I made a rookie mistake the other night when I was making short ribs from my favorite butcher. I was making a braising liquid for some short ribs and in went a bad bottle of wine. This was after I had sauteed the onions, celery and some other root vegetables, added tomato paste, some broth and herbs. Then I noticed it smelled odd and so after bringing it to a simmer, I tasted it and cringed. I smelled the bottle, now empty and it was subtle but the flavor was sour.
The short ribs were already seared and sitting on a plate waiting patiently for me to muddle through this mess I had walked myself into. So I dumped the entire contents of that braising liquid in a giant bowl for disposal and started over.
Braising short ribs is not a precise science. The important steps are applying salt and pepper to the short ribs, searing them and cooking them until they are fork tender in a flavorful liquid. Whatever that might be. Into the liquid can go a lot of different things. In my opinion, nothing is off limits as long as it comes together to form a nice savory broth that will taste great as a backdrop to the short ribs and on top of the starch that you must, must serve them with. Like freshly baked biscuits or mashed potatoes or crusty french bread.
Since I was slightly turned off by wine after my mishap, I went a different route and popped open a bottle of dark beer. This second round of braising liquid smelled good and tasted great, so in went those patient short ribs for three hours in the oven.
Braised Short Ribs with Tomatoes and Beer
6 large short ribs (or 12 if they are on the small side - mine were almost a pound a piece)
2 T olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T flour
2 T tomato paste
2 tsp dried thyme
2 onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
10 cloves garlic, loosely chopped
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 cup dark beer, like a porter
2 cups water and a bouillon cube or 2 cups vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375.
Sprinkle the short ribs generously with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 T olive oil until shimmering over medium to medium-high heat. Add the short ribs, searing each side until they are browned. This will probably take two batches depending on the size of your pan.
Remove the short ribs and set aside. Drain off all but 1 - 2 T of the fat. Add the onion and celery to the pan and stir until the onion starts to look translucent, a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the flour and stir for two minutes and then the tomato paste, blending it into the mix. Add the beer, water, crushed tomatoes and thyme. Bring to a simmer, scoop out a small cup of the broth and dissolve the bouillon cube in it. Add it back to the mix. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as desired. Bring the liquid to a simmer and submerge the short ribs in the pot, spooning liquid over them. The short ribs should be almost covered. If the liquid is too low, add some more water.
Place in the oven and cook for three hours. Turn the short ribs about half way through the cooking time, checking to see if you need to add more liquid. Check the short ribs by stabbing them with a fork, it should slide in easily and the meat should feel tender.