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COOKING LOCAL Wine Braised Short Ribs

October 14, 2011

    Welcome back to the kitchen. This week’s culinary inspiration came to me

threefold. First, I visited a local butcher for the first time and was intrigued by large, marbled cuts of beef

short ribs.
    Now, short ribs aren’t as commonly available anymore, and I actually

tend to associate them with fancy dinner places or elegant small plate bistros. Part of the reason for this is

that we are an increasingly convenience oriented culture, and short ribs (along with many other delicious but

initially tougher cuts of meat) take some time to slow cook to perfection. Many home cooks will overlook them

because they can’t be cooked in a half hour or less.
    But when we eat only hamburger

and steak, chicken breast and boneless pork chop, we are missing out on an incredible array of flavors, textures,

and dishes that aren’t suited to these common cuts. Gristle, collagen, and marrow add amazing depth of

flavors. We just have to learn how to cook them correctly.
    When I saw these big short

ribs at the butcher, my mind flashed onto a bottle of red wine sitting at the house that I hadn’t gotten

around to corking. It wasn’t particularly fancy, though not bottom shelf either, but was probably reaching

the end of its shelf life. So it was a perfect candidate for cooking.
    By the way, have you

ever had wine braised short ribs? My god, they are just incredible! The meat falls easily off the bone in super

tender bites, each glazed with a deep, dark, sweet and savory embrace of wine reduced to an unbelievable essence

of deliciousness. Overall the ingredients are fairly simple, as is the method. The magic comes from the time

devoted to this dish. There is no hurrying short ribs, so let’s get that out of the way from the get go. But

if you want to cook one of the most amazing dishes ever to come out of your kitchen, plan ahead and give this a

go.
    The third inspiration for taking on this week’s recipe was the chance to borrow

a friend’s antique cast iron Dutch oven, passed down from her grandmother. This is one of those pieces of

cookware that almost immediately get my culinary wheels spinning. And some chefs swear by antique cast iron only,

because it is seasoned with years of cooking love, but also because the metal used for older pots is generally of

much higher quality. Braised short ribs is also a perfect recipe for your enameled cast iron pot, or anything oven

safe that can hold at least 8 quarts or so. This is a beautiful way to cook: we can start on the stovetop then

move it into the oven. Oh, and for those who are not familiar with braising, it is basically searing your meat

first, and then cooking it covered in liquid.
    In this case that liquid will mostly be

wine. Now, there is still a fair amount of debate on whether or not you should cook with good wine. First off, if

you find co-called cooking wine, avoid it at all costs, and if you have a dusty bottle at the back of your pantry,

throw it out immediately. Cooking wine has lots of salt and preservatives added, and it tastes absolutely

horrible. But beyond that, it seems that you can cook with most any wine, even quite cheap bottles.

/>    A recent New York Times article put this theory to the test, and they found that when wine is

cooked, it loses a lot of its subtle notes, so good wine can be wasted, and cheap wine can make excellent dishes.

This is good news for cooks on a budget. Save the fine wines for the table, and feel free to cook with the cheap

stuff. For our short ribs, choose any bold, dry red. I had some cabernet sauvignon on hand, so that is what I

used.

    So let’s get to it! For our red wine braised short ribs we’ll

need:

•    12 beef short ribs, bone-in (over buy on the ribs, because the bone

weighs more than you think. I recommend 4 pounds)
•    Salt and freshly ground pepper

/>•    2-3 tablespoons olive oil
•    1 large yellow onion, peeled

and chopped
•    2 stalks celery, chopped
•    2 carrots,

chopped
•    3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
•    2 bay

leaves
•    1 sprig fresh thyme (could also use rosemary)
•    1

750-ml bottle bold red wine
•    4 cups veal stock (can substitute beef or vegetable

stock)
•    ½ cup fresh chopped parsley

Method
1 Preheat oven to

350°F. Season ribs to taste with the salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed

ovenproof pan over medium high heat. Add ribs and brown on all sides to get a nice crust. Work in batches if you

need to so that the ribs don't get crowded (this will help with browning).
2 Transfer ribs to a plate. Add

the onions, celery, and carrots to the pan and sauté, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5

minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan, set aside. Then add the wine to the pan, deglazing the pan, scraping

off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by about half until it thickens a bit, about 10-

15 minutes.
3 Return the ribs to the pan; add the veal stock, smashed garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and enough

water to cover the ribs. Bring to a boil, cover with lid or foil, and place in the oven. Braise, cooking in the

oven, until the meat is almost fork-tender, about 1.5 to 2 hours. During the last 1/2 hour of cooking, add back in

the vegetables. Allow the ribs to cool in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
4 The next day,

skim off the excess fat that has solidified at the top from the overnight chilling. Place the pan with the ribs

and cooking liquid over medium heat, uncovered. Cook until the liquid has reduced by three-quarters, about 1 hour.

Remove the ribs after about that amount of time and let the sauce continue to thicken and reduce if there is still

a lot left in the pot. Then add back the meat, spooning the sauce over the ribs, until the sauce is thick and ribs

are glazed. Take care not to burn the glaze; move the ribs around in the pan to keep them from burning.
Serve

over mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or rice, garnished with the fresh parsley.
    These

incredibly tender beef short ribs are an ultimate comfort food. They melt in your mouth and fill the house with an

incredible slow cooked wine aroma. Now I should point out that there are several variations on how to cook these

ribs, and I only modified this one version of the recipe. Some call for up to 3 bottles of wine. Others call for

only cooking the ribs part way before refrigerating to marinate in the wine, then doing more of the cooking the

second day. Some recipes do it all in a single day, and some cook the ribs all on the stovetop, not using the oven

at all. And some people like to use a crock pot slow cooker.
    All I can tell you is that I

got pretty darn excellent results this way, though it did take me longer than expected to fully reduce the sauce

down to where I wanted it. I’m sure that if you use this as a rough guideline, and give yourself plenty of

time to slowly break down all the collagens and connective tissues in the meat, you will find a deep and abiding

love for wine braised beef short ribs.
    I served mine with rice, steamed broccoli, and a

green salad. And they were so good I used every last drop, right down to the sauce. I am inspired to find more

recipes calling for lots of wine, and more ways to use a cast iron Dutch oven. Unfortunately I’ll have to

return this borrowed beauty, but I know what I’m asking for for the holidays!
   

I’d love to hear your favorite slow cooked recipes, and your favorite dishes that call for wine. Send me any

questions or comments to Isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner

 

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