- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

As good as pork ribs are, their dominance leaves their beefy cousins wallowing in near obscurity. That’s unfortunate because beef short ribs are among the tastiest cuts on the


The late Edna Lewis, a Southern culinary legend, is said not to have cared for beef in general, but she made an exception for beef short ribs. She loved the rich, intense flavor, and cooks in the know do, too.

As professional chefs have added more homey comfort foods to their repertoires in recent years, short ribs have made small inroads on restaurant menus.

Short ribs are best enjoyed now, while winter keeps temperatures low, in braised dishes that transform a tough cut of meat into a bit of superlative succulence.

Short ribs come from three parts of a steer: the chuck, rib and plate. No matter what section they come from, all short ribs are cut from the 12 ribs that start at the back and curve down around the belly.

The chuck actually us the shoulder. The rib is the top section just behind the chuck, and the plate is the lower section underneath the rib.

In stores, the packages of short ribs typically won’t pinpoint the section of the steer, though supermarkets tend to sell short ribs from the chuck, which is said to have the most flavor.

Packages often don’t even label the two different cuts of short ribs. The English-style are cut parallel to the rib bone and are either boneless or have just a bit of rib bone.

The other type, Flanken-style, are cut across the rib bone, so they will have a series of short rib bones in them. Both types work fine in most recipes, and both are cheap, typically selling for less than $3 a pound.

The meat in short ribs is well-marbled with fat, which makes it tasty. Short ribs also have a good bit of external fat.

This fat is best removed before cooking. Even then, the braising liquid should be skimmed to remove excess fat released during cooking.

The basic method for cooking short ribs is to sear them in oil and then simmer them in liquid. If that sounds like stew, it basically is.

Almost all short-rib dishes are at least cousins to stews, and short ribs actually make the tastiest beef stew — though that’s not what you usually get when you buy “stew beef” in a supermarket.

The beauty of short ribs is that slow cooking makes some of the most succulent, richest beef dishes imaginable. The hardest part about preparing short ribs is waiting for the meat to fall off the bone.

Short ribs braised in red wine

This recipe is adapted from “Simple to Spectacular” (Broadway Books) by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.

This is more or less beef stew. It can be served as is or over egg noodles, mashed potatoes or even polenta.

4 pounds beef short ribs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola, divided use

2 tablespoons butter, divided use

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 750-milliliter bottle of fruity but sturdy red wine, such as cotes du rhone or zinfandel

3 sprigs fresh thyme, or teaspoon dried thyme

4 sprigs fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

cup chopped fresh parsley

Trim ribs of excess fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put a tablespoon each of oil and butter in a deep heavy skillet or casserole and turn to high heat. A minute later, add the ribs and brown on all sides.

This may take up to 20 minutes, especially if the ribs are cooked in batches. (Cooking in batches is recommended to avoid overcrowding and properly brown the meat.) Remove ribs, pour out and discard fat and wipe out pan.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put remaining tablespoon of oil and tablespoon of butter in same pan and turn heat to medium-high.

Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic, along with a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add wine, thyme, parsley sprigs and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then add the browned ribs.

Cover pan and place in oven. Cook until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 3 hours.

Turn the meat once or twice an hour.

Remove ribs to a platter. (Remove and discard the bones if desired.) Strain the vegetables and liquid, pressing hard on the vegetables to extract all their juices.

Discard vegetables. Let liquid rest five minutes, then skim off fat from surface. (Or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight and skim solidified fat off the surface.)

Bring strained and skimmed liquid to a boil. Add ribs and half the chopped parsley.

When ribs are hot, adjust seasoning as needed and serve in bowls, sprinkled with remaining chopped parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Braised short ribs with horseradish gremolata

This recipe is adapted from Mario Batali’s “The Babbo Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter).

Look for fresh horseradish root in the produce department of supermarkets.

Mr. Batali suggests serving this with orzo, which is small rice-shaped pasta.

4 pounds beef short ribs

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cups barolo or other full-bodied red wine

1 16-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juices

1 cup chicken stock or water

bunch fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

bunch fresh rosemary sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

bunch fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Leaves from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley

Zest of 2 lemons, cut into very thin strips or grated

1/4 pound fresh horseradish, peeled and grated

Trim excess fat from short ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil over high heat until smoking in large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Brown ribs on all sides, about 15 minutes total. (Cook in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding.)

Remove ribs to a plate; set aside. Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic to the pan and cook over high heat, stirring, until browned and softened, about 4 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, tomatoes and their juices, stock, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Bring to a boil and return ribs to pan. Cover pan with foil, place in oven and cook about 2 hours, until meat is very tender and falling off the bone.

Strain the vegetables and meat. Let liquid rest five minutes, then skim off fat from surface. (Or refrigerate a few hours or overnight and skim solidified fat off the surface.) Return meat and vegetables to liquid. (Discard bones if desired.)

To make the gremolata, put parsley, lemon zest and horseradish in a small bowl and toss to combine. Place a portion of ribs in a wide, shallow bowl. Sprinkle each with some of the gremolata and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Korean-style oven-browned short ribs

This recipe is adapted from “The Complete Meat Cookbook” (Houghton Mifflin) by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.

The second step of cooking the ribs in the oven crisps the outsides, and the liquid almost becomes a dipping sauce. If desired, serve these with rice and some kimchi, a spicy Korean pickled cabbage.

10 garlic cloves, peeled

cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar

3 tablespoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger

6 whole green onions

2 tablespoons rice vinegar or cider vinegar

2 cups water

3 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of external fat

2 to 3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

Place all ingredients except the sesame oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. If the liquid doesn’t cover the ribs, add more water and a bit more soy sauce.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and skim any foam that rises to the surface.

Continue to cook uncovered until ribs are tender, 1 to 2 hours.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Remove ribs from liquid. Pat ribs dry.

Place ribs bone side down on a rack in a shallow roasting pan or broiling pan and brush with sesame oil. Roast on middle rack of oven until edges turn crispy, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, skim any fat from surface of cooking liquid.

Taste the sauce to make sure it has a rich, beefy flavor. If not, boil over high heat for a few minutes to concentrate the flavor. The sauce should remain soupy.

Ladle sauce into 4 to 6 bowls. Put a rib or two in each bowl.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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