With warmth and sunlight waning as the cool nights reach further back into the day, my thoughts turn from the quick grilled foods of summer to the rich stews and braises of autumn and winter. I crave melt-in-your-mouth roasts and opulent beef stews and of course, the crowned-king-of-the-braise, beef short ribs. There are countless ways to prepare short ribs, and all of them take time. The ribs are tough, and only extended cooking will break down the collagen in the muscle to yield that perfect bite. Some recipes, notably those that rely on low temperature smoking, can take five hours or more. The payoff is huge, but I don’t always have a full day to devote to babysitting a smoker. Most braises are quicker (in the two to four hour range), but some of them are pretty complicated affairs, so by the time I’ve prepped, seared, sauteed and then braised, I’m looking at another five-hour investment of my precious (ha!) time. Now, I love short ribs. A lot. And I want to be able to eat them without too much advanced planning. I also want to eat them without breaking the bank. Most braising recipes call for a bottle of red wine. Well, here’s the thing with me: I guess you could say I’m a wine snob, but the reality is, having worked in the wine industry for a few years back when I lived in San Francisco, I just developed a taste for quality wine. Nothing snobby about it, really. The wine I keep in the house is good quality and excellent for drinking. As we all know, we never cook with wine we wouldn’t drink, so if I followed the majority of the recipes out there for braised short ribs, I’d be gurgling a bottle of the good stuff into the pot every time I wanted ribs. No way. And don’t tell me that I can go to the store and buy a cheap bottle for the braise. Again, no way. I want short ribs, and I want them without wine. And you know what else I’m going to skip? Beef stock. Unless, of course, I have homemade stock on hand, and then I will certainly use it! But it is early in the season, and I haven’t made any yet. I hate the crap in a can or that other stuff in the box. I’d rather use water. Seriously. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to use broth or stock. They’re full of baloney. This recipe skips the wine and uses water instead of broth, and the resulting sauce has a deep and satisfying flavor. I serve these short ribs over a bed of pureed potatoes and parsnips, and they’ve been a huge hit every time. In the coming months, I will post more beef short rib recipes, but today I’m going to give you the simple one. While the recipe calls for a lot of herbs and spices, the method is straightforward and easy, and the cook time is about the fastest you’ll find for this cut of meat. Please enjoy. Printer-friendly recipe at the end of the post.
Quick and Easy Braised Beef Short Ribs
for the short ribs
- 6 beef short ribs
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-3 medium yellow onions, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced into rounds
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (may substitute cayenne pepper)
- 3-5 cups water
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
for the pureed potatoes and parsnips
- 2 pounds red potatoes, skins on and quartered
- 1 pound parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- enough milk to make the puree smooth, about 1/2 cup
- salt and pepper to taste
If you have time, liberally salt the ribs on all sides and wrap them tightly in cling film or in the butcher’s paper they came in.
Refrigerate for at least an hour and up to overnight. Don’t worry if you don’t have time for this step. You can also salt the ribs and get right on with the cooking. The reason we salt and rest (if we have time) is so the salt can penetrate into the meat. This not only flavors the meat throughout, but it also helps tenderize the muscle by [insert a bunch of science here]. Again, not a big deal if you need to skip this step. Just be sure to liberally salt the ribs before browning.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all the herbs and spices in a bowl and set aside.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the oil. Brown the ribs in batches and set aside.
Drain all but a few tablespoons of the oil, reduce the heat to medium low and add the onions. Cook the onions for a few minutes until they just start to brown.
Add half of the garlic and cook for another minute.
Return short ribs to the pot. Try to keep the bone-side facing down.
Sprinkle the spice mixture over the meat. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can rub the mixture evenly over each rib. Sprinkle remaining garlic over the top of the ribs.
Add enough water to cover the ribs about 1/2 to 2/3 the way up their sides.
Cover, place in the oven and braise for 2-2 1/2 hours.
While the ribs are cooking, make the potato and parsnip puree. Fill a medium pot with cold water and add some salt. Add the potatoes and parsnips and set the pot on the stove over medium high heat. When the potatoes have cooked, drain off the water, add the butter, sour cream and milk and puree with an immersion blender. You could also do this in a food processor. Mashing by hand works too, but the parsnips require a bit more elbow grease to get properly mashed. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
Test the ribs with a fork to see if they are done. They should be very tender and just about falling off the bone. You should be able to easily slide the rib off the bone, but you don’t want to cook it so much that the connective tissue surrounding the bone completely dissolves.
Place the ribs on a platter and cover with foil.
Strain the cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and skim off the fat.
Add the sauce to a small pot. You have a few choices here. If you are satisfied with the flavor and thickness, you can leave the juice as is and adjust the seasoning. If you prefer a more concentrated flavor, you can reduce the sauce by boiling. If you like a thicker sauce, you can whisk in a bit of flour while reducing until you get the sauce thickened to your liking. Depending on my mood and available time, I use all three methods. For this post, I thickened the sauce, so it would look better in the photos 😉
To serve, make a bed of the pureed potatoes and parsnips on a large plate or in a shallow bowl. Place one rib, with bone, in the middle of the bed. Pour sauce over the meat and sprinkle with parsley for garnish.