Short ribs weren’t on the menu when I was growing up. No, I had to wait until I was well past my youth, living here in Chicago, to discover them and even then it was purely coincidental. I had just moved into an apartment on The Lake and was checking out the neighborhood one Saturday when I “discovered” a Hungarian restaurant. Having looked at the menu, I was ready to order the paprikash when my waitress announced that the day’s luncheon special was short ribs. I opted for the special and that split-second decision became a life-altering event. For well over a year afterward, I dined there frequently and never sampled the paprikash, but I did order the short ribs every time. I introduced friends to my “discovery” and urged each to try the short ribs. You see, I was in heaven and was happy to share my good fortune with everyone — until that day.
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I was having lunch with a good friend and we were marveling about — you guessed it — the short ribs when the check came. My friend was surprised to see how little our lunch cost and I mouthed the words that I would soon come to regret, “I don’t know how they do it?” During my very next visit to this little gem of a restaurant, we overheard a patron at a neighboring table question the waitress about the restaurant’s future. She replied, assuring them that the restaurant wasn’t going anywhere. At the end of our meal, one of my lunch party, a friend who had come to love the place as much as I, asked the waitress whether the place was closing. Again she said, “No way!”
The following Saturday the place was closed, never to re-open.
In the years since, more than a few of my favorite restaurants have closed, each after I uttered the fateful incantation. Once I realized the power of those words, I did my very best to avoid mouthing them but if you’re going to serve potent margaritas or top-shelf sake at below market prices, well, I can hardly be held responsible. Anyway, through the years, I’ve seen my favorite Chinese, Mexican, and Sushi restaurants all close, not to mention great little diners and hamburger joints. Perhaps the most painful closing of them all was my neighborhood Thai restaurant, which served the best Pad Thai on the planet. I was known as “Mr. John.” Since its closing 8 years ago, I’ve never repeated those powerful words in reference to any restaurant that I’ve liked. (Interesting to note that I have tried to use the magic on restaurants that should be closed as a service to my fellow diners. The fact that these businesses have continued, uninterrupted, mocks me to this very day.) So, aside from ruining the businesses — and dreams — of a number of immigrant families, just what does any of this have to with short ribs?
Well, once my Hungarian restaurant closed, I took it upon myself to learn how to prepare beef short ribs. Mom, my first resource in such matters, suggested making them like a beef stew. So, my first attempts were cooked in a slow cooker and pretty much looked like a stew. Looking back, my experiences preparing short ribs pretty much mirrors my growth as a cook, such as it was. Over the years, I learned to brown the meat first, make a roux and a sauce, use the vegetables for the braise only, added wine, moved the braise from the slow cooker to a Dutch oven, and, finally, added some balsamic vinegar to the pot. The spices, also, changed and, somewhere along the way, I began making horseradish sauce. The recipes I share today are the last of a long series.
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Beef Short Ribs Recipe
- 3 – 4 lbs (approx. 1.8kgs) beef short ribs — 6 to 8 rib pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups red wine
- 1½ cups low-sodium beef broth
- ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 or 4 fresh thyme stems
- 2 fresh rosemary stems
- 1 bay leaf
- salt & pepper, to taste
Horseradish Sauce – recipe follows
- Pre-heat oven to 325˚F (160˚C).
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over med-high heat.
- Meanwhile, use paper towels to pat dry the short ribs, season liberally with salt & pepper, and place into the now hot oil. DO NOT CROWD. You will probably need to brown them in 2 batches. Once the meat has been placed into the pot, do not disturb for about 3 minutes. Check one to see if it has browned. If so, turn each piece to brown another side, If not, continue cooking for another 2 minutes before checking again.
- Brown all sides of each rib before removing them to a platter and repeating the process with the rest of the ribs.
- Pour off excess grease, leaving 3 tbsp in the pot. Add the celery, carrots, and onion to the pot and begin sautéing. Season with salt & pepper.
- When the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened, add the garlic and continue sautéing for about a minute.
- Add the flour to the pot, stir, and cook for two minutes.
- Use the red wine to deglaze the pot. Once finished, add the balsamic, beef stock and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper and stir well.
- Add the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Return the ribs to the pot, bring to a boil, cover, and place in pre-heated oven.
- Continue to cook for 2½ to 3 hours or until meat is fork tender and falling off of the bones. Carefully remove the ribs to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Pour the braising liquid through a strainer and place resultant liquid into a grease separator. Wait a few minutes to allow the grease to rise and then pour off the sauce.
- Depending upon your preference, you can
- Serve the sauce as is.
- Place the sauce into a small pan so that it can be further reduced and thickened.
- Add more wine or beef broth and then reduce.
- No matter the choice, be sure to taste the sauce to see if additional seasoning is needed.
- The sauce may be used to cover the ribs before serving or left on the side.
- Serve immediately with mashed potatoes, buttered broad noodles, or polenta, as pictured.
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Combine equal amounts of plain yogurt (Greek pref.) and sour cream. Add horseradish to taste, some brown, whole grain or Dijon mustard, a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce, and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well and refrigerate until needed. Be sure to make extra for the cole slaw.
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I always try to make extra ribs, gravy, and horseradish sauce. Not only are the ribs even tastier the next day, the meat can be pulled apart, similar to what is done with pork, and used with the extra gravy to make sandwiches. The extra horseradish sauce can be used as a dressing for cole slaw to top off the sandwich, as pictured, or as a condiment. If used to dress slaw, you may wish to add more yogurt, sour cream, or a little mayonnaise, to suit your tastes.
Be sure to come back next Wednesday when, as promised, I’ll show you how to make mascarpone.
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