Whether it’s the first or last hurrah of cold weather, braised short ribs are always an incredibly soothing choice. If tempted to dismiss braised dishes during the week, thinking they take too long to cook, check out my directions for three different modes of cooking. At least one of them is bound to fit into even the busiest schedule! And even if you are cooking for less people, I suggest making the full amount; it freezes perfectly and can be a delicious (fast and easy!) dinner ANY day of the week.
For the braised beef shanks
- 1 scant cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and sliced
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 ounces fresh button mushrooms, wiped clean and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups each: dry red wine and beef stock
- 12 to 16 very meaty short ribs (depending on their size)
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pure olive oil, as needed, for browning short ribs
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (or mix butter and extra-virgin olive oil)
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1/4 cup crème fraiche (as an optional enrichment)
To set up
Reconstitute the dried mushrooms in a bowl with the boiling water for 15 minutes or until supple. Lift out the mushrooms, squeezing gently, allowing any liquid to fall back in the bowl. Reserve 1 cup of this flavorful liquid. Coarsely chop the porcinis and set aside.
To get the sauce going
Place the onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper and garlic into the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Pulse the vegetables until they are finely chopped but still remain textural. Combine these vegetables with the chopped button and reconstituted porcini mushrooms and set them aside, for now. Combine the wine, stock and reserved mushroom liquid in a 2-quart saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat. Let it reduce to about half its original volume (2 1/2 cups).
To brown the short ribs
Season the short ribs well with salt and pepper. Heat a shallow layer of olive oil in the bottom of an 8-quart saucepan and, when hot, brown the ribs extremely well on all sides, in batches, without crowding. Remove the ribs to a tray until you're finished browning them all. Dump out the oil from the pan and add the butter (or the butter and oil). Heat the fat until hot and stir in the chopped vegetables. Place a piece of parchment paper directly over the vegetables and reduce the heat to low. Sweat the vegetables until softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Discard the paper, raise the heat to high, and stir in the flour. Cook the vegetables and flour (now a vegetable-based roux), stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add the reduced stock/wine mixture along with the chopped drained tomatoes and the tomato purée and bring the sauce to a brisk simmer. Lower the browned short ribs into the sauce and season with some salt and pepper. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to very low and simmer the ribs for 1 1/ 2 hours, occasionally stirring gently, to redistribute the ribs.
Uncover the pot and continue to simmer the ribs for 30 minutes more, over medium-low heat, until the ribs are meltingly tender and the sauce is reduced and has thickened nicely. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool, uncovered. Using a large spoon, remove the large amount of grease that will have accumulated on top of the stewed ribs.
Reheat gently, until bubbling, then stir in the crème fraiche, if using, and readjust the seasoning, as needed, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with cooked, buttered egg noodles tossed with cooked green peas.
To use a pressure cooker
Brown the ribs and make the sauce base, as described above, in an 8-quart pressure cooker. After bringing the sauce to a brisk simmer, add the ribs and bring the sauce back up to a full simmer, over medium heat, with the cover ajar. Turn off the heat and attach the lid, securing it correctly. Bring the pot to high pressure, over medium heat, reduce the heat to low and, maintaining high pressure, cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the hot burner and let the pressure release naturally. If, after removing the lid, the sauce is very liquid, bring to a simmer, uncovered until reduced. Degrease as described when cooking conventionally, then add the crème fraiche, if using. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and bring it back to a simmer. Serve hot, as directed.
To use a slow cooker
Brown the ribs and make the sauce in a 14-inch deep-sided skillet or in an 8-quart heavy-bottomed pot, as originally described then transfer the sauce to a 7-quart slow cooker. Lower the ribs into the sauce, submerging them, then cover the cooker and cook either on low for 11 to 12 hours or on high for 7 to 8 hours. Uncover, degrease and add the crème fraiche, if using and adjust seasoning. Turn the setting to high and cook, uncovered, until piping hot.
Timing is Everything
You can cook short ribs up to two days ahead and, after cooling and degreasing, refrigerate the pot, covered. Before applying the lid, pull a clean kitchen towel over the top of the pot and place the lid on top. Bring close to room temperature before reheating fully over low heat, with the cover ajar. And, don't hesitate to double this recipe and stick half in the freezer.