Once upon a time, short ribs were cheap. Now they are trending and the price reflects their new popularity. I have seen this before, both with flank steak and skirt steak. Just as with the other two examples of trend victims, you must cook them carefully or you will have tough, inedible meat. And, in the case of the short ribs, you will have greasy, tough, inedible meat.
Short ribs are a cut from the ribs, of course, and you will find them in the grocery with bone in or bone out. I prefer the bone in. I feel it adds more flavor. The meat attached to the bone will have a fat cap, fat marbling, and sinew.
Sounds like and looks like pork shoulder, does it not? That similarity gives you the clue on how to cook them. Go low and slow and be patient.
(Serves two. Adjust the proportions to enlarge the number of servings)
A dutch oven or braising pan
1 and 1/2 to 2 short ribs per person.
1 medium onion, sliced thin latitudinally
3 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 can dry cider
Chicken broth as needed
1 sprig of rosemary and thyme plus a bay leaf
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon preferred spice*
1 handful of sliced mushrooms (optional)
high temp oil for searing
* The spice is wildly variable and a matter of your preference. Some possibilities include paprika (sweet, hot, or smoked), Chinese five spice, curry, Greek seasoning (adjust you salting of the beef to make up for the salt in this season), and others. You can omit the spice as well and go au natural. In this dish I chose to use seven spice, a blend commonly used in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
Generously salt and pepper all sides of the short ribs.
Pour a Tablespoon or two of the high temp oil in your cooking vessel and place it on a burner set to high. When the oil shimmers, place the rib, fat side down, in the pan. Let the ribs sit, undisturbed, until the side is dark brown. Use tongs to roll the rib to the next side and repeat until all sides of the rib are brown. Note: Do not crowd them. If necessary, sear the meat in batches.
Remove the ribs from the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Add the sliced onions without wiping the pan down. Saute the onions until they soften and turn translucent. Add the tomato paste, garlic and, if using them, the mushrooms. Continue to saute until the paste turns brick color and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the spice and stir to blend it in.
Settle the ribs, bone side down, in the pan. Add the can of cider and enough chicken broth to bring the fluid 1/3 to 1/2 up the side of the ribs. Add the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.
Cover the vessel, place it on a low medium rack in the oven, and cook until the meat falls off the bone. This usually requires 4 to 6 hours.
Remove the meat and bones from the liquid and wrap in foil. Put the foil packet back in the oven.
Remove the solids with a sieve and degrease the liquid with a fat separator. Taste and adjust the spice and salt. Pour the degreased liquid back into the cooking vessel and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Reduce the liquid by half. Place the ribs, minus the bones and gristle back in the liquid and continue to reduce the liquid and it becomes syrup.
Note: A splash of Kitchen Bouquet will darken the gravy to a pleasant color.
Serve over polenta, noodles, mashed potatoes, rice, or spaghetti squash.
Those who love slow cookers: please note you can put the sauted onions in a slow cooker set on low and then add the remaining ingredients. The timing will be similar to the oven braise.
To those who are impatient: set the oven temp to 325 and cut the time by an approximate third. The difference will be small.
Tip: Refrigerate the separated cooked meat and the broth overnight. The fat cap should come off easily.
Reheat the meat in the degreased broth and, like stew, it will improve.
Another note: Nancy and I added four minced dried dates to go with the spice I chose. Fantabulous!