Winter months require comfort food- especially if you live in a city with normal winter temps. But even I, living in a city with temps that average 60°F during the “coldest” months of the year, need cozy meals to make my insides feel warm and fuzzy. Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribs are the epitome of comfort food. Meaty short ribs are first seared to create a crust of flavor. Afterwards, the short ribs are braised- low and slow- in the merlot sauce. Everything’s blended together in the end to create a luxuriously rich sauce. I serve mine over grits, sometimes pasta, but rice or mashed potatoes are also great options.
Use a good-quality merlot*, because it’s the flavor focal point. *The wine was provided to me by Kuhlman Cellars, but my opinions and suggestions are- as always- my own.
What you will need to make Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribs
I’m using Kuhlman Cellars Merlot because it’s our latest obsession. Use this one, or a favorite merlot that you would drink on its own. You’re going to end up fortifying whatever merlot you use, so it must be good. Grab 6 pounds of beef short ribs. Don’t be alarmed at the weight. Six pounds of short ribs is needed because you’ll experience a lot of product loss after trimming the fat and silverskin, then removing the bones, all of which are a must. You need 6 pounds to end up with a decent amount of edible meat.
You’ll also need:
- a large onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- diced tomatoes (canned are fine)
- beef stock
- bay leaf
- dijon mustard
- dried or fresh thyme leaves
Let’s get started!
For the love of God, trim the meat!
Before you even consider skipping this step- don’t! You know that I don’t normally tell you, “No! Don’t do that!” This time, however, I am. Do not skip trimming your short ribs. Better yet, ask the butcher or someone in the meat department to do it. It doesn’t matter how it gets trimmed because it has to be done.
You can see the layer of fat I’m talking about in the image above. That fat will become gristly and slimy after braising in the liquid. It’ll also make your finished sauce super-greasy.
Use a chef’s knife to carefully slice away this layer of fat. See the thin, translucent epimysium that holds the fat to the muscle? It looks like a cobweb. If you slice that away, the fat will come off a lot neater.
Once you’ve removed the fat, flip the short ribs over and remove the silverskin from the bone area. If left on during cooking, that silverskin becomes rubbery. Because the silverskin is much firmer than the fat is, it may be more difficult to remove completely. Don’t fret if you can’t remove it all, just try to get rid of most of it.
After you trim the short ribs, pat them dry with a paper towel. Hold off on seasoning them until just before searing them.
One important thing to learn about cooking is color= flavor. You’ve felt betrayed after biting into a pale steak before, right? A browned, crusty steak, on the other hand, leaves you slapping the table in ecstacy. It’s the browning of the sugars and protein in the meat that cause the Maillard reaction, which is what’s responsible for that amazingness. In short: sear your meat if you want it to have flavor.
When you’re all set to sear, season the short ribs liberally on each side with kosher salt and pepper.
Heat some vegetable oil over high heat in a dutch oven. Once the oil starts to shimmy in the pan, add your dry, seasoned short ribs to the pot. Press them down with your tongs to make sure every bit of surface area comes in contact with the metal. Sear the short ribs for 4-5 minutes- without moving or harassing them- or until they develop a nice crusty coating. I test that the meat is properly seared by pushing it with the tongs. If it moves, it’s finished searing. Meat that sticks to the bottom of the pan, isn’t finished searing.
If there’s a good amount of smoke coming from the pan, or the bottom of the pan looks dry (unlike what’s pictured), you’ll need to add more oil and remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool before attempting to finish.
Once the short ribs have been seared on top and bottom, remove them to a plate. This is what to your wondering eyes should appear. FOND!! Glorious fond! That’s just fancy chef-talk for browned, crusty-bits of meat which stick to the bottom of the pan.
Sauté the aromatics
Throw the chopped onions and garlic into the pot and use your wooden spoon to stir them around occasionally while they sauté. I like to use my flat-edge wooden spoon whenever I’m making anything that develops a fond. You’ll see why in the next step.
Sauté the aromatics for 3-4 minutes. You want them to take on a little color and look glossy.
Use a Merlot you’d drink from the glass
Here’s why I like using my flat spoon for recipes that involve fond. This is also where I tell you why it’s so important to use a merlot you’d drink from a
bottle glass. Freudian slip. Sorry ’bout that.
A good merlot shouldn’t taste like vinegar or make tears come to your eyes with its acidity. Different flavors- cherry, rosewater, and eucalyptus in Kuhlman’s merlot’s case- should be what comes through on your palate. Lastly, the taste of the wine should linger for a few minutes after you’ve sipped it. Good wine counts for so much, especially when you’re concentrating it during the cooking process.
Add the wine to the pot and use it to help loosen the fond from the bottom. Just scrape at those browned bits with that flat-edged spoon. The browned bits are stirred into our liquids to create more body for our sauce. This step is called “deglazing the pan.”
Once that’s done, stir in the beef stock.
Add the diced tomatoes and their juice. I used canned tomatoes to cut down on my prep. You can use fresh tomatoes, but the finished sauce will be much thicker in the end. Add the dijon mustard to the pot along with the tomatoes.
The last of the sauce ingredients are the bay leaves and dried (or fresh) thyme leaves.
Stir everything together and bring the mixture up to a boil.
Braise the beef
As soon as the liquid begins to boil, return the short ribs to the pot. Nestle the ribs into the sauce (using your tongs) so they’re partially submerged.
Remove the pot from the stove and cover it with the lid. Carefully place the pot into the oven, preheated to 350°F, and braise the short ribs for 2 1/2 hours.
After 2 1/2 hours, the short ribs will look like this.
Wipe your mouth. Show some decorum…at least until we serve it.
Blend the Merlot sauce
Remove the ribs from the pot to a platter and leave them to cool a bit; extract and discard the bay leaves too.
In the meantime, use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth.
Once the ribs are cool, pull the bone from them, which should slide right on out. From here, you can shred the meat with forks, or leave the ribs whole.
Return the meat to the pot and let the meat swim in the sauce until you’re ready to serve. If the sauce has cooled down too much, feel free to reheat it until warmed through.
What to serve your Merlot Braised Short Ribs with
As I mentioned before, I serve these Merlot Short Ribs nestled in a bed of Cheesy Grits with Garlic. The grits soak up that sauce and create happiness that’s somewhere between nirvana and the Anthropologie tag sale.
Cooked pasta, mashed potatoes, or rice are all great vessels for soaking up this rich sauce if you’re not a grits lover. A green salad on the side rounds out the meal.
Of course, I also enjoy my meal with a glass of merlot.
These fork-tender short ribs are well worth the effort of the 2 1/2 hours braising time. Pin this recipe for later and head on over to Kuhlman Cellars to pick up your bottles of merlot.
Merlot Braised Beef Short Ribs
- dutch oven
- immersion blender
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 6 pounds beef short ribs (trimmed of fat and silverskin)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cup Kuhlman Cellars Merlot
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (or 4 large roma tomatoes, chopped)
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
To Serve (choose one of the following suggestions)
- 1 batch Cheesy Grits with Garlic optional
- mashed potatoes
- cooked pasta
Season, then Sear, the Beef Short Ribs
- First, move your oven rack to the lower half of the oven to accommodate your dutch oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Heat the oil over high heat in a dutch oven. While you're waiting for the oil to heat up, pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel. Season the short ribs liberally on each side with the salt and pepper.
- Once the oil starts to shimmy in the pan, press the short ribs into the pot with your tongs to make sure every bit of surface area comes in contact with the metal.
- Sear the short ribs for 4-5 minutes- without disturbing them- until they develop a nice crust. The meat is properly seared when it moves without sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Sauté the Aromatics
- Once are seared on top and bottom, remove them to a plate. The meat will not be cooked through at this point.
- Decrease the heat to medium-high and sauté the onions and garlic in the pot, using a wooden spoon to stir them around occasionally. Sauté the aromatics for 3-4 minutes. You want them to take on a little color and look glossy.
Deglaze the Pot and Finish the Braising Liquid
- Add the wine to the pot, use a flat-edge wooden spoon to scrape up the fond from the bottom. Then stir in the beef stock.
- Add the diced tomatoes with their liquid, the mustard, bay leaf, and thyme leaves. Stir everything together and bring the mixture up to a boil.
- Once the liquid begins to boil, return the short ribs to the pot, ensuring they're partially submerged. Cover the pot with the lid and carefully place it into the oven.
- Braise the short ribs for 2 1/2 hours.
Finish the Short Ribs
- Remove the ribs from the pot to a platter and let them cool slightly. Extract and discard the bay leaves.
- In the meantime, use an immersion blender* to blend the sauce until smooth. Once the ribs are cool, remove the bone (they should slide out easily). Shred the meat with two forks, or leave the ribs whole.
- Return the meat to the pot and stir to coat the meat in the sauce. Reheat the sauce over low heat if the sauce has cooled too much.
- Serve the Merlot Short Ribs nestled in a bed of Cheesy Grits with Garlic, mashed potatoes, or cooked pasta.
Here are more hearty and comforting meat recipes: