My annual holiday dilemma? What to serve the crowd for Christmas dinner. Beef tenderloin is nice, but egad — the price. Ditto for roast goose. Furthermore, I want something that I can make in advance, and then simply reheat in the oven. Bingo — braised short ribs!
If you’ve never encountered them, short ribs are savory, succulent, meltingly-tender things. They’re inexpensive, too. But most importantly, the ribs always taste better when you cook them a day ahead of time, and then reheat them. And all they require is red wine, beef stock, aromatic veggies, and fresh, fragrant herbs. I cook them this way:
To start, take 8 bone-in short ribs (enough for 4 big servings), and generously season them with coarse salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Next, take a particularly-handsome onion…
And peel and dice it.
Also dice up 2 or 3 carrots…
And 2 ribs of celery.
No picture of this next step: Heat a large, heavy skillet (I use a large electric skillet heated to 350°F) until it’s really, really hot.
Then tip 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the skillet…
And brown the 3 meaty sides of each rib. (You don’t have to brown the bone side). Brown the meat in batches if your skillet is small. I like my cheapo electric skillet here because it can accommodate 8 ribs without crowding them.
For the best crust, sear the meat for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until it turns deep, walnut brown.
Transfer the ribs to a 5 quart Dutch oven.
Then throw the minced veggies into the skillet, and toss them about with a heat-proof spatula until they start to caramelize — about 8 minutes.
While a happy and wholesome holiday song plays in your head (I recommend this one), tip the veggies and about 2 cups of red wine into the Dutch oven. What kind of red wine? Well, it should be something you wouldn’t mind drinking. Today, because I only want the best for you, I splurged on a bottle of Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon.
Please send me a check for $16.95.
Also add about 2 cups of homemade beef stock…
And a generous splash of balsamic vinegar.
Oh. You’ll need enough liquid to barely cover the meat and veggies. Add more wine and/or stock as necessary.
It’s time to add the herbs! For the sake of easy removal after braising is complete, tie the herbs with kitchen string. Otherwise, if you toss them willy-nilly into the pot, as I did, you’ll have to pick out the stems later on.
Don’t be like me. Tie your herbs!
Here’s what you should tie together:
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh parsley…
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme…
And 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Bring the works to a simmer on the stove top. Then cover the pot, and transfer it to a preheated 350°F oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
As the meat and veggies braise in their aromatic liquid, 3 things will inevitably occur:
1) A glorious perfume will engulf your kitchen
2) Your beagle’s nose will twitch
3) You’ll decide to eat short ribs every day for the rest of your life
And just look at the finished product. The tender meat has detached itself from the bones.
Strain the contents of the pot through a sieve set over a large bowl, and pick out the loosened bones. Also, pick out the stems of the herbs you foolishly forgot to tie with string. Allow the liquid in the bowl to cool for at least 30 minutes. This way, the fat will rise to the top, and you can skim it off with a spoon. Return the liquid, the ribs, and the veggies to the pot, and serve.
Or…for even better-tasting ribs…
Just return the strained ribs, veggies and liquid to the pot, and let them cool, uncovered, to room temperature. Then cover the pot, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. The fat will solidify as it chills, so you can easily scrape it away. About 30 minutes before serving time, reheat in a 350°F oven.
Now put some mashed potatoes on a plate…
And add a short rib or two, plus some veggies and a big spoonful of the fragrant braising liquid.
Garnish with finely-chopped chives or scallions…pour out some Cabernet Sauvignon…and enjoy this succulent winter feast!
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