Honestly, nothing complements that crisp, cool snap in the air of fall better than hearty, melt-in-your-mouth braised beef. Frank and I seem to be on a French-inspired braising kick, but it couldn’t be a better time of year for it. Braising is such a wonderful process to undertake on a weekend when you’re hanging around the house and you can be present to enjoy the amazing aromas of cooking food; plus, the serving size is always enough for a dinner party. Our good friends, The Mendozas, came over on Friday night, so I spent the afternoon in the kitchen while Frank was busy at work (yes, I do have that kind of freedom in my present job, but that won’t last for much longer, so I’m taking advantage while I still can). I stumbled upon this recipe on my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, but the original recipe is from a classic cookbook (that I need to put on my Christmas wish list) Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table. True to the name of this book, we just happened to stumble across a beautiful package of boneless, beef short ribs at Costco last week, and we immediately started searching for an appropriate recipe. This one was a winner, and although the original recipe calls for bone-in short ribs, we made do with what we had and it still turned out fabulous. In addition, we were able to utilize our brand new, bright red, cast-iron Dutch oven that Frank got for a steal from Walmart. It was so much easier making a dish like this with a Dutch oven instead of our relatively small cast-iron skillet (see our attempts at Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq au Vin) that has a hard time holding more than a few cups of braising liquid.
If you’re going to try this recipe, I suggest making it on a weekend, only because the braise alone takes at least 3 hours, and the prep beforehand took me nearly an hour. You can honestly serve this dish with anything you’d like, whether it be vegetables or a starch, but the rich braising liquid lends itself to something you can scrape up with. We served this with mashed potatoes, but it was honestly a little heavy on the stomach. Next time around, I think we’ll skip the potatoes and substitute in some asparagus and maybe a crusty loaf of bread to round things out. Feel free to try whatever you like, but do not skip out on making the Horseradish Crème. It’s to die for! Also, the Smitten Kitchen version of this recipe has a little section in there for pearl onions…because we love the Brown-Braised Onions from Julia Child so much, we decided to make those instead. Honestly, the dish didn’t need it and we’ll definitely skip out on pearl onions all together next time around.
3-4 pounds boneless, beef short ribs [4080 – 5440 calories]
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil [360 calories]
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
4 whole sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup white onion, diced
1/3 cup carrot, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar [30 calories]
1 cup port wine [376 calories]
1 ¾ cups hearty red wine (we used Cabernet Sauvignon) [350 calories]
4 cups beef stock [40 calories]
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup crème fraîche [660 calories]
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish [15 calories]
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Calories per serving (beef): 1309-1649 (for 4 servings) or 872-1099 (for 6 servings)
Calories per serving (horseradish crème): 168 (for 4 servings) or 112 (for 6 servings)
Thaw short ribs (if frozen) at least one day before planning to cook this recipe. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, line up short ribs on sheet, then season on all sides with 1 tablespoon of thyme leaves and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with aluminum foil, then refrigerate overnight.
Take the short ribs out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking to come to room temperature. After 30 minutes, season the short ribs generously on all sides with the Kosher salt. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Heat a large Dutch oven/cast-iron skillet/large sauté pan over high heat for 3 minutes to bring entire vessel to temperature. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to Dutch oven, and wait until the oil is almost smoking (2-3 minutes).
* We used our own homemade thyme-flavored olive oil for this step. This is super easy to do, and a great way to make use of fresh dried herbs that you’ve purchased which are about to go bad. Simply fill an airtight container with extra-virgin olive oil and add the dried herbs. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for 1 week, then strain oil into a separate airtight container, and discard herbs. Voilà – delicious flavored olive oil! *
Place the short ribs in the oil and sear each side until nicely browned. Flip short rib onto the next side, allow to brown evenly, and repeat for 2 remaining sides. This should take ~ 6-8 minutes on each side to brown sufficiently; it’s easy to set the timer on the stove or microwave and leave the kitchen while you do this for each side of the short ribs. Warning – we produced a lot of smoke in our kitchen during this step. I strongly recommend turning the vent fan over your stove on during this step, and probably opening a window or two to make sure the smoke alarm doesn’t go off. When the ribs are evenly browned on all sides, transfer to a plate to rest. You will most likely need to do this in batches because not all of the short ribs will fit in the Dutch oven at the same time.
Turn the heat down to medium, and add onion, carrot, celery, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the Dutch oven to mix in all the brown bits from the searing of the short ribs. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the vegetables start to caramelize. Add the port wine, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Turn the heat up to high, and allow mixture to boil until the liquid has reduced by half (~ 5-8 minutes).
Add the beef stock and bring mixture to a boil.
Arrange ribs in the pot in a single layer, and scrape off any vegetables sitting on top of the short ribs into the braising liquid. The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs; if not, add a little bit more beef stock. Cover the Dutch oven with aluminum foil and a tight-fitting lid. Braise in the oven for ~ 3 hours or until the meat is easily pierced with a sharp knife.
* If you want to braise the meat ahead of time (if you don’t have the luxury of cooking a 4-5 hour meal in one sitting), this is where you can pause in the recipe. Leave the pot covered and refrigerate. When you take it out the next day, all of the fat should have solidified at the top of the braising liquid, so you can easily skim it off. Resume recipe from here on out, being sure to skip the fat skimming step when straining the vegetables out of the liquid because it will already be accomplished. *
Once you remove the pot from the oven, allow short ribs to sit in the braising liquid for 10 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees F. Transfer the short ribs to a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and allow to brown in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes.
While short ribs are browning, set a large strainer over a saucepan. Strain the braising liquid into the saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables in the strainer to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard vegetables. Skim the fat off the top of the sauce and discard. If braising liquid seems too thin for your tastes, reduce it on the stove over medium-high heat for ~ 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, whisk the crème fraîche and the horseradish together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the beef short ribs with braising liquid and top with horseradish crème as desired.
The original version of this recipe appeared in Suzanne Goin’s book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table, but we followed a similar version from Smitten Kitchen, Braised Beef Short Ribs. We had to tinker with the amount of braising liquid because we had boneless short ribs that weighed significantly less than what the original recipe called for. In the end, our braising liquid was a little thinner than desired, so we edited the amounts of port, red wine, and beef stock, all of which are already taken into account in this recipe so your version will turn our perfectly.