Friday, October 26, 2012

Heart-Warming Fall Recipe: Beef Short Ribs

As a follow-up to my post last week on Beef in Mexico (and as I research pork in Mexico and prepare for next week), I thought I’d give you guys a restaurant-quality beef recipe that is perfect for fall and the (slightly) cooler weather we’re having.  
When most people think of fall dishes, they think of braising.  One of my absolute favorite things to braise are beef short ribs.  Many people love ordering short ribs at restaurants...delving into the deliciously tender, flavorful beef and feeling totally pampered, but wouldn’t even know where to start to make them at home, let alone what to buy at the grocery store.  It is really rewarding to make them at home, though, so here are all your answers on how to do that!

Beef Short Ribs
served over Polenta with Roasted Root Vegetables
Photo by Dan Castro
Many people get very confused between the different kinds of ribs that are available.  Primarily in the U.S., we purchase and consume pork ribs, such as baby back ribs or spare ribs.  Beef ribs are available in both the U.S. and Mexico (labeled “costillas” in Mexico), but they are generally cut into rib-eye steaks and cowboy steaks (labeled “ribeye” and “cowboy” in Mexico as well).  Short ribs (labeled “agujas largas” or “agujas cortas” in Mexico, based on how they are cut) are a unique treat we get from the cow.  They are taken from the 6th through 10th ribs and are basically the very front (or chest) portion of the ribs, where there is less meat.  (The larger, “rounded” portion of the ribs contains the ribeye meat.)  Additionally, the meat from short ribs is extremely tough, which is why it is necessary to braise them.  (See the “Back to Basics: Braising” post on my blog for more basic info!)  Once you cook them low and slow, though, you have a wonderfully delicious meal.  I must warn you, though, this is not a “30-minute recipe” so it’s best to make it on a weekend or a day you have some time to devote to it, but it is well worth the effort!  Enjoy!  

Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4
Espagnole Sauce (Braising Sauce) Ingredients:
·         2 oz (½ stick) butter
·         3 oz (about ¾ C) flour
·         1/2 Cup vegetable oil
·         2-3 lbs/1-1.5 Kg beef bones, if available (can cut these bones out of bone-in short ribs or buy separately)
·         10 oz small dice mirepoix (5oz/1C onions, 2.5oz/½C carrots, 2.5oz/¾ C celery)
·         2 oz/4 Tbsp.  tomato paste
·         2.5 qts/2.4 L beef stock (or can combine 1 1/4 qt beef stock and 1 1/4 qt water if using bones)
·         Sachet (Crushed garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stems, and thyme sprigs—can just put directly into sauce since it will be strained later)
1.       Melt butter in large skillet over low heat.  Add flour and mix.  Cook slowly over medium-low or in oven at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, pulling out to stir often. Cook until roux is a nice mahogany brown with a nutty, but not burned, aroma.  Let cool.
2.       If using bones to add flavor to your sauce, preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Heat oil in roasting pan in oven.  Once hot, add beef bones and roast in oven until nice and brown.  Remove bones from pan and set aside.  On top of stove, place onions in pan and scrape up fond (tasty brown bits left behind from the bones).  Transfer onions and fond to large pot with wide opening (rondeau or a dutch oven, NOT a stock pot).  Add more oil to pot if necessary and heat over medium high heat.  Add onions, carrots and celery. 
If NOT using bones to add flavor, simply heat about 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large pot with a wide opening (rondeau or a dutch oven, NOT a stock pot).  Add onions, carrots and celery to pot.
3.       Cook mirepoix until golden brown, stirring often with a wooden spoon and scraping up fond as you go.  Add tomato paste and stir occasionally until slightly brown and sweet smelling.  Don’t rush the steps in this phase.
4.       If using bones, return browned bones to pot with mirepoix and tomato paste.  Add beef stock/water and simmer to extract flavor from bones, skimming fat off the top as necessary, for 30-45 minutes.  Remove bones and discard.
If not using bones, just add beef stock to caramelized mirepoix and bring to a simmer.
5.       In a separate bowl or in the pot you made your roux in, add some of the hot stock to your roux and whisk to combine until smooth.  Add tempered roux into large pot with stock and mirepoix and whisk smooth.  Add sachet ingredients and simmer gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming the surface as necessary.  Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pot and reserve for braising short ribs.
Short Ribs:
·         5-6 lbs/2¼-2¾ kg beef short ribs (both “Agujas Cortas” and “Agujas Largas” will work, but I prefer “Agujas Cortas”, available in all grocery stores.  If you don’t see them, just ask the butcher.)
·         kosher salt (available in some grocery stores but also on
·         freshly ground black pepper
·         vegetable oil, ~2 Tbsp per batch of short ribs
·         2 lb small dice mirepoix (1 lb/3½C onions, ½ lb/1½C carrots, ½ lb/2C celery)
·         1 Cup tomato paste
·         2 ½ Cups red wine
·         8 Cups espagnole sauce (see recipe above)
·         beef stock, enough to fill pot to 2/3 up short ribs (about 2-4 Cups)
·         4 bay leaves
·         4-6 thyme sprigs
1.       Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.  Season short ribs with salt and pepper. 
2.       Heat 2 Tbsp of oil at a time over medium high heat in a dutch oven until it shimmers.  Place one batch of seasoned ribs carefully in the oil and sear until deep brown on all sides.  Be careful not to overcrowd pan in order to allow nice caramelization and to avoid steaming.  Remove browned ribs, placing in large bowl or plate, and repeat with remaining ribs in batches, adding oil as necessary between batches.
3.       Once all ribs are browned and set aside, add mirepoix to the dutch oven and cook until golden brown, stirring often with a wooden spoon and scraping up fond as you go.  Add tomato paste and stir occasionally until slightly brown and sweet smelling.  Don’t rush the steps in this phase.
4.       Add wine and deglaze pot with wooden spoon.  Simmer until reduced by half.  Return the ribs to the pan with any accumulated juices.  Add the espagnole sauce and stock until covered by 2/3.
5.       Bring to a simmer over medium low heat.  Cover and transfer to oven.  After about 5 minutes, ensure the short ribs are still simmering.  If not, increase the heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and check again in 5 minutes.  Braise, simmering, for 1 hour.  Add bay leaves and thyme; degrease using a ladle or large spoon.  Finish braising until fork-tender, about 1 to 1½ hour more.  You will know your short ribs are done with they are fork tender, meaning easily broken apart with a fork.  Degrease again before serving.
Serve short ribs over polenta or mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables or any green vegetable such as broccoli, broccoli rabe, asparagus, green beans, etc.  If you have braising sauce remaining, freeze it and you can use it the next time you make short ribs without having to make the espagnole sauce.  Just brown your short ribs, and use your defrosted sauce and more beef stock to cover your ribs by 2/3.