Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stout-Braised Short Ribs

These short ribs were the dish I originally intended to make on St. Patrick's Day.  But with everything conspiring against me, I tabled them for this weekend, when I would have more time to prep and braise them until they were fall off the bone tender.  Granted, these short ribs don't feel very seasonally appropriate seeing as it has been gorgeous outside all week, but what can you do?  And as there is really no way to lighten up a dish of braised short ribs without losing everything that makes them luscious and delightful, I didn't even bother trying.  Sometimes you just have to be a gluttonous carnivore, spring weather or no.  That's really all there is to it.  And then you have to remind yourself to eat salads for the next few days to make up for your indulgence, but that's another matter entirely.

I was a little worried that braising the short ribs only in Guinness would make them a little bitter, but went ahead with it anyway.  I considered adding some canned diced tomatoes (and their juice) to give the short ribs some sweetness and a little freshness and acidity, but decided that the whole point of braising the short ribs in stout was to really taste the stout.  I really wanted to pick up some Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout, but as this was originally supposed to be an Irish dish for St. Paddy's, I decided to just stick with Guinness.

The sauce is a little bitter, but not overly so.  While it is a little bitter, you can still taste the heartiness of the beef and the sweetness of the vegetables in every bite of the sauce.  Overall, I feel like this recipe is missing something, but Alex really likes it.  I also thought that the short ribs weren't quite as tender as I would have hoped.  Perhaps our short ribs weren't as fatty as usual, but the silky smooth mouth feel was missing for me.  Instead the meat was a little "toothsome" to use a word from Top Chef.  When I want short ribs I don't want toothsome.  I want the meat to basically dissolve in my mouth.  The meat can't be mushy, but it should be silky and incredibly tender.  And you shouldn't need a knife at all.  These short ribs weren't as tender as I like, but Alex has this thing against ribs of any sort that fall off the bone so these were perfect for him.  We usually see eye-to-eye when it comes to food (although he tends to like things a little saltier and a little spicier than I do), but this time we will have to agree to disagree.

Recipe after the jump!

Stout-Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

2 1/2 lbs Beef Short Ribs
2 tbsp brown sugar
s&p, to taste
2 tbsp evoo
1 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bottles Guinness (each 11.2 oz.)

flat leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Season the short ribs generously on all sides with brown sugar and s&p.  Heat a large Le Creuset (or other Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat the oil until almost smoking.  Working in batches, if necessary, brown the ribs on all sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Do not overcrowd.  Transfer ribs to a plate.  Lower heat to medium, add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Transfer the short ribs back into the Dutch oven with the sauteed vegetables and add stout and diced tomatoes (with juice).  Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, or alternatively with aluminum foil and a looser-fitting lid on top of the foil.  Transfer to the oven and braise until the meat is very tender, about 3 1/2-4 hours.  Check on the ribs after 2 hours - flip them over and if the braising liquid has reduced too much, add enough water or stock to cover the short ribs 3/4 of the way.  Once ribs are done, transfer the ribs to a large plate and tent with aluminum foil.  Skim the fat, if any, off the surface of the sauce.  Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth.

Transfer the ribs to individual bowls, plating them on top of or next to the polenta.  Spoon the sauce on top and garnish each serving with flat leaf parsley (if desired).  Serve immediately.

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