Virginia Willis’ Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Herbed Grits
About the recipe
Blustery winter days are perfect for braised meats and hearty soups and stews, such as red wine-braised short ribs made with a mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery — a classic French dish and considered the uptown version of beef stew. Since the meat and sauce are so rich, serve the short ribs over simple stone-ground grits with herbs to let the flavors of the meat and the velvety sauce shine.
Short ribs were once simple country fare, but they have gained popularity because of their rich, succulent flavor. They are the meaty, marbled ends of the beef rib from the chuck, rib and brisket. Short ribs are available cut two ways: English, which is cut between the bones, so each piece consists of one rib, and flanken, which is cut across the bones, so each piece consists of several bones. For this recipe, you will want to use English-cut short ribs. Flanken is used for the traditional Jewish beef stew of the same name, as well as bulgogi, or Korean short ribs.
When preparing this recipe, the short ribs are first browned to render the excess fat and build a strong foundation for the dish. The resulting fond enriches the cooking liquid. Then, the short ribs are gently braised in a combination of wine and stock amped up with a triple dose of umami – tomato paste, miso paste, and dried mushrooms — resulting in tender, but super flavorful meat. To gild the lily, fresh mushrooms are sautéed and added to the sauce at the end, layering the mushroom flavor.
This recipe calls for cooking in a heavy pot on the stovetop, but you can easily adapt it for cooking in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot once the meat is browned.
Serves: 4 to 6
Hands on Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total time: 6 hours and 30 minutes
4 to 5 pounds English-cut beef short ribs
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 sweet onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, preferably Pinot Noir
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 2 bay leaves, tied together in cheesecloth
1/4 cup dried mushrooms such as porcini, morel, or a blend, crushed (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 to 2 1/2 cups beef stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium beef broth
1 pound small cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
Stone-Ground Herbed Grits, for serving
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Season the ribs all over with salt and place on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until the ribs have re-absorbed all of their exuded liquid, 1 to 2 hours. The technique of salting the ribs is also known as a dry brine. When salt is applied to raw meat, juices inside the meat are drawn to the surface of the meat. The salt then dissolves in the exuded liquid, forming a brine that is then reabsorbed by the meat. It helps the protein retain its own natural juices.
Heat the oven to 375.
Tie each short rib with food-safe kitchen twine. This step will keep the meat attached to the bone while it braises. It’s definitely an extra step that you could skip, but it will help prevent the meat from literally falling off the bone. Season the ribs with pepper.
In a large, heavy-duty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Brown the ribs on all sides, in two or three batches so as not to crowd them, 5 to 7 minutes for each batch. Return the ribs to the wire rack. (It’s okay, by the way, for the seared meat to come in contact with the rack that had held the raw, salted meat because the meat will be cooked further — and it will make one less dish to wash.)
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot. Add the onions, celery and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium. Add the flour, tomato paste and miso paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour and pastes are incorporated and they begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the wine and vinegar and bring to a rapid simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. This step is also known as deglazing the pot. Cook, uncovered, until the wine is somewhat thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Return the browned short ribs to the pot and add the bundled herbs, dried mushrooms, if using, and garlic. Pour in enough stock to almost cover the meat. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and bake until the meat is tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Towards the last hour of cooking, get the grits going.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked short ribs to a warm platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Spoon off any excess oil left on the surface of the sauce and discard, along with the bundled herbs. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce and vegetables until smooth. (Alternatively, transfer the sauce and vegetables to a blender in batches and puree until smooth. Return the pureed sauce to the pot.)
Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat and cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon; thin with more stock, if needed, to achieve the proper consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
To serve, return the short ribs to the sauce and turn to coat. Add the reserved cooked mushrooms. Heat briefly over medium heat if necessary to rewarm, then serve over the hot grits, garnished with fresh parsley.