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Pomegranate-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Prunes and Sesame

Why This Recipe Works

This braise takes its cue from a popular combination in Moroccan tagines: meltingly tender beef and sweet, tangy prunes. We found that using pomegranate juice— another Moroccan element—as the braising liquid gave our sauce the perfect touch of tartness to balance the meatiness of the beef and the sweetness of the prunes. A good dose of ras el hanout added a pleasing, piquant aroma. We chose short ribs for their intense, beefy flavor but found we needed to remove the fat throughout the cooking process. Rather than simply browning the ribs, we started by roasting them in the oven; this enabled us to render and discard a significant amount of fat. After braising, we defatted the cooking liquid, then blended it with the vegetables and part of the prunes to create a velvety sauce. We added the remaining prunes to the sauce and garnished the dish with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.

Serves 6 to 8

Short ribs come in two styles: English-style ribs contain a single rib bone and a thick piece of meat. Flanken-style ribs are cut thinner and have several smaller bones. While either will work here, we prefer the less expensive and more readily available English-style ribs. If using flanken-style ribs, flip the ribs halfway through roasting in step 1. We prefer to use our Ras el Hanout (recipe follows), but you can substitute store-bought ras el hanout if you wish, though flavor and spiciness can vary greatly by brand.

4 pounds bone-in English-style short ribs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons ras el hanout (see recipe below)
4 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup prunes, halved
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pat short ribs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs bone side down in single layer in large roasting pan and roast until meat begins to brown, about 45 minutes.

2. Discard any accumulated fat and juices in pan and continue to roast until meat is well browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer ribs to bowl and tent loosely with aluminum foil; set aside. Stir pomegranate juice and water into pan, scraping up any browned bits; set aside.

3. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in ras el hanout and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Stir in pomegranate mixture from roasting pan and half of prunes and bring to simmer. Nestle short ribs bone side up into pot and bring to simmer. Cover, transfer pot to oven, and cook until ribs are tender and fork slips easily in and out of meat, about 2½ hours.

5. Transfer short ribs to bowl, discard any loose bones, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Strain braising liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator; transfer solids to blender. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then pour defatted liquid into blender with solids and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

6. Transfer sauce to now-empty pot and stir in vinegar and remaining prunes. Return short ribs and any accumulated juices to pot, bring to gentle simmer over medium heat, and cook, spooning sauce over ribs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer short ribs to serving platter, spoon 1 cup sauce over top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Ras el Hanout

Makes about ½ cup

Ras el hanout is a complex Moroccan spice blend that traditionally features a host of warm spices. We use it to give robust flavor to couscous dishes, soups, stews, braises, and more. If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, you can substitute ½ teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

16 cardamom pods
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons anise seeds
½ teaspoon allspice berries
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground dried Aleppo pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Toast cardamom, coriander, cumin, anise, allspice, and peppercorns in small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, shaking skillet occasionally to prevent scorching, about 2 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Transfer toasted spices, ginger, nutmeg, Aleppo, and cinnamon to spice grinder and process to fine powder. (Ras el hanout can be stored at room temperature in airtight container for up to 1 year.)

Nutrition Facts: 330 calories, 14g fat, 5g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 32g carbohydrates, 19g protein, 2g fiber, 230mg sodium

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