Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braising is the frugal gourmet's trick — it turns tough meat tender. Last week I made Braised Beef Short Ribs for the first time. I bought them butchered as long slender flanken-style ribs (cut across the bone) with generous layers of meat and fat. For the recipe, the ribs are cut into shorter lengths, braised in an aromatic liquid of simmering wine, vegetables and stock. Once cooked, they become superbly succulent fork tender morsels of flavourful beef!

More tender and meatier than their pork counterpart — pork spare ribs — beef short ribs are still a tough cut of meat with lots of connective tissue. Braising breaks down the connective tissue in meat to collagen, which when cooked at low temperatures for a long period, converts to gelatin. In turn, gelatin tenderizes the meat and with the help of beef marrow, creates a lovely thick sauce. So don't think you have to buy tender expensive cuts of meat to make a delicious dish, tougher cuts of meat are actually better for creating rich complex flavours and thick tasty sauces. The secret is slow gentle cooking. Braised meats often taste better the next day, allowing all the flavours to intermingle, so you can always make it a day or two ahead and simply warm it up when you want. 

Braised Beef Short Ribs
6 portions

4 lb beef short ribs, cut into 2" lengths
fresh ground pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
2 cup sliced carrots, cut into 1/8" rounds
3 cups onions or leeks, chopped
8 whole cloves
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups beef stock

  1. Sprinkle pepper over short ribs. Heat olive oil in a large flame proof casserole, and sear ribs 4 or 5 at a time, browning well on all sides. As they are browned, drain them on paper towels.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°
  3. Return half of the ribs to the casserole and sprinkle with half of the garlic. Then layer half of the tomatoes, carrots and onions over the meat. Add 4 cloves and sprinkle with parsley. Repeat again for the 2nd layer.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Pour over the meat and vegetables, then add the beef stock, just to cover.
  5. Cover the casserole and bring to a boil on the stove top. Once it has come to a boil, place it in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Then uncover the casserole and bake a further 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Taste, correct the seasoning, and serve immediately with mashed potato or polenta and a garnish of chopped parsley or leeks. Don't forget a bowl of thick tasty sauce on the side!

COOK'S NOTE: I find short ribs less gelatinous and easier to serve than oxtail, although both are equally delicious. The meat from the short ribs comes off the bone so easily, that if you have leftovers, the meat makes excellent stuffing for ravioli or agnolotti.