I tried making restaurant-quality braised short ribs at home

Braised short ribs. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
Braised short ribs. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
Published May 22 2018
Updated May 23 2018

One of my 2018 cooking resolutions was to cook at least 10 things this year that I never have before. Somewhere near the top of my list was short ribs.

You can hardly eat at a restaurant now without seeing short rib in some form on the menu: braised, atop french fries as a poutine, in ravioli. The beef is sumptuous and versatile — and, it turns out, not complicated to make.

Maybe because the restaurant dish tends to come with a higher price tag than other proteins, I assumed there was a lot of labor involved in breaking down short ribs and cooking them into the tender meat suitable for serving. There is some truth to this. But I promise: If you can make a stew, you can make short ribs.

My journey started in a grocery store with a meat counter, where they were selling bone-in short ribs by the pound, cut into 2- or 3-inch pieces. I bought about 2 pounds for my husband and I, which was not quite enough to form a filling entree. Short ribs are essentially fatty meat wrapped around a hefty bone, and the meat you actually get from the bone is often less than the per-pound amount you purchase would indicate. The moral: Buy more than you think you need.

The best way to cook short ribs, as with many other fatty cuts of meat, is to braise them. The steps for braising are similar across the board: sear a meat over high heat to develop a nice brown exterior; submerge the meat in a bath of liquid plus other goodies like herbs and vegetables and broth; cook for a couple of hours.

Many of the recipes I came across called for red wine as the main source of braising liquid. I opted for a combination of beef and chicken broth instead, mainly because I forgot to buy wine and didn’t feel like running to the store. If you’ve got some on hand, add it into the bath, and pour yourself a glass to enjoy for those 2 hours the dish is in the oven.

This is a sexy dish, full of fat and deep, robust flavors. It will make you feel like you’re really cooking, even though the most complicated part of this dish is turning the ribs on all four sides to get an even sear. This would be a hearty and homey dish for the cooler months, though the deep, meaty flavors are welcome in my house year-round.

Feel free to add whatever is in your fridge to that braising pot: Almost any fresh herb will bring something to the party, from parsley to rosemary to thyme. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs, though the flavors won’t be as intense.

Same with the vegetables. I used a classic mirepoix mixture of onions, carrots and celery, but you could toss in bell peppers, eggplant, even cauliflower, anything you’d like to serve with your short ribs. Just make sure to remove the veggies from the liquid after the pot is done in the oven, then strain the sauce (and scrape the fat off the top) as the recipe says.

After about 2 hours in my oven, I carefully hoisted the red Dutch oven onto the stovetop. I removed the lid with a dramatic flourish, steam whooshing out and the beefy contents bubbling. The meat slid easily off the bone. (If it doesn’t, return it to the oven for 20 or 30 minutes, and let the smell of homecooked short ribs continue to waft over you.) And while I won’t claim that my short ribs tasted just as good as the ones at that fancy restaurant my husband and I love, they were pretty darn close.

Braised Short Ribs

2 to 3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

Kosher salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cups low-salt beef stock or broth

5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

4 sprigs thyme

2 sprigs oregano

2 sprigs rosemary

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

4 cloves smashed garlic

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in stock or broth, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. If liquid doesn’t cover contents of pot at this point, add up to 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve short ribs with sauce.

Serves 2 to 4.

Source: Adapted from Epicurious