Beef short ribs are the ultimate hands-off, make-ahead crowd pleaser. Thanks to well-marbled meat, these ribs require very little attention as they cook slowly for hours to become incredibly tender and succulent. Prepared a day or two ahead, their flavors seem to intensify, and all that's needed at mealtime is to reheat and serve.
Bone-in short ribs are seldom sold pre-packaged; it's best to ask for them at a local butcher shop or the meat department of the co-op or grocery stores. The best cut for roasting or braising is the English style, which are cut parallel to the bone. Because there is one bone per piece, surrounded by plenty of meat, these hefty chunks hold their shape, make a fine presentation and are easy to eat with your hands (isn't that the point?). Look for grass-fed beef from a local ranch, now widely available throughout the region. According to the Mayo Clinic, meat from pasture-raised cattle can be lower in fat than other types of beef and higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E.
Most recipes call for braising short ribs in wine or stock, but in this recipe they're seared in a heavy skillet before roasting, covered, in a low oven for at least three hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Traditionally served with horseradish sauce, they're also great with a generous dollop of spicy tomato sauce or brushed with prepared barbecue sauce or a honey-mustard sauce.
Serve the ribs with roasted potatoes or atop polenta or buttered noodles. Any leftover meat is fabulous shredded for tacos, on nachos, in shepherd's pies and stews. Save those bones to simmer in a soup pot for a hearty beef broth. So much good, so little effort.
Oven-Roasted Short Ribs
In this recipe, the short ribs are seared first to develop a good firm crust and finished in a low oven until the meat falls from the bone. These may be cooked up to two days ahead and, once cooled, covered and stored in the refrigerator and reheated in the oven before serving. Store the extra tomato sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator or freeze. From Beth Dooley.
For the ribs:
• 4 to 5 lb. beef short ribs, cut English-style across the bone.
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the spicy tomato sauce:
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes
• Generous shot of hot sauce, such as Sriracha, to taste
• 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
• Salt and black pepper, to taste
To prepare the ribs: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Drizzle the meat with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
In a heavy cast iron skillet set over high heat, sear the ribs until they've developed a firm crust on all sides, about 5 minutes per side.
Transfer the ribs to a baking sheet or large casserole dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and roast for 3 hours. Check, they should look pale. Remove the foil and continue roasting until they are crusty brown and very tender, another 20 to 30 minutes.
To prepare the spicy tomato sauce: Film a large, straight-sided skillet with the oil and set over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until just lightly golden. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, hot sauce, thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick, stirring and mashing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon to break them down. Remove and discard the thyme sprig, taste and adjust the seasonings.
Serve the short ribs with a dollop of the spicy tomato sauce or your favorite salsa.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.