Saturday Dinner: Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs

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Cold weather is settling in, so we turn our hymnals to those slow-cooked, warm-you-from-the-inside-out recipes that fuel us during the fall and winter. The type of recipe that you start at 1 or 2 p.m. and let roll until 5 or 6 p.m. The type of recipe that involves braising. The first thing I toss in the braising pan each fall are short ribs, simply because they are so good and so easy to make. Sear them, cook the veg, toss in some liquid and move to the oven for the afternoon.

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The problem is that I like my short ribs with bones. The bone’s marrow adds a lot of flavor and richness to sauce and they are typically cheaper than the boneless variety. Yes, you spend more money to get the quantity of meat you want, but it’s worth it for the flavor. According to the moustached man in the Wegmans Fairmount meat department, they stopped getting short ribs with bones weeks ago. While grocers charge more for the boneless variety, Mr. Moustache told me that wholesalers can get more for the bone-in variety from restaurants, who like the bone for presentation purposes. So, instead of $7.49/lb., I was left with $9.99/lb. for meat that was once considered a throwaway cut of beef.

“I remember when we used to just grind short ribs for hamburger,” said Mr. Moustache. “Some joker went on TV, made them famous, and now we charge $10 a pound.”

He’s absolutely right.

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Short ribs usually go into the pan with a bottle of red wine, veg, herbs, and stock. For Saturday’s dinner, I changed things up and went with beer. A stout, to be specific. Stouts are heavier, darker beers by nature. I used the Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Chokolat to add a contrasting chocolatey bitterness to the pan. Did it work, you ask?

WHAT WORKED: The beer. Chokolat is made not only with chocolate malts, but bittersweet Belgian chocolate. It’s an imperial stout at 10 percent ABV, so it packs some muscle. Overall, it added a different flavor. Rather than full-bodied and dry due to wine, this was full-bodied and bitter. Everything went together nicely.

WHAT DIDN’T: Me. I should have removed the third rack from my oven. I didn’t. The result? I burned my forearm on an in-the-way rack. It goes nicely with the burn on the back of my hand. I’m a menace to myself.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is really good. I thought you said there was beer in here?”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: As long as I can find Chokolat or another strong chocolate stout on the shelf, this will go into the braising arsenal.

NOTE ABOUT THE BEER: If you can’t find a chocolate stout, try Guinness or a coffee stout instead. Stay away from milk stouts, as the lactose sugars might not work here. Oatmeal stouts will be far too heavy in flavor and consistency.

Look at how easily this meat breaks apart. I used a fork.
Look at how easily this meat breaks apart. I used a fork.

 

Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs
By Jared Paventi

  • 3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs (or 5 lbs. bone-in)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. canola or other high temperature neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • three medium carrots, washed, peeled and diced
  • three celery stalks, washed, peeled and diced
  • one medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and minced
  • 22 oz. Southern Tier Chokolat (or other high-quality chocolate stout)
  • 32 oz. beef stock
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and move your oven rack to the lowest point of the oven.

Pat beef ribs dry with a paper towel and sprinkle each rib with salt, pepper and brown sugar.

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Heat canola oil in a large braising pan or Dutch oven over high heat. When it shimmers, add the short ribs and sear, 3 to 5 minutes each side. The beef should take on a deep brown color, like a paper grocery bag. Transfer the ribs to a deep bowl and set aside.

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Pour off the oil and any rendered fat. Return the pan to the burner, add the olive oil and, when it shimmers, add the carrots, celery and onions. Reduce heat to medium-high and stir to coat in the oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened and the garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally.

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Pour in the beer, using a heavy wooden spoon to scrape up any burned-on or brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the beer to a boil and add stock and tomato paste to the pan, stirring in the latter. Add the beef to the pan and bring the liquid to a boil.

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Transfer the pan to the lowest rack of the oven and cook 3 hours. Use tongs to move the short ribs to a serving platter, and spoon the liquid and veg over the top.

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