Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Recipe: Short ribs of beef, braised in wine and port

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Well, that may be the least appetizing food picture I've ever taken. Aren't you glad I shared it with you anyway? Rest assured that these short ribs, braised in port and red wine with dried fruit, tasted much, much better than they look here. Sort of a brown plate, eh? Clearly I forgot to pick parsley from the garden while it was still light outside.

I love cooking short ribs because the actual work part is so short (about 15 minutes) and most of the cooking happens on the stove or in the oven without any human interaction whatsoever. I got so much done while these were cooking! And still, when it was time for dinner, there they were, steaming and falling apart and filling the house with this absolutely fabulous scent.

This can be a very grownup dinner, a big hit at a dinner party, but all the kids at the table tonight - and the one under the table, too - ate it up.

I used boneless short ribs, which are called English cut in my store, but the bone-in kind are fine too, and in fact they probably have slightly more flavor. I just don't like the hassle of picking out the bones and cartilage, personally. And I used the dried fruit I had on hand, but other good choices would be prunes, cranberries, cherries or raisins. Also, my husband has a wonderful port collection, so there's always something on hand for me to use in a recipe, but if you don't have port, use more wine and a little brown sugar.

Erika's sweet short ribs

4-5 lbs short ribs
salt and pepper to taste
3 large onions, sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup dried chopped dates
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup dried apricots
3 cups red wine
1 cup port
2 cups beef stock (I used water plus three packages of Savory Choice liquid beef stock concentrate)

Sprinkle both sides of the ribs with salt and pepper.

In a heavy pot over high heat, sear the short ribs in batches until they are dark brown on all sides. Do not move them while they are cooking; let them get good and brown before you turn them. Don't crowd the pan, either, or they will steam instead of browning. When one batch is done, move it to a plate and do the next. This process should take about 10 minutes total. While the ribs are browning, slice the onions into half-moons.

When the ribs are browned and resting on the plate, put the onions into the pan. Using the fat left in the pan, saute the onions about five minutes, until they start to soften. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for another minute, until the flour is all mixed in and you don't see any white. This flour will thicken the sauce as the ribs cook.

Now add the wine, port and stock to the pan. Stir briefly. Put the ribs and any juice that has accumulated on the plate into the pot, and then put in the dried fruit. The liquid should just reach the top of the ribs.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for two hours. Or three. Or even four. You want the meat to be soft, falling off the bones if there are any, so soft you can pull it apart with a fork. If you have to go out, as I did today, move the pot to a 300 degree oven, where it will cook just the same and you don't have to leave an open flame burning in an empty house.

When you're ready to eat, taste the broth and adjust the seasonings. It should taste both salty and sweet, which probably means you'll need to add salt at the end to balance out the wine/port/fruit sweetness.

Serve over mashed potatoes, or rice, or noodles, or just with some crusty bread to soak up the delectable juices.


Noelle Swan Gilbert said...

That sounds yummy. I might have to try!

Doug said...

I just made a similar recipe from The Zuni Cookbook and it turned out really well. Instead of port and dried fruit, the recipe calls for a combination of Chimay and beef broth in equal parts with a bay leaf or two thrown in. The key to a good flavor and look is definitely the browning, which yields a much more flavorful dish than you would expect from the simple list of ingredients. I like the step in Erika's recipe of adding the flour early rather than trying to thicken the sauce afterward if it's a little thin, which mine was using The Zuni Cookbook recipe. BTW, Zuni calls for liquid to a depth of about 3/4", which was less than halfway up the ribs I had, which were pretty thick. I prefer the oven method of cooking. I've never been able to maintain the perfect simmer for 3 or 4 hours and am always concerned that I'm going to boil everything to death!

I cooked 12 lbs for 8 people for a pretty grown-up dinner party, as Erika suggests, including a French friend and a friend who is a former restaurant owner. The ribs seemed to pass muster. Almost everyone had seconds.

David said...

Always make a day ahead. Easier to remove excess fat and flavor intensifies.

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