Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Zuni Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale

What better way to celebrate the first day of snow in Boston than with a braise?  I had a tray of Costco Short Ribs in my fridge and decided that I should branch out from my usual red wine braise or balsamic soy braise and try the beer braise from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

If you hate beer, don't let this scare you away from this recipe.  It won't taste like beer when it's done.  The sauce is sweet and mellow.  By the way, does anyone love Costco Short Ribs as much as I do?  Have you tried them?  They are boneless, but I actually prefer them this way.  Short ribs have so much flavor and fat that they turn out fine without the bone.  It's also a steal at $6/Lb.  Most of the butchers in the area sell bone-in short ribs for $9/Lb.  Considering the fact that almost half the weight is the bone, you are talking $16/Lb.  For a braising cut, that's rather steep.

I made a few trivial modifications to the original recipe.  I add more liquid to avoid flipping the meat during cooking and then reduce the sauce in the end to concentrate the flavor.  I also cooked the short ribs a lot longer.  About 2 hours that the recipe suggested is never enough to turn the braising cuts of beef fork tender in my opinion.  I braised for 3 hours at 300F.

As with all braises, make this 1-4 days before serving.  The short ribs will only taste better and de-greasing the sauce will be a breeze once the fat solidifies in the fridge.

Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale 
Adopted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

For 6-8 servings

3 Lb boneless short ribs (bone-in is fine, but you'll have fewer servings)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Lb yellow onions (about 5 medium), sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 bay leaves
Up to 2 cups beef or brown chicken stock
Up to 2 cups Chimay ale or similar Belgian-style ale or mellow porter or stout
About 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

  1. Season: Trim most of the fat and connective tissue from the short ribs.  Season them liberally with salt.  Judy Rodgers suggests that you do this 1-2 days in advance, cover loosely and refrigerate.  If you are not going to do this step in advance, I suggest that you brown the short ribs first (see the next step) and then season them.
  2. Brown: Preheat the oven to 300F.  Dry the meat thoroughly on paper towels.  Pour olive oil into a large saute pan (I used a 12 inch pan with straight sides) and warm it up over high heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the meat in a single layer without crowding and turn down the heat to medium.  Cook until the first side is brown, about 4 minutes.  Flip and brown on all the other sides.  Note that the first side will take the longest.  If using bone-in short ribs, you only need to brown the 3 meaty sides.  If the meat wasn't seasoned in advance, sprinkle with salt on all sides.
  3. Braise: If using bone-in short ribs arrange them bone side down.  Toss the onions with a little salt and spread on top of the short ribs.  Add bay leaves, and equal parts stock and ale until the liquid comes slightly more than half way up the short ribs.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in the middle of the oven until the short ribs are fork tender (I would even call it spoon tender :), about 3 hours.  
  4. Chill overnight: Let the short ribs cool in their braising liquid for 2 hours.  Then remove the meat from the sauce, and pour the sauce into a tall container.  Cool both to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Next day the fat will solidify on top of the sauce.  Lift it off with a spoon and discard.
  5. Rewarm: Pour the sauce into a large saute pan and bring to a boil.  Boil down over moderately-high heat until it thickens slightly and becomes intensely flavorful, about 5 minutes.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Add the short ribs in a single layer and cover the pan.  Turn down the heat to very low and cook until heated through flipping once, about 15 minutes total.  
  6. Broil: Preheat the broiler.  If using bone-in short ribs, place them bone side down.  Smear the top with mustard.  Set the pan under the broiler (about 5 inches from the top) to brown the mustard, 2-5 minutes depending on the strength of the broiler.  Serve with noodles, spaetzle, potatoes, or whatever else strikes your fancy.


Jeanne said...

I am making this tonight... however I do not have until tomorrow to let this braise meld and the fat raise to the top. I will do my best to skim and reduce the sauce tonight.

I will let you know how I netted out and next time plan enough in advance. That's what I get for not paying enough attention to the instructions!

Helen said...

Hi Jeanne,

Your short ribs will be fine :) Judy Rodgers doesn't do the over night thing, so you are in good company.


Irina said...

Hi Helen,

This isn't really a comment related to the short ribs post, but I was wondering if you would consider doing a post some day on the best way to cook fish for eating later (e.g. the following day), the kinds of fish that lend themselves best to reheating, and the best way to reheat fish. Thanks so much!


Helen said...

Hi Irina,

Here is a post on the topic of leftover fish.


Irina said...

Great, thank you! Sorry - I should have searched the blog first before posting!

Jeanne said...

Yum, yum Everyone loved this... I should have made polenta or mashed potatoes... don't know why I didn't. I served with spaghetti squash roasted with butter and brown sugar and french green beans and yeast rolls. It was good, but needed more than the rolls to mop up the sauce! I seived the onions and some garlic cloves I added from the braise liquid, into a sauce pan, skimmed the fat and reduced by half. I adjusted the seasoning and decided on a 2 or so tbs of red wine vinegar. The Costco short ribs WERE spoon-tender, but the sauce was the BOMB!

Helen said...

Jeanne, so glad your short ribs came out well! To be honest, I haven't tried a recipe from the Zuni Cafe cookbook that I haven't liked. I am not a big cookbook person. I hate most of them because lately the story and the pictures count for way more than a well tested, thoroughly, and clearly explained recipe. But Zuni is a stunning book. In my opinion it rivals Julia Child's Mastering the art of French Cooking, but Judy's recipes tend to be lighter and more suited to contemporary taste than Julia's.


Jill Mant~a SaucyCook said...

Yum! I love Short Ribs, the Zuni Cafe and Cotsco! Off to Cotsco tomorrow to get some short ribs. Thanks!! BTW, did you get a chance to try their Rack of Pork while they carried it for the holidays? Very Yum!

Tina said...

I made the braise yesterday, with 4 lbs boneless short ribs and Chimay Blue, both from Costco. My first time braising meat outside of a crock pot, and it worked wonderfully!

I used an All-Clad 6qt. saute pan for the browning, seasoned the meat with salt, spread the onions over top, and poured about 1 1/4 cups each of beef stock and Chimay over the top. That amount of liquid came up to the top the meat, but may not in a larger roasting pan or with the original 3 lbs called for. Your recipe did not mention whether you used the same pan for both stovetop and oven, but that worked well for me.

Chimay makes three ales, and I think each would work in this recipe; anything malty and not too hoppy is great to cook with. I chose the "Blue" because my Costco carries it (and it happens to be my favorite of the three.)

Thank you so much for your blog! I have learned a great deal about food preparation and cooking here over the past couple of years.


Helen said...

Hi Tina,

Glad the short ribs worked out well :) Yes, I use the same pan for searing and baking in the oven. But different pans are fine as long as you pour the liquids into the skillet and simmer for a few minutes to pick up all the brown bits. It would be a lot of flavor lost if they were thrown away. It sounds like it's not an issue for you if you used all-clad cookware, but for people with plastic handle skillets, it might be necessary to use another pan for the oven.


Luba said...

Hi Helen,

I've been a fan of your blog for a while but this is my first time posting! I made this recipe today and the ribs turned out great. However, the onions were just ok. Should they had been caramelized first or what did I miss? I feel they lacked any flavor and were left even a little crunchy despite the 3 hour cooking time. What did I do wrong?

Thanks in advance,

Helen Rennie said...

You could certainly caramelize them first. I was surprised that the recipe in the Zuni cafe cookbook didn't call for it, but it somehow just works. A few things that might help. I use yellow onions (don't know if other types would work). I slice them relatively thinly and mix a bit of salt into them. The salt probably helps them soften.