From America's Test Kitchen Season 2: Winter Dinner
Short ribs are often overlooked, but with a good braise and a velvety sauce, these flavorful ribs are just as tender and satisfying as a beef stew—and with much more panache.
The first step in most braises is browning the meat, which adds color and flavor. In the case of short ribs, it also presents a needed opportunity to remove some excess fat from the meat. We decided to brown our ribs in the oven. This way, the ribs could brown for a long time to maximize rendering, and it wouldn’t be the messy ordeal it is on the stovetop. As for braising liquid, we eliminated canned beef broth (too tinny) and water (too bland), but found that canned chicken broth offered sufficient backbone. When enriched by the flavor and body contributed by the ribs themselves, the chicken broth provided a rich, robust sauce. We also learned of the importance of a good, solid red wine here. Along with an abundance of herbs and aromatics, the wine adds the complexity and resonance that we were looking for. To transform our braising liquid into a lustrous sauce, we added flour to the sautéed vegetables before pouring in the liquid.
Finally, we needed to remove some of the fat released by the ribs as they browned. The best way to do this was a two-day process. After braising the meat, we let the ribs cool in the braising liquid (so they didn’t dry out), removed them, strained the liquid, and then chilled the ribs and liquid separately. The next day, we spooned the solidified fat off the liquid’s surface, and heated the liquid and the meat together.
If braising and serving the ribs on the same day, bypass cooling the ribs in the braising liquid; instead, remove them from the pot straight out of the oven, strain the liquid, then let it settle so that the fat separates to the top. With a wide shallow spoon, skim off as much fat as possible and continue with the recipe. Though this recipe and the one that follows call for widely available English-style short ribs, both recipes will also work with flanken-style short ribs.