Beef short ribs have finally hit this side of the Atlantic judging from the article in this week’s Times Magazine. I first came across them in the lucques cookbook, where they are amongst the signature dishes of the Los Angeles restaurant. Then I started noticing them at every trendy new York bistro and it’s difficult not to fall in love with their rib-sticking comforting quality, especially when it’s chilly outside.
Over the years, I have experimented with several recipes for beef short ribs, from the original Lucques recipe to Thomas Keller’s higher-effort version. In essence, the ribs just need to e braised for a long time in a Le Creuset pot for the meat and fat to break down into beefy yumminess. But then, there are some optional steps you can add to further enhance the taste, just depends on how high-effort you are feeling that day.
To marinate or not? If you have time, definitely yes! Thomas Keller’s version has you sweating aromatics (diced onion, carrot and celery) before deglazing with red wine and stock and cooking off the alcohol. This is the marinate which the ribs rest in overnight, infusing them with a richer and deeper flavour.
To brown or not? Contrary to conventional wisdom, browning meat is not for the purpose of “sealing in the juices”, but rather for creating that beautiful caramelisation which deepens the flavour. You can skip this step if you are short on time or if you wish to have a lighter flavour.
To add tomato purée or not? Tomatoes are a type of food with high levels of naturally occurring umami in the form of lycopene. I often add some tomatoes to stews and braises for that added umami. Again, not absolutely necessary, but definitely enhancing.
If you included all of the three optional steps above, you should find yourself with a hearty and richly-flavoured dish. Pair with some mashed potato or spaetzle and you have a perfect dinner for cold nights or times when you just need that bit more comfort.
Braised Beef Short Ribs
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 celery stalks, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
500ml good-enough red wine
2 tbsps tomato purée
A handful of thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste