Maybe it’s the weather. I keep telling myself that I’m looking forward to actually feeling a change in seasons instead of just watching them go by on the calendar, but the truth is that even in this 60° weather, I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I burrito myself in the covers and try to forget that in a couple of months, I am going to have to go to bed in socks and sweats and possibly a second blanket.
And so, braising. Hours of oven on-time to heat the apartment more than our temperamental heater can. Hours of bubbling braising liquid to slowly envelop the apartment in red wine scent. And, finally, after hours, a hearty, body-filling and fall-apart tender dinner of braised short ribs and creamy polenta, curled up with the gentleman on the couch. Possibly more red wine.
Braised Short Ribs
Makes 2-3 servings.
4 large, meaty short ribs (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 large shallot or 2 small shallots, minced
2 carrots, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
2 2-inch sprigs rosemary
4 2-inch sprigs thyme
salt and pepper to taste
chives for garnish
If you have time, sprinkle the short ribs with salt several hours ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator. This will ensure that the salt gets all the way to the center of the meat. If you don’t have time, just salt the meat before searing.
Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Heat the bacon fat or vegetable oil over high heat in a large dutch oven or other heavy, oven-safe pot. Dry the short ribs well with paper towels and sear the meat on every side in the hot pan. Make sure to get a good, dark brown sear all over the short ribs.
Remove the meat to a plate and lower the heat to low. Add the shallots, carrots, and garlic, along with a healthy pinch of salt, to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent.
Turn the heat back up to high and add the wine. Scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot, then add the meat back to the pot, along with the bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme. Pour in the soy sauce and as much beef broth as necessary to just cover the short ribs. Put the lid on, bring to a boil on the stove, then carefully move the pot and its contents to the heated oven.
Cook in the oven for 3-5 hours, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a steady simmer. The meat is ready when it falls off the bone. If you poke a fork into a piece of meat and try to pick it up, it should fall apart.
Set a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the pot into the colander. Shake the colander a bit to release the last of the liquid, but do not press down on the contents. Set the colander and its contents aside (or refrigerate in an airtight container) while you reduce the sauce.
Either chill the braising liquid or let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, until the fat rises to the surface. Skim off as much fat as you can with a large spoon. If you have time, you can refrigerate the braising liquid overnight and remove the solidified fat in the morning. Once a majority of the fat has been removed from the braising liquid, return it to the pot and set it over medium-high heat. Boil the liquid until it reduced from a broth-like consistency to a thin sauce-like consistency. You should end up with 1 1/2-2 cups of sauce.
Lower the heat to medium and add the meat and other contents of the colander to the pot with the sauce to warm up. Serve the ribs hot with some sauce ladled over with a starchy side of your choice, sprinkled with chives.
I served this with some polenta I doctored with cream and lots of comté cheese, but it would also be great over other sides such as mashed potatoes or risotto. Or, you could skip reducing the braising liquid and instead cook some pearled barley in it and serve the whole thing as a hearty soup.
Music to cook by: Boston [The Dresden Dolls // No, Virginia]