So I know it probably seems like I have a lot of favorite foods, but the following recipe is one of those things that I LOVE to order at restaurants. But until this spring, I had never tackled making it myself (and by myself, I mean Dave did all the work and I assisted). The dish I am referring to is short ribs.
I love short ribs (sorry to my vegetarian readers). But seriously, the way the meat just melts in your mouth, it’s amazing. And I was kind of afraid that when we made them ourselves they would’t live up to the excellent quality of Blue Duck Tavern (an awesome restaurant in DC), but our version was absolutely just as good.
I think the trick is buying excellent meat. We got ours from a butcher at Eastern Market, and I definitely recommend trying to go to a local butcher and not just your generic grocery store. But just a warning, these are not easy to make. There’s a reason they are delicious, they’ve been cooked for hours. So only tackle this recipe if you’re willing to log some hours in the kitchen. But seriously, do it. It’s worth it. You’ll not only savor every bite, but you’ll seriously impress your guests. I promise!!
Recipe adapted from here.
6 large beef short ribs (you want each to be about 14-16 ounces – if your butcher doesn’t have them in that size, go for total weight rather than quantity)
1 tablespoon thyme, plus 4 whole thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups port
2 1/2 cups hearty red wine
6 cups beef stock/broth
Sides: Now as for what to serve the meat with, quite frankly, this is a really heavy meat, so you want something light. The first time we made this dish we served it over egg noodles with some lemon asparagus. However, that felt like way too much food. So this time, I just served it with kale chips (at this point we’d already had an appetizer and salad course). If you were just eating this one course, I bet these would be delicious with the fennel mashed potatoes I made for Thanksgiving.
Note: I wrote these directions as a timeline because for me the hardest part was trying to figure out what time to start cooking this dish. I based this schedule on a 6-8pm dinner party on a Saturday, but obviously adjust as necessary.
The Night Before:
1. If possible, the night before, season the short ribs with the tablespoon of thyme and the pepper, cover and refrigerate overnight. I say if possible because we accidentally skipped this the first time we made these and they were still delicious.
1. Take the short ribs out of the refrigerator.
1. Season the ribs with salt on all sides, and leave out to continue coming to room temperature.
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat for 3 minutes (if you don’t have one already I recommend this Lodge 6-quart model from Amazon – ours has worked really well). Coat the bottom with olive oil, about 3 tablespoons, and wait an additional 2-3 minutes until the pan is really hot. Unless you have an enormous pan, you will likely need to do the next step in batches, and keep in mind, this is the only time intensive part of the cooking process. The rest of the cooking is done in the oven.
2. Place as many short ribs in the pan as you can, we did 3-4 at a time. Using tongs, sear each side of the meat. Do not rush this step. You want to make sure all sides of the meat have browned. Once each piece is done, transfer it to a plate to cool.
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Continuing with the same Dutch oven as above, turn the heat down to medium, and add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme springs, and bay leaves. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off all the black bits in the pan. Cook the vegetables for 8 – 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine. Turn the heat up to high and continue cooking until the mixture has reduced by about half.
2. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once the pot is boiling, place the ribs in the pot (this time you want to fit all of them in there). Try to position them so that the bones are standing up on their sides. Tuck parsley in between the meat and cover the pot with tinfoil and then put the lid on top. Place the pot in the oven and braise for about 3 hours.
1. Once you get close to being done, check the meat by removing the lid and foil and pressing a fork or knife into the meat. It should cut very easily, giving very little resistance.
2. If you finish everything around this point, but aren’t ready to eat for awhile, you could wait on this last step. Whether you’re going to finish now or wait, once done in the oven, take the pot out of the oven and rest for 10 minutes before taking the ribs out of the pot. Set them on a pan lined with foil. If you’re going to stop and finish later, stop here. Otherwise, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and brown the ribs for 10-15 minutes.
3. While the ribs are browning, pour the broth from the pot into a sauce pan using a strainer. If there’s any fat on top, be sure to skim that off. If you think the broth looks too thin, reduce it over medium-high heat until it has thickened slightly. Also feel free to season as you see fit at this point.
4. Now serve the ribs with whatever sides you are doing. We always pour the broth into a container and allow people to add as they see fit. The meat is so tender, you almost don’t need any broth, but some people definitely like it.