Short ribs, normally served solo, can be converted into a fine stew too, with or without the bones.
The secret to stews lies in the thickening, the same element that sets a braise apart from a brothy soup. Stews may contain more solids, or the savory liquid in which they cook may be thickened. Either way, there is that satisfying density.
Many times the thickening is added at the beginning of a stew, but it can also be added toward the end of cooking via a paste of cornstarch and cold water, called a “slurry.” But there are sneakier ways. Pureed, cooked or canned chickpeas will also act as a thickener-and a boost of nutrition. There is also the gelatin that seeps out of bones as they stew. As we know from Jell-O, gelatin thickens anything.
- 3 pounds short ribs, cut across and between the bones to form 12 pieces about 2 inches square (see Note)
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 3 cups diced canned or sterile-pack tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Four 1-x-4-inch strips orange zest
- One 1-x-3-inch strip lemon zest
- 1 pound thin green beans, tipped and tailed
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 large bulb fennel, stalks removed, cut in half, cored, and cut into thin strips
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped oregano
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped thyme
- One 10-ounce package frozen baby lima beans, defrosted in a sieve under warm running water
- ¾ cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 500°F with a rack in the center.
Place the short ribs in one layer in a medium roasting pan and roast for 25 minutes. Turn the pieces, add the garlic, and roast for 15 minutes more.
Put the ribs into a tall, narrow stockpot. Spoon off the fat from the roasting pan and pour any juices over the bones.
Place the roasting pan on top of the stove over medium heat and add ½ cups water. Bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour this liquid over the bones.
Add the tomatoes, 2 cups water, the bay leaf, two pieces of the orange zest, and the lemon zest. Cover the stockpot and bring to a boil. Uncover, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Stir in the green beans and 2 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, occasionally poking the beans down into the liquid. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt and simmer for 10 minutes.
Skim the fat. Add the fennel and the herbs. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining salt, the lima beans, chickpeas, remaining two strips of orange zest, and 2 cups water.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. The meat should be falling off the bones. Season with pepper to taste.
Remove the meat and the bones from the stockpot. Place two pieces of meat (with or without the bones) in each of six bowls and divide the vegetables and liquid evenly over them.