.)
- If you have a hand blender, remove the ribs, celery, carrot, bay leaves and thyme, and blend the sauce until it's smooth. Return the ribs to the pot, or combine the ribs and the sauce on a platter and serve.
‘Searing sets the protein in the meat.” Errr... what on earth does this mean? 🙂
It prevents the gray gunk from leaching out of the meat and bones into your delicious sauce. Imagine bringing raw beef bones and meat to a simmer in a pot. You get a gray mat of foam and gunk. It's mainly protein. When you roast the bones first, this doesn't happen. The water stays clear as it comes up to heat.
Isn’t this just another way of saying “seal in the juices”, which has been debunked (McGee)? Won’t the grey goo (protein) make its way into the sauce eventually anyway? Genuine question, not trying to be a smart ass.
What was debunked was that searing meat seals in the juices in something like a sautéed steak. Searing the exterior of short ribs somehow prevents the gunk from getting into the sauce. Again, it’s why it’s good to roast or preblanch veal or beef bones.
Also salting fish before cooking it will prevent the white albumen from being squeezed out of fish when it roasts.
You’re kind of an asshole Pete, right?
Now Elizabeth, I think he was being genuine in his questioning. He even said so.
Peter S. Shenkin
Braise New World!
Looks delicious! Two questions:
1. Do you toss the carrots and celery ribs?
2. What is in the small jar on the dinner table? Capers? Green peppercorns?
Yes, I discard them and the bunch of herbs, and I remove the short ribs and blend the sauce with a hand blender.
The jar is really good pepper that we get from a company called Burlap and Barrel. Highly recommend.
What do you do with the tendon like structure that holds the short rib to the bone through the cooking process? I’ve tried to figure out what chef’s do but to no avail. I try to make short ribs a day early, cool them, take the fat off the top (if in excess), peel the stuff off the back of the short ribs and throw the bone away. What do you suggest?
Your way is an excellent way to get rid of that connective tissue. I like to leave it on because it’s chewy and tasty, but is certainly inelegant. Also braises are better once they’ve been chilled, so I’d keep doing what your doing.
I’m excited to try the honey to braise tip. Thanks to you and Powder.
It’s a great technique!
You and your wife Ann are right that the aromas from this dish, as it bakes, are relaxing and comforting...especially on a dreary winter day during a pandemic!
Question: Do you recommend serving these short ribs and their sauce over rice or another starch or do you prefer to serve them as is?
I should have noted this. Any starch will work. I served them with mashed potatoes, but I might also choose egg noodles.