As luck would have it, I recently listened to a podcast from the illustrious Chef Keith Snow from Harvest Eating. In it, he described braised beef shanks. I didn't have beef shanks... but I did have short ribs. And darned if at the end of the episode if he didn't talk about other cuts you could prepare the same way, beef short ribs being one of them!
For those not familiar with braising, if you've done a chuck roast in a crock pot, you've essentially braised it. I'll outline the process here.
|A pile of short-ribs|
I had a couple packs thawed - about 4lbs or so. Some of them were great big chunks, with a big bone and others were slimmer... all depending on which part of the rib that chunk came from. Season with salt and pepper.
I heated up some lard from a recently butchered hog in an enameled dutch oven and browned the meat.
That fond is a concentrated meat flavor that forms as a result of a process called the Maillard reaction. And you want to preserve as much of that as possible.
So after you've nicely browned your meat, remove them and set aside in a bowl. Toss in a couple chopped carrots and onion into the pot and cook until tender. You don't have to go full on carmelize mode - but some brown isn't a bad thing. Add some other aromatics here as well - minced garlic, thyme, rosemary... whatever works well with your tastes.
Now, toss in some tomato paste - a couple tablespoons and keep it moving in the mixture. Everything should get pretty sticky and really start to brown onto the cooking surface. Act fast here to make sure you don't over cook it and scorch the paste that gets stuck onto the sides and bottom of the pot. Just when you think you're about as far as you can go without burning, start stirring in some red wine (a cabernet perhaps - or whatever you have left in that bottle from last night). This will deglaze the pot (meaning remove all those brown bits that have been getting stuck to the surface) - help it along with a wooden spoon to be sure you've scraped up all the fond and gotten it up into the braising liquid. I added about half a bottle of wine.
|Get braising, you little ribs!|
I had so many short ribs in the pot that I needed to add some beef broth so that most of them were covered. I had a few poked up out of the liquid - which is good. As they braise in the 250 degree oven (which you should be preheating by now), the ones sticking up will brown further, giving us even more flavor.
Make sure you have a really good heavy lid that seals well. Le Cruset dutch ovens are good for this. Cover the pot and put into the oven. You'll know if you lid is any good when you check it after an hour and it doesn't appear that any liquid has cooked off. If it has, be sure to add some more wine or broth. Total cooking time should be at least 3 hours. Four is better and five is great. Much more than that though, and you'll probably start to dry the ribs out.
|Time to skim the fat.|
The fat should have rendered out a lot. Skim the fat as best you can. This is one of those dishes that works even better the next day so if you have time to wait, let it cook down on the stove top and then toss in the fridge over night. When you remove it tomorrow, you'll be able to lift the solid fat out with a spoon or fork with no trouble before you heat it all back up.
|Round these parts, we call 'em grits!|
I've made this dish twice and have just about used up our short ribs. A chuck roast would be good this way... Next time, I'll ask for the beef shanks and save them from the grinder.