Beef Short Ribs Braised in Beer
Short ribs have enjoyed something of a revival in the past few years for two very good reasons—their succulent, wonderfully beefy flavor and reasonable cost. This dish is a variation on carbonnades à la flamande, a traditional Belgian specialty in which chunks of beef stew meat are tenderized to the melting point by slow-cooking in a generous amount of Belgium’s famous beer. Here short ribs receive a similarly transformational braising in a good dark beer, preferably one that’s neither too bitter nor too sweet. I generally choose Brooklyn Brown Ale, but a strong Belgian beer, such as a robust Rodenbach red ale or Ichtegem’s brown ale, or even a domestic one, such as Samuel Adams, would work just as well. By the time the ribs have finished cooking, the combination of thinly sliced, nearly caramelized onions, beer, and stock has created a mellow, flavorful, thick sauce with subtle hints of bitterness and sweetness. As you might expect, potatoes—mashed, or plain boiled—would be an ideal accompaniment. And there should be plenty of good crusty bread for mopping up every last speck of delicious sauce.
SERVES6 TO 8
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturejuicy, meaty, rich, savory, sweet, tangy
- ¾ cup canola or other vegetable oil
- 5 to 6 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
- 4 large onions, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into thin slices
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 bottles (12 ounces each) dark ale or beer
- 8 cups Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 bay leaves
- Coarse (kosher) salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
Heat ½ cup of the oil in a very large, heavy, flameproof casserole or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add only enough of the short ribs to fit into the casserole without crowding and brown well on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side. As the ribs are browned, transfer them to a platter and continue browning the remaining ribs in batches.
When all the ribs are browned and removed from the casserole, discard the oil from the casserole, but do not wash it (you want to keep those flavorful brown bits). Return the casserole to the stove. Add the remaining ¼ cup oil and the onions and cook slowly, covered, over low heat until the onions are very soft but not browned, about 20 minutes.
Uncover the casserole and sprinkle the sugar over the onions. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onions have caramelized slightly and are just light brown in color, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the flour turns light brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 bottle of the beer and increase the heat to medium high. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the casserole with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits.
Return the ribs to the casserole along with the stock, remaining beer, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, skimming the top occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and cook, tightly covered, until the meat is very tender, 1½ to 2 hours; you should be able to pull the bones from the meat with ease. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a platter and let cool.
While the ribs cool, check the liquid in the casserole. If it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it’s ready to use as a sauce. If not, increase the heat to medium and reduce the liquid until it reaches the proper thickness. This may take up to an additional 15 minutes. Taste; the sauce should be slightly bitter, with a subtle, balancing touch of sweetness from the caramelized onions. Season with salt and pepper; remove and discard the bay leaves.
When the ribs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and return the meat to the casserole. Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. If you’ll be serving immediately, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce; otherwise, refrigerate overnight and remove the hardened fat before reheating.
2000 David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips