With a brief return of Winter weather here in the Northeast (it was 35℉ when I went for my morning run the other day), I couldn’t help but reach into the freezer to pull out our one remaining pack of Daniel Boulud’s short ribs for dinner. I am fairly well convinced that if you look up comfort food in the dictionary, you’ll find a description and picture of these ribs. With the exception of Duck Confit, or perhaps a really good cassoulet, there is no shorter route to my heart than to place a helping (or two) of these ribs in front of me. This recipe is from Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud Cookbook: French-American Recipes for the Home Cook, and is one that you will make over and over and over again, I guarantee it.
To be honest, I like beef short ribs done almost any way you can imagine, whether it be with an Asian twist, a Southwestern spin, or in the style of the British Isles, braised in a sweet and earthy Stout. But for me, a classic French preparation can’t be beat…..you’re not really surprised, are you? Boulud’s recipe is the finest I’ve found of this ilk, and I’ve tried more than a few. His recipe is very straight-forward, and requires just a handful of ingredients, but because there are so few items in the mix, the quality of each is paramount. Seek the finest short ribs you can get your hands on, you want them thick, meaty and very well and EVENLY marbled. You want the fat in the meat to be abundant, but thin veined and well distributed. Thick slabs of fat in the meat won’t fully melt when braised and end up as gelatinous globs attached to the ribs, a rather gnarly prospect when encountered on your plate.
You’ll want to use a few bottles of decent wine in this dish, certainly not first growth Bordeaux, but something you would actually enjoy drinking by the glass. As a general rule of thumb, I never cook with a wine that I wouldn’t also enjoy drinking by the glass, and with this dish, where the wine gets reduced so severely, starting with a lousy wine will definitely lead to a lousy sauce, which would be a crying shame if you ask me. Those of you with kids may be shocked to learn that 3 bottles of wine are required to make a batch of these babies, but worry not, all of the alcohol gets cooked out of the wine, and the resulting sauce, a luxuriant mix of aromatics, beef stock and the wine, is a huge hit with all the kids in our family. In fact, we had to watch the boys closely the other night, as they raced through their meals to be the first to get to second helpings, you’d think that hadn’t eaten in weeks! Yes, violence was threatened.
You’ll want to make sure that you brown the meat well before braising it, and take good care to skim impurities from the braising liquid frequently, both during the initial cooking stage, and also when reducing the liquid to the rich sauce that will accompany dress the ribs when served. This point is key. The difference between this dish being good and great lies in your skimming junk from the braising liquid, and then greatly reducing it to concentrate its flavor. Show this sauce a little love, and it will return the favor ten-fold!
If you have a big enough stock pot, make a double batch of these so that you have enough to freeze, I know you’re tired of hearing me say that, but trust me, you’ll thank me later. The ribs are delicious served over a purée of celery root and potato (as shown in the photo), the recipe for which is shown below. While many restaurants now serve short-ribs year round, I do find these to be particularly well suited for cool weather dining. Those off you in northern regions still have time to whip up a batch of these this season, I invite the rest of you to bookmark it and come back to it in the Fall.
Cheers – S
- 3 bottles dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
- Salt and crushed black peppercorns
- Flour, for dredging
- 8 large shallots, peeled, trimmed, split, rinsed and dried
- 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 ribs of celery, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1 medium-sized leek (white and light-green parts), coarsely chopped, washed and dried
- 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 2 bay leaves and 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 quarts unsalted beef broth
- Freshly ground white pepper
Celery Root Puree:
- 4 cups whole milk and 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 2 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in half
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Pour the wine into a large saucepan set over medium heat. When the wine is hot, carefully set it aflame. Let the flames die out, then increase the heat so that the wine boils; allow it to boil until it cooks down by half. Remove from the heat.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- Warm the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Season the ribs all over with salt and the crushed pepper. Dust half of the ribs with about 1 tablespoon flour. Then, when the oil is hot, slip the ribs into the pot and sear 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until well-browned. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Repeat with remaining ribs. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot, lower the heat under the pot to medium and toss in the vegetables and herbs. Brown the vegetables lightly, 5 to 7 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the wine, ribs and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs are very tender. Every 30 minutes, skim and discard fat from the surface. (It's best to make the recipe to this point, cool and chill the ribs and broth in the pan overnight; scrape off the fat the next day. Rewarm before continuing.)
- Carefully transfer the meat to a platter; keep warm. Boil the pan liquid until it has reduced to 1 quart. Season with salt and white pepper and pass through a fine strainer; discard the solids. (The ribs and sauce can be combined and kept covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat gently, basting frequently, on top of the stove or in a 350°F oven.)
- To serve, spoon the celery root puree into the center of 8 plates and top each with a short rib. Pour the sauce onto the plate around the puree.
Celery Root Puree:
- Place the milk, water, salt, celery root, and potatoes in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Lower the heat; simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes; drain and return them to the pan.
- Place the pan over low heat to cook off excess moisture; transfer the vegetables to a food processor. Add the butter, then puree until just smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.