We all have fond memories of our favorite childhood comfort foods, dishes that nudge at our sentiments with nostalgic appeal. For me, it is beef short ribs. My mother’s mother, Grandma Gladys, often cooked this flavorful cut of meat, letting it simmer for hours on her stove top. A single mom, she raised three children during the Great Depression and learned to turn an inexpensive cut of meat into something that melted in your mouth. I still remember the aroma of her famous short ribs drifting through the air, teasing my taste buds with what she would soon set on the table. Short ribs have become all the rage in upscale restaurants serving comfort food, but what exactly are they? Short ribs are the best cut of beef ribs and are normally larger, more tender, and meatier than their pork counterpart, spareribs. They come from the lower, ventral section of the cow, between the sixth and the tenth rib. This section is called the short plate, and the ribs are called short ribs not because they are short, but because they come from the short plate. There are several different types of short ribs. The English cut is the most common. It usually has four to five bones that range in length from three to eight inches. The English cut is sold as a rack or as a package of individual ribs. Flanken-cut short ribs are typically only one-half to one inch thick and are popular in Asian (Korean spareribs) and Mexican dishes (Mexican beef ribs). This cut contains a lot of hard fat, but its meat absorbs marinades and is tasty when grilled. Short rib riblets are sold in individual bone sections ranging from one to six inches in length. Riblets are very versatile and great for braising or slow cookers. Boneless short ribs. Markets do sell rib meat which has been cut off the bone. This cut consists of strips of meat cut from the chuck section and does not contain a lot of surface fat or bones. It will look much like its pork counterpart, country-style pork ribs. Some American markets have recently introduced an inexpensive alternative to rib steak called “boneless country-style short ribs,” which are not ribs at all but cut from the chuck eye roll. This cut also works nicely in short rib recipes. When Grandma Gladys made short ribs, she used a version of the riblets. I prefer buying boneless short ribs or the new alternative to rib steak, the boneless country-style short ribs. Over the last few months, I have perfected Grandma Gladys’ short rib recipe into a good-enough-for-company delicacy. The recipe follows. It is better than I remember–Grandma Gladys didn’t use wine and balsamic vinegar.
Carol Ann’s Cabernet Sauvignon Braised Short Ribs Serves 8 to 10
5 pounds boneless beef short ribs or 7 pounds bone-in beef short ribs Salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dry the ribs with paper towels and season them to taste with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy ovenproof pot or roasting pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches if needed to avoid crowding, add the ribs and brown well on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a platter and set aside.
3 strips apple-wood smoked bacon 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 carrots, thinly sliced 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced 2 cups yellow onions, chopped 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced 2 fresh bay leaves 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add bacon to the pot and cook, turning occasionally, until bacon is browned and fried crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from the pot and place on paper towels to drain. Add olive oil to the pot. When it sizzles, add carrots, celery, onion, garlic and cook until vegetables begin to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes. Add bay leaves, thyme, and tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 5 minutes. 1 bottle (750ml) cabernet sauvignon 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced 4 cups homemade or canned beef stock Return the ribs and any additional juice to the pot, stacking ribs to fit, if necessary. Add wine, mushrooms, and enough beef stock to cover ribs. Heat ribs over a medium-high heat until the liquid begins to simmer. Cover the pot tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake ribs until they are tender when pierced with a fork, about 3 hours. Check the pot every half hour to make sure the sauce is gently simmering and not boiling. Add more beef stock if necessary. 12 ounces pearl onion (I like using cipollini onions if available.) ½ cup barrel-aged balsamic vinegar Fill a large bowl of water with ice cubes and set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over a medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until their skins loosen, about 2 minutes. Drain the onions, then place them into the ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel onions by cutting a small sliver off the root end and pulling off the skin. When ribs have finished cooking, remove the pot from the oven and remove ribs from the sauce. Place ribs on a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm. Let the sauce rest for a few minutes until the fat rises to the surface. Degrease the sauce by skimming off the fat with a large metal spoon. Add onions and balsamic vinegar to the sauce and let it simmer over medium-low heat until the onions are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add ribs and let simmer until they are warmed through. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Insider Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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