May 2, 2012
Wine-Braised Short Ribs
by Gareth Mark
Braising is a magical technique that will turn a tough cut of meat into a mouth-watering, fork-tender taste treat. Just as importantly, it's simple and not at all time sensitive.
You'll need a pan that is fairly deep—deeper than the thickness of the meat you're braising—and wide enough to allow all the meat to be in a single layer. A lid is optional. Cast iron is nice but unnecessary.
This dish is quite simple. In addition to some beef short ribs (one per serving) you'll need a single thick slice of fatty bacon, an onion, some diced tomatoes (fresh or canned), a bottle of inexpensive but drinkable wine, two cups (0.5L) beef or other stock, salt and pepper, and some all-purpose flour. If you're making more than four ribs, you'll need to increase the liquids, and might want more bacon.
Begin by mixing the flour, salt, and pepper together. You'll need about a quarter cup of flour per rib (no more than 1 cup, though), although much of it will be thrown out. Be generous with the salt and pepper. Dice the onion, then dice the bacon.
Toss the bacon into the preheated (medium heat) pan to render the fat. While the fat is rendering, dredge the ribs in the seasoned flour and set aside. Once the bacon fat is nicely rendered, lift the bacon out of the pan using a slotted spoon to leave all the fat behind and reserve the bacon. Brown the dredged ribs in the bacon fat, ensuring that all four sides and both ends are nicely colored. Lift the ribs out of the pan and set aside.
Quickly caramelize the onion in the pan. Once it begins to brown, deglaze the pan with the entire bottle of wine, gently scraping up any brown bits of flavor on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the ribs and the reserved bacon. Reduce the heat to a very slow simmer.
About every 30 minutes or so, turn the ribs. After about an hour, add the tomatoes, and maybe a bit of garlic and some fresh rosemary if you feel like it. Continue to simmer at least another hour. If the liquid in the pan gets too low, add more beef stock, wine, or even water. When the bones separate from the meat, it's done, but can stand up to another hour of cooking without any issues, so don't worry about watching the pot carefully. If you want to make the ribs a day or two ahead of time, remove the pan from the heat, cool, cover, and refrigerate, then bring back to a simmer for 30 minutes on serving day. An overnight soak will improve the flavor and make the meat more juicy.
If you want to make a pan gravy, use a second pan. Make a roux, then add some strained pot liquor to it. Nothing difficult at all.
It's really nice to serve braised short ribs on top of (or next to) barley risotto made with beef stock and red wine. Add a large salad and maybe some lightly sautéed asparagus and you've got an excellent meal.