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Braised Beef Short Ribs, Chinese-Style

(recipe, Fran McCullough & Molly Stevens)


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Introduction

From the book Come for Dinner, by Leslie Revsin. Beef short ribs have become a real darling of chefs and serious home cooks in recent years, and there's no mystery as to why. When tucked into a braising pot with a few aromatic ingredients and left to simmer quietly for hours, the meaty ribs emerge lusciously tender. Few dishes deliver such big flavor with so little fuss. This version, one of the best we’ve tried, comes from the late Leslie Revsin, a superbly talented chef and food writer. The classic Chinese flavor combination of sherry, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, and star anise gives the ribs an intensely aromatic, slightly sweet character. In addition to penetrating the meat, the soy-based braising liquid bestows the ribs with a rich, caramelized appearance. Just one look at them, and you know they'll be good. Like many slow-cooked dishes, these short ribs benefit from being made ahead and left to sit overnight in the braising liquid (see note). Serve with mashed potatoes, with some of the braising liquid spooned over the top.

Ingredients

  1. ½ cup soy sauce
  2. ½ cup fino sherry, dry white wine, or dry vermouth
  3. 2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  4. 1⅓ cups drained and coarsely chopped canned plum tomatoes
  5. ⅔ cup water
  6. 4 star anise
  7. 6 lb. beef short ribs on the bone, cut into 3-inch lengths
  8. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1½ Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more if needed
  10. 6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  11. 6 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  12. Fresh ginger (a 1-inch piece about the diameter of a quarter, cut into 8 slices)
  13. 2 Tbsp. thinly sliced scallions, cut on the diagonal, for garnish

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and set a rack in the middle level.
  2. Stir the soy sauce, sherry (or wine or vermouth), brown sugar, and tomatoes together in a bowl. Stir in the water and star anise. Set aside.
  3. Dry the ribs with paper towels and season very lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Heat a heavy flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. (The casserole should be large enough to hold more than two layers.) When the oil is hot, add the ribs in batches (do not crowd) and brown on all sides. Remove them as they’re browned, adding more oil, if necessary.
  4. When all the ribs are browned, pour off the fat and reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, scallion pieces, and ginger, alternately tossing and pressing them against the pot for 1 minute to bring out their flavors. Return the ribs to the pot and pour the soy sauce mixture over them. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise the ribs, turning occasionally, until extremely tender when pierced with a fork, 2½ to 3 hours.
  5. Transfer the ribs to a serving platter. Discard the ginger and star anise and pour the remaining sauce into a large heatproof glass measuring cup. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then spoon off and discard any fat that has risen to the surface. Reheat the sauce, season generously with pepper, and pour over the ribs. Garnish with the thinly sliced scallions and serve hot.

Note

Variation: In a similar recipe in Fine Cooking, Leslie Revsin garnished the ribs with sautéed leeks instead of chopped scallions. When we tasted it, we realized what a good idea it was. Wash 3 medium leeks (white and light green parts) and cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips (2 to 2 1/2 cups). Rinse the strips, drain, and dry well. Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the ribs are ready, scatter the leeks over the top and serve.