Hey Shorty: Braised Short Ribs

In a country where food is prized for it’s cheap prices, quality time is considered an hour in front of the TV watching 24, and “fast and easy” recipes are all the rage in cookbooks and food network shows, it’s easy to understand why one would want to write a braised short ribs recipe that took only 2 hours.

But, is two hours enough for tender, fall-off-your-fork, melt in your mouth short ribs?

It wasn’t for me. I even knew it wouldn’t be beforehand but, like the majority of my fellow Americans, I was too lazy Friday night to start on Saturday night’s meal and on Saturday morning I was too busy with other things to start cooking early. So, the plan for succulent short ribs on the first Saturday night that Jim and I have had alone in a while was doomed from the start, but the short ribs were in the fridge and I wouldn’t have time to cook on Sunday, and instead of waste, I decided to cook from a short ribs recipe by Alfred Portale in his Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook (highly recommended despite what I say in this post).

Now, I knew this was a bad idea. The last time Jim and I had short ribs was at Daniel in NYC. After leaving the flawless restaurant, with full bellies and empty wallets, we decided the short ribs were the best thing we’ve ever tasted. Not the best short ribs—the best food that we had ever eaten. Hard to beat that.

Of course, no short ribs of mine could compare to those at Daniel and my only hope would have been to cook from Boulud’s bookdamn you laziness and errands! In Boulud’s recipe, you begin by marinating the short ribs with wine, onions, bacon, and some spices overnight. In Portale’s there is no marinating prior. The next day, in Boulud’s recipe, you cook the marinated meat and vegetables in a oven with high heat for about 75 minutes. The short cooking time works because the collagen of the short ribs would have begun to break down marinating overnight. The high heat also facilitates tenderness.

In Portale’s recipe, you brown the meat, then the vegetables, then add some red wine and reduce for a while. After this, you add the browned meat to the liquid and braise for about 2 hours, or until tender. That or is a big one, too ambiguous for me, during my first time cooking short ribs, clinging to my recipe like life or death. Too nervous to stray into the land of making my own decisions, I stopped the cooking time at 2 hours.

Even though the ribs didn’t turn out fall-off-your-fork tender, they were delicious with a reduced red wine sauce that is out of this world. The recipe is worth it simply for the sauce, which I recommend you load on your plate of ribs like a soup. Salty, rich, and perfectly spiced, it was comforting in my depressed state of not-so-tender beef.

I do want to make this recipe again–maybe marinating the ribs overnight, and then going ahead and following Portale’s recipe. Or, maybe following the recipe without marinating, and just cooking the whole thing longer. I need suggestions, so if you got ’em, send ’em over.

I searched the web night, looking for a little tenderness. I found someone on ChowHound who suffered from my same 2 hour dilemma. Many smart foodies answered her question of whether 2 hours was really enough for tender short ribs.

Some believed 2 hours could do the job:

You can increase your oven temp to 350 F. The meat needs to have an internal temp of around 200 for at least 30+ min or so for the collagen to break down. I do mine at 325 to 350 in a covered dutch oven with enough liquid to just cover. They come out falling off the bone in 2-3 hours.

Others weren’t so certain:

I am wondering why the recipe called for cooking them only 2-2.25 hours for fork tender (and I’ve seen other recipes that have a similarly short cooking time that have had similar not tender results). So far, I’ve never been able to get them close to where they should be in that time period, so I am not sure what sort of magical meat these cookbook writers are buying (mine was from a very nice butcher shop, so I’m confident it wasn’t a meat quality issue).

And a few were down-right unhelpful, especially if you don’t own a pressure cooker:

All ribs are not created equal. Some are tougher, some are more tender, some have more connective tissue, some less and some are just going to take longer than others to get to where you want them to go. If you have the time start cooking long in advance of when you want to serve the meal. That way if you need an extra half hour or so you’ll have it. The ribs won’t go bad if you gently keep them warm while you wait to serve. Me, I like my pressure cooker for going through long braises at warp speed.

In the end, I learned that short ribs are probably best cooked over a long period of time, marinated the night beforehand, and then refrigerated once cooked, reheated and served the next day.

Though I’m beginning to consider myself a foodie, I’m not sure I’m ready for a 3 day recipe just yet. If you would like to play around with the cooking times of this recipe in order to get some more tenderness, go for it. But, if you are like me and too scared to stray from a perfectly good recipe, make this one as is—it’s really exquisite if you aren’t hoping for fall-off-your-fork fare.

Braised Short Ribs

adapted from Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook

Oven Temp: 300º

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 6 large, meaty short ribs
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bottle dry red wine, such as Zinfandel
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven. Heat oil in a oven-proof large dutch oven with a lid. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Cook in batched without crowding, until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp of the rendered fat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are nicely browned. Add the garlic and paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Return the short ribs to the dutch oven and cover tightly. Braise in the oven for about 2 hours, not letting the liquid get past a very slow simmer (reduce heat if necessary.)
  3. When tender (about 2-3 hours) take out the short ribs and keep warm on a plate with foil covering the ribs.
  4. Skim fat off the top of the liquid in the dutch oven. Return to the stove top and bring to boil over high heat. Cook until the sauce is reduced to about 1 ½ cups, highly flavored, and delicious.
  5. Whisk in the butter one Tbsp at a time. Plate ribs and cover with sauce.
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6 thoughts on “Hey Shorty: Braised Short Ribs

  1. very impressive all around. they looked and sounded wonderful. and you ARE a foodie… welcome to the club. i made myself a member so i can make you one too. anyway – it takes one to know one…

  2. Two hours, three days, and whatever in between…this looks fantastic! And you’re fooling yourself if you don’t count yourself a foodie. This post is excellent and illustrates the finer points of how to approach a recipe and has all the great plays and debates that make cooking both a form of art and science. I’d say you’re definatly in the club.

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