This year Christmas fell just three weeks after Thanksgiving. We traveled to Oakland to see my family for Thanksgiving and then the first week back had to get our tree and try to somehow pull it together to decorate our house. The central thing I had on my mind going into this busy holiday season was, how can I streamline each step of hosting Christmas? A friend shared that her sister made delicious a delicious braised short rib recipe with polenta for Thanksgiving and everyone was drooling over it.
I made this braised short rib recipe for Christmas this year and it was met with rave reviews. They are extremely tender and flavorful, fall-off-the-bone short ribs. There are a few unique aspects of this short rib recipe that really amplify the flavor.
There are a number of steps for this recipe so it is helpful to make it a day ahead, but definitely not necessary. This is actually one of the things I love about this recipe – that it tastes better if served the day after cooking. This way, you can do the heavy lifting ahead of time and enjoy the day with family and friends. Short ribs are wonderful comfort food – perfect to enjoy over polenta or mashed potatoes and also delish made into a completely different pasta dish such as this short rib pasta.
You should feel free to serve the short ribs shortly after cooking or, if you have the time, reheated the next day. I also strongly recommend that you dry brine the short ribs before cooking. This recipe is well worth the effort and no step is very difficult.
Short Rib Recipe
*This recipe is derived from Tra Vigne’s Braised Beef Short Ribs.
- 4 pounds beef short ribs (the meatier the better)
- 2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil or more if needed
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
- 1 cup of beef broth or stock
- 1 cup of dry red wine
- 1 cup mushroom broth (recipe below)
- 3/4 cup sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar is also fine)
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes, juice omitted (I prefer San Marzano)
- 2 stems fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Kosher salt and pepper
Buying the Short Ribs
My mother always reminds me that short ribs used to be inexpensive (“in her day”). However, since I’ve been making them, I have mainly made them for dinner parties or special occasions. It has become a trendy cut of meat and prices have risen to weigh out demand. In looking for short ribs, be sure to buy bone-in short ribs and look for meaty (not scrawny) ones. If you are not sure, ask one of the butchers for their honest opinion on whether they would buy them to take them home – I did that once and the butcher at the grocery store told me he doesn’t buy his short ribs from his store.
If you are having trouble finding nice meaty short ribs at your local grocer, try going to a Korean or Argentinean market. These stores tend to have great fresh quality short ribs because of the volume of beef short ribs they sell.
In case you are not be used to seeing short ribs, here is what they look like.
The short ribs have just been dry brined with kosher salt
At least 4 and up to 24 hours before cooking the short ribs, dry brine them with kosher salt. Brining enhances the flavor of meat and helps it remain moister. You should use ½ teaspoon of kosher salt for every 1 lb of short ribs that you are cooking. You literally just sprinkle the kosher salt over all the short ribs as evenly as possible (don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect). Then massage the salt into the short ribs. Cover them in a container or put them in a freezer bag in the fridge to hang out for 4-24 hours.
You basically get a twofer with these dried shiitake mushrooms. You soak them and get a delicious flavorful umami broth and you also use the rehydrated mushrooms in the sauce and enjoy them with the meat.
Place mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Remove broth and strain with a fine sieve and discard grit. Remove mushrooms by hand and rinse each one under running water to remove any grit, as you do not want to eat it. Slice the mushrooms in strips and set aside.
I used fair amount of mushrooms here and love to serve them with the sauce topping the meat. If you do not like mushrooms, you need not serve them, but they still add an amazing depth of flavor. My cousin who came to Christmas dinner recently stopped eating beef, but he enjoyed a plate full of mushrooms and gravy over polenta (with all the sides, of course).
The Short Ribs
Remove the short ribs from the fridge at least 2 hours before cooking. There is no need to rinse the dry brine.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season short ribs with coarse black pepper all over. Heat oil in a dutch oven (or other heavy ovenproof pot) with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat on top of stove. Brown the short ribs in batches, using tongs to brown each side (about 8 min per batch). Set aside in a bowl.
Add the onions, carrot and garlic to the dutch oven and cook over moderate heat stirring occasionally until vegetables are golden, about eight minutes. Then, stir in stock, wine, vinegar, mushroom broth, sliced mushrooms, fresh herbs and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the dutch oven. Next, add the ribs and any juices in the bowl to the dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Cover the dutch oven with the lid and transfer to the preheated oven.
Braise in the oven until meat is tender about two and a half to three hours. Once the meat falls off the bone to touch, remove ribs from sauce and discard garlic skin, which should have separated from the cloves of garlic.
Next, transfer short ribs to a platter. Then, strain the sauce from the pot. Finally, spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over polenta or mashed potatoes with sauce (and mushrooms) spooned over.
If you have time, let the short ribs cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. Letting the meat sit in the juices enhances the flavors and also allows you to easily skim off the fat the next day.
It’s lame, but I started not feeling well by early evening and didn’t have it together to even think of taking pictures of the finished meal, but will post when I make the recipe again! Here’s a pic of our fam in our Xmas socks.