Recipe Foundations: Beef Short Ribs

Sundays are for cooking in the Mr. Leahy household, except for the 5 months that is football season, then it becomes a Saturday event.  In the past I have cooked 10 portions of a finished dish whether it was chicken cacciatore, soup, or pasta salad but that can be boring.  Not only can it be boring but by the end of the week it is torturous getting to the bottom of the container, assuming you can't pawn the remainder off on unsuspecting roommates.  An easy way to cook a large volume of food but still be able to eat a variety of dishes is what I call cooking 'recipe foundations'.  These are somewhat incomplete meals you can transform in to just about anything.

The List

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts of vegetable broth, I left one out but you may need to use 3 depedning on the size of your pot
  • 1/3 quart of chicken broth, this was about to go bad so I added it to the braise
  • 3 lbs. of short ribs
  • 2 tbs of tomato paste
  • 2-3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can of beer
  • 1 naval orange peel, the flesh and juice will not be needed
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 small carrots
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • fresh herbs (rosemary & oregano), thyme would have been good but I didn't have any
  • all-purpose flour

Not shown:

  • salt
  • pepper
  • vegetable oil

The Flour Dredge

Normally a dredge contains egg but for something like this we can skip the egg wash because we are not looking for a extra crispy coating.  Let the short ribs rest on your counter, and pat dry before doing anything further.  Set aside a bowl of flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and don't skimp on the seasonings.  If salt and pepper isn't enough you can add-in paprika, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, etc.  Coat these in as little flour as possible, use your hands to pat away any excess flour and set aside again before starting to add these to any heat.

The Braise

As soon as the ribs are all coated with flour they are ready to be browned in the pan.  Coat the base of the pan with vegetable oil, not too much (2 tablespoons) because there will be a fair amount of fat rendered out of the short ribs.  Brown each and every side of the ribs, even the ends which can be stood up on their ends fairly easily.  The goal of this is to not leave any bare flour and also creating a crust on the outside which will add flavor to your ribs & sauce.  There are thoughts in the cooking community that this actually thickens the sauce however I think that's a total crock of shit.  Without this step you will definitely notice a difference in taste & texture to the meat, but I don't think the little flour we are adding is going to make this a thick sauce.

Chop all your vegetables in rough and somewhat uniform fashion, don't worry about making this look pretty as these are purely for flavor and will not be part of the finished product.  Leave the fresh herbs whole and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin form the orange, you could grate off or zest the orange but then you are left with tiny bits of orange peel all over your beef.

Just like previous blogs place your vegetables in a pan with oil, salt & pepper.  All you want to do is brown the vegetables and not worry about cooking them all the way through, this is going to add an additional layer of flavor to the braise.  Use your spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan and free up those bits of meat left behind.  Create your best poop emoji of tomato paste, turning the heat down and stirring the mixture together to coat everything while cooking the tomato paste (slightly).  As I have previously mentioned tomato paste is full of sugar and will burn very easily, essentially ruining your sauce.

As soon as the tomato paste has coated the vegetables and you haven't burned the life out of everything you can add your liquids.  First add your alcohol, in my case I added a summer ale which hypothetically compliments the orange peel but in reality was the only thing I had left in the beer fridge.  Using any dark ale will get the job done, wine is a fine alternative but may result in an overpowering amount of wine flavor.  Turn the heat to high and cook any alcohol down by half, and as soon as you have achieve the arbitrary volume you can add in your stock & Worcestershire sauce.  I used about a half of a quart of chicken stock I had laying around and 2 quarts of vegetable stock.  Either works but when cooking beef I prefer to use vegetable stock but my reasoning has no basis in fact, it just doesn't feel right.  Add as much stock as it takes to fully submerge all your beef ribs, the amount of stock is going to depend on the size of your pot & ribs.

When your braise is complete, set the lid on top of your pot (ideally a dutch oven) and place into a 250 degree oven.  After about 6 hours the ribs were tender but not falling off the bone, use a set of tongs to remove the ribs which should come off the bone very easily.  Assuming you have the self control, short ribs can stay in the fridge for a couple weeks if kept in an air tight container.

The Run-off

After you have removed the beef from the braise you can save the liquid to use in a gravy, soup or another braise.  Strain off any particles left behind and add back into the same pot, I used a smaller pot because I had limited space in the fridge.  Cook down the liquid by half, this will leave you with a concentrated 'stock' that is easier to store and can always be rehydrated.  Let sit overnight or place in the fridge to separate the fat from the stock (see above for a photo of what it looks like when the fat solidifies).  Don't throw away the fat, it can be used instead of butter or bacon fat (specifically for omelets).

The Reheat

To reheat I would stay away from the microwave, it is just as easy and quick to use a small omelet pan.   Place over medium heat and let render ut some of the fat left in the meat, cook this until crispy (or desired texture).  Place over a paper towel like youre cooking bacon and add it into just about anything.

Short rib go great with breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Two of my favorite things I made were a cheddar & short rib omelet and a kale/cheddar/short rib panini on an English muff.  I also made pizza, poutine, pasta and a few more omelets but I can't document everything.