Braising - slowly cooking browned meat, poultry or fish in a little liquid in a covered pot - is a wonderful cooking method that turns a tough cut of meat into meltingly tender chunks bathed in a thick delicious sauce. I love a good stew or a braise, and this is one of my all-time favourites.
This recipe uses short ribs, which are the meaty tail ends of beef ribs. Back ribs are more bone than meat, but short ribs are quite meaty with a good beefy flavour. They have a lot of connective tissue that softens and partially renders with long cooking. They also contain quite a lot of fat, so it's advisable to prepare this dish the day before and refrigerate it overnight to facilitate fat removal. The overnight rest has the added advantage of allowing the flavours to mingle; most stews and braises are better the next day, and this one is no exception.
Serve braised short ribs spooned over mashed potatoes, polenta, or buttered pasta, and you've got a satisfying meal that is ideal for a cold winter night. Yum!
What you need to make braised short ribs for four
- 2 tblsp (30 ml) olive oil
- 2-3 lbs (1-1.5 kg) beef short ribs, cut into 3 inch (7-8 cm) chunks (see "variation", below, for pork ribs
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1 cup (240 ml) dry red wine
- 1 cup (240 ml) fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme on stems, tied into a bundle
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups (480 ml) beef stock, veal stock, or chicken stock - preferably homemade - or water
What to do
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).
In a large, ovenproof pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the ribs well with salt and pepper, then sear in batches until well browned on both sides. Remove to a plate or bowl.
Remove all but 2 tblsp (30 ml) of fat from the pot and add onion, celery and carrot; cook for 3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Vegetables should be softened.
Add wine and bring to boil, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pot; reduce heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until wine is reduced by half, about 4 or 5 minutes.
Return ribs to the pot and add tomatoes, herbs, and enough stock to just cover the ribs (if you don't have enough, add water). Cover and bake for 2 to 2.5 hours, till meat is very tender, stirring every 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool 30 minutes, then remove ribs from the broth and strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much flavour as possible. Refrigerate ribs and broth separately overnight.
Half an hour before serving, remove fat from the broth and boil for 10-20 minutes to reduce the sauce to a thick and silky consistency. If desired, remove meat from rib bones and discard bones (I prefer to do this as it allows me to get right to consumption of delicious food with no fuss). Lower the heat on the broth to medium, stir in ribs (or rib meat sans bones) and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings, and serve. Swoon with happiness.
Variation: I tried this recipe with pork side ribs and it was delicious! I browned some bacon cut up into chunks along with the vegetables, and instead of wine, I used a little (non-alcoholic) apple cider to deglaze the pan, and added a sprig of rosemary. Yummy.