A recipe for patience
There’s no ifs,
We will first sear all our meats and brown all the veggies. Then we will add an acidic bath of wine, tomatoes, and stock. Next, we will punctuate the broth with herbs. Finally we will leave the entire thing alone in the oven and let this magical cauldron do its thing.
Why Sear Braised Beef Short Ribs?
Searing is a technique used to create a browned crust on the surface of a food. The scientific nomenclature is the Maillard reaction. It is a chemical reaction between the sugars and amino acids. It is a fast process. I know you want to make sure your meat isn’t burning on the bottom by picking it up or moving it around. DON’T!! The more you move the meat around the less chance it has to sear! Tilt the pan at an angle and use a utensil to gently push the meat towards the angle of descent. If your meat moves easily, then the sear is done. If it doesn’t move easily, leave it alone! That browned crust is a concentration of flavor. There is a beautiful juxtaposition between the soft, juicy interior and the hard, crusty exterior that is pleasing to the palate. This is why searing is so important to braised beef short ribs.
There is perhaps a strong urge to pile the ribs into the pan all at once to shorten the overall cooking time. While the meat on the bottom of the pile has direct contact with the super hot pan, the rest of the meat will sit on top and cause steam. Steam and moisture are the enemies of searing. As you will see when you brown your vegetables, moisture acts as a shield against a dry crust. Your vegetables, on the other hand, are going to take a super long time to brown because there is so much water in the veggies. There is too much steaming and evaporation going on to form a brown crust. In a way, your meat will act the same if you pile them all on top of one another. Therefore it is better to sear your meat in batches with enough space between each to prevent steaming.
What is Braising and why is it important to develop such intense flavors?
Braising is a cooking method that uses both dry heat and wet heat.
We will use red wine, tomatoes, and stock to build the flavor of the braising liquid. Short ribs don’t have much fat to render out nor do they produce enough liquid to cook on their own. So, we are going to help them along by adding our own cooking liquid, much like poaching a salmon.
I am going to use a bold wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, to start off the braising liquid. The wine will deglaze the pan, also. Some parts of the seared meat will stick to the bottom of the pan after you have removed the meat. Deglazing the pan with a liquid (like a Red Wine) not only helps loosen those small bits of seared meat, but those small bits and the wine will mix with the braising liquid and impart more flavor.
Next, we will add our Tomato paste and whole/crushed tomatoes. Our tomato products will slightly thicken and sweeten the sauce.
The acids from the wine and tomatoes will help dissolve the meat’s collagen into gelatin. Not only will the gelatin thicken the liquid, but it will also enrich the flavor of the braised beef short ribs.
I’ve played around with this recipe for braised beef short ribs to build different flavors. I’ve used different wines, different cuts of meat (I actually used huge Beef Ribs before), and I’ve used different herbs. Freshly picked Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, and Italian Oregano from my garden add a level of freshness and brightness that this rich dish eventually needs. You may definitely use dried herbs if it’s convenient.
For the recipe I’m providing you, I’ve decided to choose my favorite fresh herb, Thyme, for simplicity. By all means, use your favorite fresh Italian herb, or a combination of them. An assortment of Thyme, Rosemary, Parlsey, and Italian Oregano truly add another powerful punch of flavor to the broth. Use all of them if you can’t make a decision!
Hmm, which pot to use?
Technically, you’re supposed to use a large cast iron pot, or dutch oven, or one of those cute Le Creuset ceramic braisers. Well, I am neither rich to buy one nor lucky enough to have grandparents bequeath one to me. I use what I have. I have this thick metal pot, which I normally use for stews and pasta. Honestly, I’m not sure if its even oven proof. I happened to try the braised beef short ribs in this pot one day. I put it in the oven hoping for the best. In the end, it worked out.
Please, don’t go putting any pot willie-
Definitely use the correct pot. A cast iron pot, dutch oven, or a ceramic braiser will do the job. But if you only have Teflon pots, by all means, cook this dish covered with a lid or aluminum foil on the stove top at low heat. Be sure to constantly add stock to keep the braising liquid at about 2/3rds of the pan, just barely enough to cover the meat.
Good luck and Get going!
It is a tough dish to make if you don’t mentally prepare yourself for the process. Remember to have your veggies cut, liquids measured, and pans ready. Make sure to read the entire recipe first before you start cooking.
Braising is perhaps my favorite cooking technique. There is something special about doing this amount of hard work for this long period of time to get this unequivocal dish of love. I love the ritual of making this dish. I love the whole process. It is a lesson on why I find joy in cooking. Cooking this dish is methodical for me, much like washing a car or folding laundry is for some people. I am placed into a meditative state I find relaxing. I use braises to cook Carnitas (pork shoulder cooked in its own fat, also know as Confit), Coq au Vin (a traditional French braise of slowly cooked Rooster), and a variety of chicken thigh recipes. Braising turns a cheap cut of meat into something profound.
This is definitely a dish to make in the company of others. Have a few bottles of wine, make a few appetizers, sit around and enjoy the gathering. Enjoy the process. Your house is going to smell amazing. Your taste buds are going to be doing somersaults. As long as you have the patience we can get through this you can have the best braised beef short ribs.
1. Cook bacon over medium heat and render out the fat.
Place bacon in a bowl, leaving left over bacon fat in the pot. Add a little olive oil to the bacon fat and turn heat to medium-high. You can omit the bacon fat, if you choose. Just use a few more tablespoons of olive oil to slightly coat the bottom of the pot
2. Season each side of the rib with generous amounts of salt and pepper.
Place short rib meat side down into oil. Sear each side of the rib till a deep brown color. Make sure to have your exhaust fan on and windows open as you will generate a lot of smoke. You’re going to be searing these meats for a long time to get that beautiful brown. Also, make sure to do this step in batches. You do not want to create steam by adding too many ribs to the pan. Steam and moisture prevents searing! Place seared meat to the side on a plate when finished.
3. Add carrots, celery, onion to the pot utilizing leftover seared-meat oils.
Add a little olive oil if there isn’t enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Stir vegetables occasionally. It may seem like there is a lot of veggies in the pot. The veggies will give off a lot of water and steam before they start to brown. This process should take a long time, at least 10 minutes, definitely more. The veggies will reduced by half in volume by the time they start to brown.
4. Add garlic.
Cook till fragrant. Stir often. You will get a bitter funky taste if you let the garlic burn.
5. Return the ribs back to pot, along with all the juices that have leaked out onto the plate.
6. Add tomato paste.
Make sure to continuously stir the paste around to incorporate with the veggies and meat. Cook till the paste turns slightly brown. *******BE SURE to keep checking the bottom of the pan! Tomato paste will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn! The moment you see the paste start getting too dark on the bottom of the pan, immediately go to step 7.
7. Add 1/2bottle of red wine and reduce.
Stir occasionally. Scrap bottom of the pan for browned bits.
8. Once wine has reduced, add can of tomatoes.
If you use whole tomatoes, crush whole tomatoes in your hand as you place them into the pot. Add all tomato juices from can into pot. Stir.
9. The braising liquid should reach just enough to cover meat, about 2/3rds up the pan.
If you need more liquid, add enough stock to cover 2/3rds of the pan. It is ok if you don’t need to add any stock if wine and tomato juices fulfill the 2/3rd requirement.
10. Add herbs.
I wrapped my thyme sprigs in a bundle with twine. You can definitely shuck the leaves from the stick and throw the leaves into the pot, if you choose.
11. Cover pot and place in oven under low heat, 300degrees.
Cook for as long as you can, minimal 2hours. I am cooking mine for 4hours. Make sure to take the pot out and check periodically to see if the liquid hasn’t dried up. Add chicken stock till liquid reaches almost to the top of the beef ribs, if need.
12. After hours of cooking, remove pot from oven.
Remove ribs from pot and place on a plate. It’s ok if meat falls off the bone. Make sure to remove all bones before you blend!
13. Use an immersion blender to partially blend the remaining vegetables in the pot.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, place some veggies and braising liquid into a normal upright blender and blend till desired consistency. I like my sauce to be a tad bit chunky, so I skip this step entirely. Again, if you prefer a more smooth sauce, blend it.
14. Continue to reduce braising liquid over medium high heat on top of the stove.
Taste continuously, add salt to taste.
15. Add about 1tablespoon of sugar to the sauce to give it a slightly sweet taste.
This step is optional. I like a slightly sweet tomato sauce. If you tasted it and find it tastes good as is, skip this step. Taste taste taste!
16. Return meat to pot and keep contents warm until ready to serve with your favorite side dish.
Prepare your favorite side dish. I love this bold meaty dish with mashed potatoes. The potatoes soak up the sauce and add a buttery goodness that creates a flavor profile that’s the DIE FOR! You definitely want something to soak up the sauce. So use something like Polenta or Grits!
If this looked good, make sure to check out my Creamy Mushroom Risotto Recipe!
Braised Beef Short Ribs
- 3 strips bacon optional
- 2 tbsp olive oil 5 tbsp if not using bacon fat
- 5-7 pieces short ribs
- 3 stocks carrots rough chop
- 3 stocks celery rough chop
- 1 large onion rough chop
- 4-5 cloves garlic rough chop
- 1 6oz can of tomato paste
- 1 12oz can of whole or crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 bottle Red Wine
- 5-7 sprigs Thyme either with sprigs bundled together with twine, or leaves removed
- 1 tbsp sugar optional
- Salt/pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375.
- On stovetop, cook bacon in pot over medium high heat. Render out fat. Set aside.
- Sear ribs on all sides in bacon fat. Add olive oil to pan if too dry. Set aside on plate. Leave oil inside pot.
- Brown carrots, celery, and onion in oils left over from meat sear. 10-15mins. Stir occasionally so vegetables don’t burn on bottom.
- Add garlic and cook till fragrant.
- Place ribs, along with accumulated juices, back into pan.
- add entire can of tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste has slightly browned.
- add 1/2bottle of Red Wine. Reduce till all but evaporated.
- Add crushed tomatoes along with tomato juices into pot (Crush whole tomatoes one at a time as you add them to the pot).
- Add thyme.
- Allow the contents in the pot to come to a simmer. Cover. Place entire pot into oven. Reduce oven heat to 300degrees.
- Cook ribs in oven for 4hours.
- Stir contents in pot every half hour. If there isn’t enough braising liquid, add enough chicken stock to barely cover ribs.
- Remove pot from oven and remove ribs to a plate. Set aside.
- Blend remaining ingredients in pot with immersion blender, or slightly pulse in counter blender or food processor. Return blended ingredients back to pot.
- Place pot on stovetop over medium high heat. Add sugar to tomato mixture 1tsp at a time, tasting as you go for desired sweetness (sugar is optional).
- Add salt/pepper to taste.
- Add ribs back to pot and reduce sauce to desired thickness.
- Plate meat and sauce together with desired side dish.