Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braised Beef Short Ribs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Pot Luck Dinner”

The Set-up: Ina and her friends, T.R. (!!) and Kirk (Curt?), are planning a pot luck dinner together.

The Menu: Scott’s Short Ribs, Cheddar Dill Cornbread, Meringue Chantilly with Stewed Berries

0:59 – Ina and two friends, the famous T.R., and another fellow named Kirk or possibly Curt are sipping coffee at Tate’s Bakeshop and scheming their next move.

1:18 – T.R. proposes a pot luck dinner at his house. Ina immediately says she’ll make the main course, Kirk/Curt drops some wine knowledge on them so he’s in charge of drinks, leaving T.R. with dessert duty. Something berry-related.

2:01 – We’re back in the barn where Ina says she has three rules for pot luck parties: 1. Make it ahead, 2. Make something that travels well, 3. Make it delicious. The result: She’s making Scott’s Short Ribs starting with roasting the beef in the oven rather than on the stove top.

3:45 – Over to T.R. who claims he’s going to make Meringues Chantilly with Stewed Berries and despite the fact that he’s in Loaves and Fishes he’s just buying cream…right. #Chekhovsrecipecard

4:11 – Back to Ina who is prepping all the vegetables that will go into the short rib sauce - leeks, fennel, carrots, celery - to create layers of flavor. Yum!

5:52 – Ina says that all the vegetables are intended to counter balance the richness of the beef with a brighter, fresh taste.

9:24 – Now that the hardier vegetables have been cooking for awhile, it’s time to add the garlic, tomato paste, and wine. Very boeuf bourgignon inspired.

10:07 – Pro Tip #1: tie the herbs together with kitchen twine to make removing the stems easier later.

11:43 – Short ribs are out of the oven and ready to be nestled into the sauce before they go back in the oven to slowly braise. Surprise ingredient: brown sugar.

12:18 – You know I don’t normally quibble with Ina, but I have to bring up a discrepancy. In this episode she said we didn’t have to make our own beef stock (see minute 19:23), now she has homemade!

13:26 – Over to T.R. as he shops for the berries he’ll need for the Meringues Chantilly with Stewed Berries all the while making grandiose statements about how he’s going to make them all by himself. #foreshadowing

14:39 – The ribs are out of the oven and they’re literally falling off the bone. Pro Tip #2: Bones help to flavor and thicken the sauce.

18:31 – The sauce has reduced while the short ribs rested and now Ina is just keeping everything warm until it’s time for dinner.

19:45 – We’re back with T.R. as he continues to make progress on dessert – whipping cream, cooking fresh berries – all in a very charming cottage kitchen while wearing a pink/white seersucker shirt. How seaside.

20:52 – It’s not nice to laugh at another’s misfortune, but T.R. is about to be hung on his own petard when he realizes that meringues need to bake for 2 hours and then slowly cooled for several more hours. His reaction is straight from the Cher Horowitz play book.

21:20 – While T.R. is left to deal with this setback, we go back to Ina where all is serene as she bakes Cheddar Dill Cornbread to sop up the sauces.

22:03 – I’ve made a version of Ina’s cornbread before and it’s incredible since it’s actually moist unlike most others. Add it to your repertoire immediately!

23:44 – I love that Ina uses her food processor so sparingly. Call me crazy, but I kind of prefer to do as much as I can manually – more control, I guess?

27:48 – Ina’s devotion to garnishing with an ingredient that’s actually in the dish is spot-on; in this case: shreds of cheddar on top. I’m always confused when the decoration is totally unrelated to the recipe.

28:12 – T.R. is throwing himself on the mercy of Anna Pump back at Loaves and Fishes who rescues him with the last three meringues in the store, which he neglects to pay for as he races home in his Jeep woody wagon. Oh, production team that’ll be $12!

29:27 – Kirk/Curt, with impeccable timing, arrives bearing wine just as dinner hits the table. They all dive in and Ina throws some light shade in T.R.’s direction with a comment about how she can’t wait for dessert. She knows something’s up.

29:50 – He tries to pretend it’s all Barefoot “buy something, make something…” style, but he’s 100% caught! I hope she makes him do all the dishes.

Final Thoughts:
Do more garnishing and think through even the smallest elements of the dish.

Poor T.R., the comic relief but also a reminder to always read the recipe!

How did Kirk/Curt get off so easily? He’s on wine-duty again next time?!

Braised Beef Short Ribs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I wrongly thought that because I see short ribs on restaurant menus all the time they must take a lot of skill to prepare. As it turns out, making Scott’s Short Ribs is dead easy and makes you look like a hero.

Trimming the Beef – My ribs didn’t come pre-trimmed and to be honest I didn’t notice that they were supposed to be. Maybe I should have learned from T.R. and read the recipe more carefully! The good news is this won’t sink your results in anyway, but it does mean that you’ll be dodging some fatty bits later. In the future I will definitely trim!

Pre-roasting – I love this method of browning the ribs, so much simpler than in a pan. I lined my baking sheet with aluminum foil just to make the dishes a little easier and patted the ribs dry with paper towels before seasoning to make sure they would really get a good sear.

Vegetables – I’ve still find chopping vegetables really relaxing and with so many items to prep this is a great chance to practice your knife skills. I made one small change and added more carrots – about 6 medium – just because braised carrots are so good and I’ll always take a few extra!

Portioning – I didn’t realize how much the ribs would shrink in the cooking and with so much sauce it’s not a bad idea to make a few extra than you think you’ll need if you can fit them in the pot. Depends on the appetite of your eaters, but 2-3 per person is about right.

Braised Beef Short Ribs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, totally. I used a rimmed baking sheet, 5.5 qt French oven, chef’s knife, large cutting board, vegetable peeler, tongs, measuring cups, and a wooden spatula. Aluminum foil will make clean up faster and paper towels are helpful for getting a good sear on the ribs.

The Verdict:
I made Scott’s Short Ribs as a special dinner for Mike’s birthday celebration, but honestly with so little hands-on time needed this could be an anytime recipe. The beef is amazingly delicious, fall off the bone tender and the vegetables are savory and super flavorful. I’m so glad I made this before winter truly arrives so this can be a staple of our cold-weather dinners! PS: This is really good with the Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits!

Braised Beef Short Ribs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Braised Beef Short Ribs | Image: Laura Messersmith