Stick to Short Ribs: Warming Winter Comfort Food

We were spurred on to make Grass Fed Beef Short Ribs- by an article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, about one of our favorite winter dishes-

Grass Fed Beef Short Ribs!

grass fed beef short ribs

From left: Braised Short Ribs With Árbol Chilies, White Beans, Mushrooms and Beer; Ragù of Short Ribs with Fettuccini and Pecorino Romano; Classic Short Ribs; Shanghai Shortribs of Beef With Chilies and Soy PHOTO: ARMANDO RAFAEL FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY JAMIE KIMM, PROP STYLING BY STEPHANIE HANES

Whether it’s a classic red-wine braise, fettuccini topped with rich ragù, a Shanghai-style platter fragrant with lemongrass and ginger, or a chili-spiked Mexican casserole, the magic ingredient is beef short ribs.

By GAIL MONAGHAN;  Wall Street Journal;  Updated Jan. 23, 2015 6:04 p.m. ET

MELTINGLY TENDER, falling-off-the-bone beef short ribs are in the midst of a well-deserved revival; I see them on menus all year long. Call me old-fashioned, but I still find a hearty meal of short ribs most appealing in cold weather. Now is the ideal time.

This full-flavored cut belongs to that small, miraculous class of foods characterized by both drop-dead deliciousness and dead-simple preparation. Low, slow cooking tenderizes the sinewy meat while rendering the fat. Ask your butcher for his or her largest, leanest and meatiest ribs (ideally about 2 pounds apiece), and ask to have them cut in half crosswise. One 14- to 16-ounce piece, bone in, makes an ample serving.

You’ll find that virtually every recipe comes down to three simple steps: brown, braise and defat. Best of all, only the initial browning requires serious attention. Subsequently, the succulent ribs all but cook themselves. While simmering gently on the stove top or in the oven, the beef absorbs spices and aromatics from the braising liquid, which is, in turn, flavored and thickened by the rich collagen released by the bones.

Once the desired cut-with-a-spoon tenderness is achieved, defatting is easy. After cooling, simply refrigerate the ribs and their liquid for a few hours or, better still, for a couple of days. The fat will rise and congeal on top and can be skimmed off with a spatula. To serve, bring to room temperature and reheat (covered) in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes. This dish’s prepare-ahead nature makes it great for winter entertaining.

Another advantage of short ribs, for cook and diner alike, is their versatility. Here are three very different preparations: the classic one, which includes red wine and basic French aromatics, plus a ragù you can make with it to serve over pasta; a spicy Mexican-style variant enhanced with árbol chilies, beer, white beans and scallions; and my favorite, Shanghai-style ribs suffused with lemongrass, hoisin sauce, chilies and ginger.

Classic Short Ribs

This classic red-wine braise is the perfect comfort food

Active Time: 1 hour Total Time: 4½ hours Serves: 6

  • 6 (14- to 16-ounce) beef short ribs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, cut into large dice
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 large stalks celery, cut into large dice
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • ¼ cup double-concentrated Italian tomato paste
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • Several sprigs fresh parsley, plus 3-4 tablespoons chopped, for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 6 cups hot veal or beef stock

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place short ribs on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning once, until deeply browned all over, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large lidded casserole over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored, 20 minutes. Add garlic and bay leaves and cook 2 minutes more. Add tomato paste, wine, thyme, parsley sprigs, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Place ribs on top of vegetables in casserole.

3. Stir sugar into stock and pour over vegetables and ribs. Deglaze pan, scraping up browned bits. Return to a simmer, cover and cook until meat is almost falling off the bone, 2-3 hours.

4. Carefully remove ribs from pot. Skim excess fat off liquid. (If cooking a day or more in advance, leave ribs in pot with liquid and vegetables and let cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days. Skim fat off top, bring to room temperature and then reheat, covered, in a 350-degree oven or on the stove top over low heat, 25 minutes. Remove ribs from pot and continue with recipe.) Decrease heat to low and continue to cook vegetables and sauce, occasionally skimming fat off top, until a light gravy-like consistency is reached. This step may not be necessary or may take up to 20 minutes. If too thick, add stock or water. If too thin, increase heat and reduce liquid. Return ribs to pot and warm until heated through. Serve with vegetables and sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Ragù of Short Ribs With Fettuccini and Pecorino Romano

Short ribs served over pasta

Active Time:40 minutes Total Time: 5 hours (includes making short ribs) Serves: 6

1. Once short ribs are cool enough to handle, remove from pot. Remove meat from bones, and shred into small pieces. Set aside. Meanwhile, bring another large pot of water and 3 tablespoons salt to a boil over high heat.

2. Skim excess fat off top of short rib cooking liquid. Decrease heat to low and continue to cook, occasionally skimming fat off top, until a light gravy-like consistency is reached. This step may not be necessary or may take up to 20 minutes. If initially too thick, add stock or water. If too thin, increase heat and reduce liquid.

3. Return shredded meat to casserole, and simmer until meat is heated throughout, 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and a bit of balsamic vinegar, if desired.

4. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain pasta, return to pot and stir in ragù. Divide among hot plates and garnish with parsley. Pass cheese separately.

Braised Short Ribs With Árbol Chilies, White Beans, Mushrooms and Beer

A spicy Mexican-style take on braised short ribs

Active Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 3 hours Serves: 4

  • 8 árbol chilies
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 4 (16-ounce) beef short ribs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large white onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ¾ pound button mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle full-bodied Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, with juices
  • 3 cups dried gigante beans, rinsed well, soaked overnight in cool water and drained
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Snap stems off chilies, then roll chilies between fingers to loosen seeds. Break chilies in half and shake out seeds. Discard seeds.

2. Heat a lidded 8-quart casserole or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil and chilies to pan, and cook, stirring, until chilies are noticeably darker and aromatic, 15-20 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer chilies to a large bowl, leaving oil in pan.

3. Generously season ribs all over with salt and pepper. Place ribs in casserole with reserved oil and cook, turning frequently, until deep golden-brown on all sides, 10-15 minutes total. Transfer to bowl with chilies.

4. Add onions to casserole and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic and thyme, and cook until mushrooms begin to soften, 4 minutes more. Add beer, broth, tomatoes, soaked beans, 2 teaspoons salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper to casserole along with ribs, chilies and accumulated juices.

5. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until short ribs are fork-tender, about 2½ hours. Skim fat off top. (If cooking a day or more in advance, let cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days. Before serving, skim fat off top, bring ribs to room temperature and then reheat, covered, in a 350-degree oven or on the stovetop over low heat, 25 minutes.)

6. Carefully transfer ribs to a deep serving platter. Discard thyme sprigs. Using a slotted spoon, arrange beans around ribs. Adjust sauce’s seasoning if needed, then ladle over ribs. Garnish with scallions.

Shanghai Shortribs of Beef With Chilies and Soy

Shanghai-style ribs suffused with lemongrass, hoisin sauce, chilies and ginger

Active Time: 40 minutes Total Time: 2½ hours (includes making short ribs) Serves: 10

For the ribs:

  • 5 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 10 (16-ounce) beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 (5-inch) piece fresh ginger (about 10 ounces), thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ cup finely chopped lemongrass
  • 2 dried Thai chilies
  • 1⅓ cups soy sauce
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup soy or tamari sauce
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 dried Thai chilies
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, Thai basil and/or chives, for garnish (optional)

For the cucumber-radish rémoulade (optional):

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons wasabi paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds cucumbers, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound red radishes, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup finely minced chives

1. Make ribs: Heat oil in a medium lidded Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook ribs until golden-brown, 3-4 minutes per side.

2. Decrease heat to medium, and cook ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilies until golden and fragrant, 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, water, sugar, salt and ribs to pot. Cover and gently simmer until ribs are tender, about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, make glaze: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer hoisin, garlic, soy sauce, honey, five-spice powder, chilies, orange zest and vinegar until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.

4. Preheat broiler. Remove tender ribs from liquid and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Brush glaze all over ribs, reserving extra, if there is any. Broil until glaze starts to bubble, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Meanwhile, make cucumber-radish rémoulade: In a large mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, wasabi paste and salt and pepper to taste. Fold in cucumbers, radishes and half of chives. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with remaining chives.

6. Transfer ribs to a platter and brush with extra glaze, if you have some, before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rémoulade, if desired.