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Determined to Braise: Short Ribs for 2

2012 February 21
by Gayle

Ever since the calendar officially turned to winter, I have been itching to braise things. But I feel like a dinner of delicious braised meat is something one comes home to after a cold trek from the Metro to the front door,  where snow is shaken off boots and shoulders. Also, good braising recipes also usually call for large quantities of meat and therefore a large number of people at the table. Having neither a pile of snow nor an army to feed has kind of held me back lately.

But why should it? A tasty dinner is a tasty dinner, and this one will have the house smelling awesome when you walk through the door, even if you are coming in coat-less from a 60-degree February afternoon instead of bundled up and snow-covered. And cold or not, the days are still pretty short. To me, there is something luxurious about slowly building layers of flavor and looking forward to dinner when the early darkness feels like it’s stealing my will to leave the house in the evening.

This dish takes a little patience, first in dealing with the vegetables, then in building the braising liquid with two kinds of stock and beer and then again with hours in the oven as the collagen breaks down and the short ribs become incredibly tender. It’s worth it, but probably not a go-to weeknight meal for most. The good news is that it can be made ahead and is even better if you give the whole mess time to cool before a second round of gentle heat: the solidified fat is easier to remove than and a second round in the oven makes the short ribs even more tender. Good for dinner parties and great for a weeknight treat! But that is going to require more patience — not stuffing your face immediately will require some restraint.

There are a million variations on short ribs and you can mess around with red wine or port or what have you, but this is my go-to, largely because one of my favorite seasonal beers — the Pipeline Porter — is perfect in and with this dish. And yes, I’ve been defiantly drinking porters and stouts through this warm winter, too. Even though sometimes I’ve been doing so next to open windows or (gasp!) outside.

The Pipeline Porter is a pretty straightforward American craft porter, made by Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii, well-balanced with typical chocolate and coffee flavors — but heavier on the coffee since it’s brewed with Kona beans. And like many deliciously braised foods should be, it’s only available September through March. The coffee, chocolate and just enough malt mellow nicely as the liquid cooks down, keeping the short ribs moist and tender without too much distracting hoppy bitterness. That’s my two cents; be sure to use a beer you actually like.

Confidential to Rita: A little birdie wants to know if you’ve tried Beer Zoo in Harrisburg or Westy’s in Camp Hill. I wasn’t sure if that was too far for you, but it’s closer than my house or Susan’s…!

Porter-Braised Short Ribs for Two

Serves 2

Normally I like to measure meat by weight, especially when I’m sharing a recipe; short ribs are an exception. First, not all ribs are created equal. There are English-style and flanken-style cuts plus there are differences from animal to animal and butcher to butcher. Second, because there is a lot of bone, fat and connective tissue, I find the uncooked weight of short ribs to be even more misleading than other cuts. And finally, sometimes when you’re cooking for two, you just have to eyeball it. The last time I made this, it was with about 3 pounds of short ribs, which sounds appalling for two but as you see from the photos was just right.

As an added bonus, this one doubles easily for a crowd. Stick with the “two big meaty ribs per person” quasi-rule. But you might want to snag some extra Pipeline, though. I can’t promise anyone besides the sauce will stick with a two-beer rule.

Ingredients

4 English-style short ribs (while I have not tried it, I suspect flanken-style would also work)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

3 ounces (about 3 slices) thick-cut bacon, diced

1 onion

1/2 cup carrot, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1/4 cup flour

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bottle porter beer (I recommend Pipeline Porter)

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup beef broth

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

Method

Adjust the oven rack to the middle or lower-middle position and pre-heat the oven to 325.

Pat the ribs dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the ribs on all sides.

Transfer the ribs to a plate and add the bacon, cooking until brown and crispy. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, stir briefly to combine then stir in the Dijon and Worcestershire. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for one minute, cooking off the flour taste.

Slowly whisk in the beer, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan, followed by the chicken and beef broths. Stir in tomatoes and bay leaf, bring to a simmer. Return the short ribs and any juices to the pot, bone side up, cover and put in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove the pot from the oven* and carefully remove the meat (and bones if they have fallen away) and tent with foil. Strain the braising liquid, discarding the solids, into a fat separator if you have one or a tall, narrow container if you don’t. Defat the liquid and return it to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce has reached your desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then return the meat to the sauce to warm through. Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

 

*The short ribs can be cooked to this point a day in advance. Be sure to cool to room temperature before putting in the ‘frige. The next day, scoop out and discard the solidified fat, return the pot to a 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, then pick up where you left off, without having to skim off liquid fat.

 

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