Other people’s recipes: Deborah Krasner’s Red Wine-Braised Short Rib Sauce

I suppose it was a bit of a mistake to promise four recipes with full write-ups in a week, even given the long weekend. I made this beef short-rib recipe from Deborah Krasner’s Good Meat (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; p. 94) back on Monday, and I’m just now getting to the point of writing it up, which means I’ve already forgotten rather too much about the process of making it. I’m a little bit dubious about calling it a “sauce”, although I approve broadly of the sentiment; to me it’s just as much a stew as the Cook’s Illustrated short-rib recipe ($) that’s one of my favorites. Here is how I made it:

Mise en place
We start with the ingredients, as usual. Aside from the aromatics, there’s chicken (not beef) stock, red wine (of course), tomato purée, thyme, cinnamon, and bay. The recipe calls for a surprisingly limited two pounds of grass-fed bone-in short ribs (as with last week’s meatloaf, I used beef from Rain Crow Ranch available at my local Whole Foods; surprisingly, the grass-fed short ribs cost exactly the same as the corn-fattened ones — so why do they still sell the grain-fed ones?). A little bit of olive oil is used to start the cooking process (since the beef fat won’t be rendered until fairly late in the cooking process). As always, it would be preferable to use homemade chicken stock (made from older, flavorful, pastured chickens), but I didn’t have any so I used the stock that was in my pantry.

Chopped aromatics
The aromatics are all chopped up roughly, and then cooked in the olive oil to bring out their flavors and create a fond in the Dutch oven.

Aromatics after sweat
After cooking the aromatics, the pan is deglazed with a bit of the chicken stock, and the vegetables are reserved in a bowl while the Dutch oven is used to brown the short ribs.

Browning the short ribs
The short ribs, having been liberally seasoned and then dredged in flour, are browned in more olive oil. This oil (along with any rendered beef fat) is actually discarded, but any remaining fond on the bottom of the Dutch oven is dissolved in the red wine.

Braising liquid ready to reintroduce meat and veg
The red wine is concentrated, and then the other liquids (the tomato and the remaining chicken stock) are added, along with the herbs and spices, to make a flavorful braising liquid. The aromatics and the browned short ribs are about to be added back to the pot.

Braise ready to go into the oven
If my notes are right, this photo shows the Dutch oven before it goes into the oven to braise for two hours. By the time it’s done, the beef fat is mostly rendered from the short ribs, and the meat has shrunk considerably and is no longer firmly attached to the bone. I divided the stew in three at this point: first, I took the meat out to let it cool enough to shred, then I strained out the other solid matter (what was left of the aromatic vegetables), and finally the gravy went into a bowl to cool until I could run it through the fat separator. I started with a bit more meat than called for (2.135 lb according to the price tag), and ended up, after shredding, with 13¾ oz of edible meat.

Sauce with extracted beef fat
It took two passes (my fat separator is only a pint model, unfortunately) but I did manage to get a fairly substantial amount of fat out of the sauce. Not all of it, by any means, but enough (relative to the amount that was in the uncooked ribs) that I’m reasonable comfortable with the nutrition estimate I’m providing below. I weighed the fat removed and came up with 3¾oz, which certainly left plenty; I also removed 4¼ oz of solid fat and membrane from the cooked meat during the shredding process.

After mixing shredded beef and vegetable mush back into sauce
I mixed the shredded meat, cooked aromatics, and defatted sauce back together for service. The recipe headnote says “enough to serve 4 as a main course”; my total yield was about 3¼ lb. After trying 8-ounce servings, which seemed just a little bit limited, I decided that 12 oz was indeed the right quantity.

Eight ounces of meat and sauce on top of pappardelle
Krasner suggests serving this over either pappardelle — shown here, but with an eight-ounce serving of meat — or polenta. I don’t care much for polenta, so for the third serving I decided to try couscous instead, but that didn’t work out very well. I think if you were serving all four servings at once, and cooked the whole package of pappardelle before tossing it with the meat, it would probably look significantly more appetizing than this, and would certainly absorb some of the more liquidous sauce better than it does in this presentation. But I’m a single guy, and I make dinners to be reheated multiple times over the week, which isn’t really compatible with large quantities of sauced pasta.

Overall impressions? Meh. I think the Cook’s Illustrated short-rib stew — made with boneless, rather than bone-in, short ribs — is better in pretty much every respect. Which is not to say that this recipe is in any way bad, just that it doesn’t justify the amount of work involved. The CI recipe also uses about three times as much meat, which means that the effort is amortized over far more servings (I think that recipe has a 6–8-serving guideline), and there’s no reason you can’t use quality pasture-raised beef to make it, provided you can either buy pastured boneless short ribs, or are willing to go to the effort to clean them yourselves.

Nutrition

As I alluded to above, nutrition calculations on a recipe of this nature, where an uncertain amount (much but by no means all) of the fat in the ingredients is removed during or after cooking, are something of a crapshoot. I looked at the USDA’s nutrition database to get an estimate of how much fat was in the short ribs originally, subtracted from that the fat I removed, and compared that to what my nutrition application said for cooked bone-in short ribs, and I’m reasonably comfortable with the numbers below — but I’m still a bit wary and you should be too.

The starch (polenta, pasta, couscous) used for serving is not included.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 12 oz
Servings per recipe: about 4
Amount per serving
Calories 556 Calories from fat 279
% Daily Value
Total Fat 31g 48%
 Saturated Fat 10g 49%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 89mg 30%
Sodium 1251mg 52%
Potassium 489mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 7%
 Dietary fiber 4g 17%
 Sugars 5g
Proteins 34g 68%
Vitamin A 26%
Vitamin C 35%
Calcium 10%
Iron 36%
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