Serves 6 people
6 lbs boneless short ribs, cut into 4in pieces (bone-in ribs work as well)
neutral oil (like avocado or vegetable)
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
half a head of garlic, cloves smashed, skins removed and sliced
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
Half a bunch of parsley
Red wine vinegar
Gremolata: additional 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 raw garlic clove grated on a microplane, zest of 1 lemon (use the microplane again)
Season short ribs with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat up a large pot and add 3 tablespoons neutral oil. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides (6-8 min per side). I know it’s tempting to crowd the pan, please don’t do it. You want each piece of meat to have ample room so it can develop flavor and brown nicely. Take the extra time needed to carefully brown the meat. You’ll be thankful you did. Set meat aside as it is browned. Drain off most of the fat; save about 2-3 tablespoons. Keep the browned bits on the bottom (it’s called fond) but wash the pot if they are scorched and blackened (they’ll taste burnt).
Heat up the pot again, add 2-3 tablespoons oil (or reserved fat) and add the onions, carrots and celery. Season lightly with salt and allow them to develop color and brown slightly.
Add the flour and tomato paste. Allow them to cook for 3-4 min. This allows the tomato paste to open up and cooks the rawness out of the flour. This will thicken the final sauce.
Pour in the bottle of wine and stir the vegetables. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley. Taste the braising liquid and adjust for salt. The sauce will thicken as it cooks so use less salt than you think.
Nestle the browned beef in the aromatic braising liquid. The liquid does not need to cover the pieces but you want everything to fit in tight.
Bring to a slow boil and then turn the heat way down until the pot is at a bare simmer (very slow and infrequent bubbles). Cover and braise for 2-3 hours until the meat is very tender but not falling apart. You can check with a knife or wooden skewer. Alternatively, place into a 300 degree oven (if you have an oven safe, enameled cast iron pot) and braise for 2-3 hours.
When the braise is done, carefully use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of meat. Strain the braising liquid into another pot. Allow the fat to rise and use a spoon to skim off the excess fat and discard it.
Finish the sauce with salt and a capful of red wine vinegar. Serve the braised short ribs over polenta, rice or pasta in a shallow bowl. Top with gremolata (mix together chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Stir to combine). The vinegar at the end will add a brightness to the final sauce and bring all the flavors together.
Braised short ribs are easily made the day before. By putting them in the fridge, the fat will solidify and can easily be removed the next morning. Heat up in a 250 oven gently until warmed through.
Although 2 tablespoons of tomato paste doesn’t seem like much, it’s really important in bringing out the flavors of the beef. Tomato paste is made by slowly cooking tomatoes down, straining out the seeds and skins and then cooking it down further into a paste. This concentrated paste is full of flavor and the natural pectins help to thicken the overall sauce. You can make your own tomato paste by slowly cooking down tomato puree until it’s thick, rich and smooth.