A great sale on beef short ribs at my local Whole Foods triggered our Sunday supper. After returning home from the market, I started to look for recipes and found one I thought would be perfect for a late-summer night, Jacques Pepin’s “Beef Short Rib, Mushroom, and Potato Stew.” The fact that it utilized a pressure cooker made it especially appealing, as we were having a bit of a heat wave. I made another trip to the market to pick up the potatoes and dried shiitake mushrooms called for by the recipe. Back home, as my husband was unpacking the shopping bag, he asked what the mushrooms were for. When I told him, he looked a bit perplexed and said: “Didn’t you write that one up already?” I searched my blog and, sure enough, I had done a post on the dish last year.
Another cook-book search for a recipe that wouldn’t require another walk to the market (We don’t have a car.) yielded one that could use the just-purchased potatoes and didn’t call for anything I didn’t already have on hand. The source was Mark Bittman’s tome How To Cook Everything; the recipe, “Short Ribs Braised with Potatoes and Mustard.”
As I studied the recipe, I began to question the specified braising liquid: one cup of stock or water “or more if needed” to start, as well as “a little more stock, water, or dry red wine—if the mixture seems dry” after the first hour of cooking. I wanted more flavor than stock or water would provide, but didn’t want to use, as I often do for beef, red wine. I ultimately decided on two cups of Sauvignon Blanc and just enough chicken broth (about a cup) to provided enough coverage.
I also mistrusted the recipe’s total cooking time, which totaled about an hour and a half. The last time I cooked shot ribs as thick as the ones I had, they didn’t quite reach that quintessential “falling-off-the-bone” stage. I knew the ribs would need more time, but wasn’t sure exactly how much more. So, to avoid a late-night supper, I decided to start the dish early in the afternoon and, when it was finished, to set it aside and then reheat it when we were ready for dinner. I’m glad I chose this approach. Including the minimal prep time, the browning of the meat, the initial braising of the meat, followed by braising with the potatoes, the cooking time totaled 4 hours.
A little after 4 in the afternoon, I removed the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon, placed it in a bowl, covered it, and set it aside. I left the liquid in the pot uncovered so that it would cook some, allowing me to skim off any excess fat before reheating. When we were ready for dinner, I skimmed the sauce, whisked in a tad more mustard, and when it was hot, returned the ribs to the pot, over a very low flame, and heated them for about 30 minutes.
Everything was perfectly cooked; the meat lusciously falling off the bone; the potatoes entirely tender. We especially liked the flavor. Unlike previous braises with red wine, a mix of herbs and vegetables, this minimal approach didn’t have us asking “Where’s the beef?” The ribs’ rich meaty flavors prevailed, complemented nicely by the onions, white wine, and touch of thyme.
Short Ribs Braised with Potatoes and Mustard (Adapted from a Recipe in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ¼ pounds thick meaty, bone-in short ribs (about 4)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chopped onions (1 large onion)
2 cups Sauvignon Blanc, or other dry white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup chicken broth (approximately)
1 pound new potatoes (about 8 potatoes)
3 tablespoons good Dijon mustard
Chopped parsley, for garnish
1. Put the oil in a large pot with a lid or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When hot, brown the short ribs well on all sides sprinkling them with salt and pepper as they cook and adjusting the heat so that the ribs don’t burn. 20 minutes or so; don’t rush it.
2. Transfer the ribs to a plate, pout off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the wine and 2 tablespoons of mustard, raise the heat to high, and stir for a minute or so to cook off some of the alcohol. Add the thyme, and some salt and pepper.
3. Return the ribs to the pot, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Add just enough broth to come ¾ the sides of the ribs. (About a cup.) Turn in the sauce.
4. Raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook, for 1 hour.
5. Turn the ribs and continue to cook for about 40 minutes, until the ribs start to feel tender.
6. Rinse and halve the potatoes. Add them to the pot, between the ribs, cover, and continue to cook until the meat is very tender and almost falling off the bone and the potatoes are soft, approximately 1 ½ hours. Midway through, check to make sure there is sufficient liquid. If needed, add a little extra broth.
7. When the ribs are done, transfer to a bowl. Whisk in an additional tablespoon of mustard. Raise the heat to high and cook stirring for a couple of minutes to slightly thicken the sauce. Off the flame, return the ribs to pot, and turn in the sauce.
8. Serve in heated bowls with the potatoes, sprinkled with the parsley.
Wine Pairing: Cotes du Rhone