Patience, my friends. That is the only secret to making amazing short ribs. Some days I have it, most days I don’t. But since LA is seriously FREEZING right now, I managed to find just the right amount of patience to let these normally tough cuts of meat turn into melt-in-your mouth tender.
There may be alternative ways to cook them, but the only way to break down the tough connective tissues found in short ribs, is to braise them—looong and slooow in plenty of rich liquid. Short ribs don’t like to be rushed. They are done, only when they say so; by sliding off the bones and melting into their oh-so-decadent sauce. It’s the heart of winter and it’s way too cold to go anywhere. Light a fire, open up your Netflix queue and just be a little patient. This is a dish worth waiting for.
Traditionally, short ribs are served over mashed potatoes or buttered noodles; but at La Grande Orange (one of my favorite restaurants in Pasadena) they are served as street tacos. It’s a great SoCal twist on this classic winter dish.
You can find dried chili peppers everywhere in my neck of the woods, but you can easily substitute chili powder and canned chipotles for the same effect. I was surprised to see how subtle the heat was after using all these peppers.
The seeds are what makes these suckers hot and I removed every last one. If you want a little more heat, I would reserve some for the braising liquid. It’s easy to seed dried chile peppers. Just cut the top stem off and pour them out. Taking a cue from Bobby Flay, I added the peppers to a simmering pot of chicken stock and let them steep for a few minutes.
Give an onion a rough chop. You will remove this later so it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Crush some garlic cloves. I like to use the side of my knife and push down to smash it.
Give your short ribs a nice salt and pepper seasoning. Don’t be shy. Get all sides and let them come to room temperature before cooking.
Be sure to brown the short ribs on all sides prior to braising. You may have to do this in batches depending on how big your dutch oven is. That golden brown color on the outsides gives your ribs great flavor. Don’t skip this step!
Set your browned ribs aside and cook the onions and garlic until softened. Scrape up those brown bits from the bottom of the pan, they are little bits of deliciousness.
I love cooking with wine. I recommend a Zinfandel for this recipe but any dry red wine will work. You don’t need a super expensive bottle; but if doesn’t taste good in a glass it won’t taste good on your food. Let that wine reduce for about twelve minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.
I love recipes that don’t involve a lot of precise chopping. Just throw in your peppers, chicken stock, and thyme
Add your browned short ribs and then cover. Put it in the oven and it’s time to be patient.
I flipped the ribs halfway through cooking since the braising liquid doesn’t completely cover them. It took about two and half hours; the meat should slide off the bones as you stir it. Remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside. The braising liquid will be very greasy at first and won’t taste very good. In order to make a great sauce you will have to remove all that fat. You can strain the liquid into a fat separator or, you can strain the liquid into a bowl and stick it in the freezer for about 30 minutes, which was what I did. All the fat solidifies on top and is easy to remove with a spoon. This seriously grosses me out but is very gratifying at the same time.
For tacos, you need the meat shredded. Remove the meat from the bones and trim off any large pieces of fat. Using two forks, shred the chunks of meat apart. This should be very easy if the meat is cooked through. At the same time, you will want to put your strained sauce back on the stove for a couple more minutes to thicken. Then add the sauce to the shredded meat.
I’m a purist when it comes to street tacos: chopped onion, cilantro and lime on a corn tortilla. It’s all I need. You can put pretty much anything on these; but remember the short ribs are so rich and powerful on their own that less is more. These tasted even better the next morning when my husband used them to make heuvos rancheros. Enjoy (and stay warm!)
Short Rib Street Tacos
- 3 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
- 1/4 cup canola oil (or another neutral flavored oil)
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 dried ancho chili peppers, stems and seeds removed*
- 2 dried New Mexico chili peppers, stems and seeds removed*
- 3 dried guajillo chili peppers, stems and seeds removed *
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 cup dry red wine, like Zinfandel
- 1/2 cup Port
- 15 sprigs thyme
- Coarse Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Corn or Flour tortillas
- Cilantro, chopped
- Onion, chopped
- Lime wedges for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously season short ribs with salt and pepper on all sides. Bring to room temperature.
Combine chicken stock and chili peppers in saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let it steep for about 15 minutes.
Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven on medium-high heat. Brown the short ribs on all sides (you may have to work in batches) and set aside.
Spoon excess oil out of the dutch oven until you’re left with about 3 tablespoons. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute until golden. Pour in wine and port; stir and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the liquid for about 12 minutes. It should be reduced by about half. Add the thyme, chicken stock and chili peppers. Bring to a simmer and add the short ribs back to the pot. Cover and put in the oven. Braise for about 2 and half hours or until meat is tender, flipping the ribs half way through.
Remove short ribs from the pot and shred using two forks. Strain the braising liquid into a fat separator to remove the fat. Or, alternatively, strain braising liquid into a bowl and place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Using a spoon, scoop off the solidified fat and discard. Pour remaining liquid back into a saucepan and simmer for about 10-15 more minutes, until thickened. Pour sauce over the shredded short ribs and toss.
Serve with cilantro, lime and onions in corn or flour tortillas.
*You can substitute ancho chile powder and canned chipotle chili for the dried chili peppers.
Adapted from Bobby Flay