Chocolate Braised Beef Short Ribs

February 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

My nephew once said to me, “I don’t think you’re a Chocoholic…after all a ‘–holic’ is someone with a ‘problem’. You’re more of a…Chocolatarian…chocolate is your way of life.”

For most people, what generally comes to mind when people think about chocolate are images of truffles, steaming cups of hot cocoa, decadent cakes, and warm chocolate chip cookies. But familiar to any true Chocolotarian who has researched the origins of chocolate, it was a not always a sweet confection. The use of the cocoa bean for consumption can be dated back to 1900 BCE but it wasn’t until the 1500s that Europeans added sugar and honey to cocoa and evolved it into to the sweet treat we enjoy today.

I’ve always been intrigued with how chocolate could be used to prepare savory dishes. What I found most common was using cocoa to make Mole, which in itself is deceiving because it is a single word used for a broad array of sauces, many not using chocolate at all. But this blog post is not about Mole but using chocolate in a savory dish. The following recipe combines many of the most common spices used in Mole but adapted to work in a braised dish. The spices are combined to create a dry rub which becomes infused into the dish during the long braising time.

NOTE: I recently tried this recipe using lean stew meat and was very disappointed at the results. The dish lacked the hearty beef flavor that short ribs provide. The beef was dry, did not meld well with the herbs, and the overall flavor was surprisingly tart. There was relatively little fat to skim before serving but for this recipe stick with the fattier full flavor of the short ribs.

Chocolate Braised Beef Short Ribs (GF)

This recipe is inspired by Mole but instead of making a sauce, similar herbs are used as a dry rub. Despite the strong complex flavors of the various seasonings in this recipe, they meld together and are enhanced by the hearty flavor of the beef short ribs.

1 Tbls. Sesame Seeds, toasted and ground
2 Tbls. Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
2 Tbls. Penzey’s Chili Powder, regular [1]
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Coriander
1/8 tsp. Cloves
1/4 tsp. Salt and Pepper
2 Tbls. Oil, vegetable
2 slices Bacon, thick cut [2]
5 lb. Beef Short Ribs
1 Tbls. Turbinado Sugar (white or brown sugar can be substituted)
2 Shallots, sliced
2 stalks Celery, chopped
1 cup Carrots, chopped
1 28 oz. can Tomato, diced (Recommend San Marzano type.)
1 1/2 cups Cabernet Wine
1 1/2 cups Beef Broth

In a small bowl, combine sesame seeds, cocoa powder, Penzey’s chili powder, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, salt, and pepper. Rub the herb mixture onto the beef short ribs being sure to coat all surfaces well.

Preheat oven to 325°. Heat oil in a Dutch Oven or heavy stove-to-oven-safe pan. Brown bacon, being sure not to over cook (bacon should be brown and crisp but not hard or burnt). Set bacon aside and chop into ¾-inch pieces.

In the same pan, brown beef short ribs on medium-high heat but be careful not to burn the ribs or pan. After browned, lower heat to medium and sprinkle turbinado sugar onto ribs, being sure to get a little on each rib. Let sit for 1 minute to let sugar melt into meat. Remove ribs and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté shallots, celery, and carrots until vegetables look lightly glazed, about 3 minutes.

Return beef short ribs and bacon to pan.  Add tomatoes, Cabernet wine, and beef broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and place pan in the center of oven. Braise for 3 hours, checking around the 2 hour mark to see if it needs more liquid. If needed, add more beef broth.

Before serving, skim fat off of top or you can make this dish a day ahead, refrigerate and remove solidified fat prior to reheating.

SERVING RECOMMENDATIONS: Serve over mashed potatoes or a smooth Polenta. The ribs have a very robust flavor so this dish generally goes best with a bland starch accompaniment.

For those of you who are like me and like to have an old fashion printed copy of recipes, the below link is to a PDF (minus photos to keep it on one page).

Chocolate Braised Beef Short Ribs (GF).pdf

* Gluten allergy and intolerance has become increasingly common.  I will not go into detail about the specific symptoms, causes, or differences but I will note beside the recipe titles “(GF)” for those recipes that are gluten free.  Please note that although I have labeled these recipes to be gluten free you must do your due diligence to review ingredient labels of prepared products to verify that they are truly gluten free. Also consider the side you choose to serve. In some recipes I recommend pasta or bread, which in most cases are not gluten free.


[1] I specifically used Penzey’s brand of Chili Powder because of its blend of Ancho Chili pepper, cumin, garlic, and Mexican Oregano.

[2] I recommend Wellshire Farm’s Black Forest Bacon. Remember the type and flavoring in the bacon will effect your dish. For example, if you choose a maple or heavily smoked flavored bacon it will have a significant impact on the overall flavor, which may not be bad, just an element to consider.

Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs

January 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

Quite a few years ago my sister-in-law was kind enough to give my husband and me a gift certificate to have lunch or Tea at Fauchon in New York City (sadly they are no longer there). We opted to have lunch. Our meals came out and the waitress placed in front of my husband a small white plate with two dainty croissant sandwiches on it. As for me, I had a hearty, steaming bowl of cassolette with a thick chunk of crispy baguette. My husband looked at me and said, “Yup, that’s my girl.”

Why am I sharing this story with you? Because I am once again posting a rich decadent recipe that would be served at the finest of French Bistros – Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs. I can’t help myself, its winter here and there is nothing more comforting to me than the aroma of braising meat, rich with seasoning wafting from the oven.

To the novice consumer of beef ribs it is easy to become confused with what you find at an average market. Many stores will label all beef rib cuts “Beef Ribs” but there are distinct differences between the ribs carved from the upper portion vs. the lower portion. For example, the Back Rib, which runs along the side of the Ribeye Steak are usually carved 6 to 8-inches long and have very little meat except what is found between the bones. But the cut we’re interested in for braising is the Short Rib, which is generally 3 to 5-inches in length and has a nice thick marbled piece of meat along one side of the bone.  Short Ribs run along the Flank Steak and Brisket.

Short Ribs are the ideal cut for braising but the meat along the rib is wonderful cooked medium-rare. Some markets will sell Boneless Short Rib Steaks that are great grilled with an Asian marinade or smothered in garlic, olive oil, and herbs.  I’ll probably get into that more in the summer…

For this recipe, select ribs that have a nice size chunk of meat on one side of the bone (1-2 inches of meat). They should also be nicely marbled but not overly fatty.

If you can’t drink it…don’t use it…

When I first started cooking with wine I would buy cheap “cooking wine” that you find on the same shelf as vinegar in the grocery store. I didn’t need to be of legal drinking age as it wasn’t real wine to begin with. When cooking with wine, select one that you would enjoy sipping with your meal. The flavor of the wine will carry through to the final product so you could make the recipe exactly the same way but use two different wines and end up with two very different results.

The same holds true with Balsamic Vinegar. If the vinegar you use in this recipe is very tart and acidic the flavor will carry through. If the vinegar is very sweet or mild flavored, the wine and beef will dominate the taste, which defeats the purpose of using Balsamic Vinegar in the first place.

Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs (GF)

5 lbs Beef Short Ribs
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbls. Olive Oil
1 ½ tsp. Turbinado Sugar (white or brown sugar can be substituted)
8 oz bag (½ lb) Baby Carrots
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
7 large cloves Garlic, whole with skins on
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup Red Wine, such as Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cups Beef Broth, plus 1-2 cups more if there is a lot of evaporation
1-2 stems Rosemary, fresh or 2 tsp. dried
2-4 sprigs Thyme, fresh or 2 tsp. dried
2 Bay Leaves
½ Tbls. Butter
1 pkg. (8 oz) Baby Bella Mushrooms, cut into quarters

Salt and pepper short ribs. Heat olive oil in Dutch Oven or heavy stove-to-oven-safe pan. Be careful not to over-heat, as olive oil will burn at a lower temperature than regular vegetable oil. Sear the shanks until nicely browned. Sprinkle ribs with turbinado sugar. Let ribs sit in pan 1-3 more minutes to let sugar melt into meat. Transfer ribs to a platter.

Preheat oven to 325°. If there is a lot of oil in the pan remove some, leaving about 2-3 Tbls. Add carrots, celery, and garlic.  Sauté until veggies are lightly golden and glazed. At this point the skins on the garlic should pop off. Remove and discard the garlic skins.

Return ribs to pan. Pour Balsamic vinegar over ribs, being sure to drizzle a little onto each rib. Let vinegar boil lightly in pan for about 3 minutes until the pungent scent of vinegar dissipates. Add wine and broth. Sprinkle rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves on top. When mixture comes to a full boil, cover and put into oven. Braise ribs in oven for 2 hours (NOTE: this is just a checking point, ribs will need to braised another hour).

In a sauté pan melt butter, than add mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes.  Add mushrooms to ribs.  At this time add 1-2 cups more beef broth (amount of liquid will depending on how much sauce you would like for the final product). Continue to cook in oven for another hour. Total time in the oven is 3 hours.

Remove ribs from oven and skim off some of the oil from the pan.

SERVING RECOMMENDATIONS: Serve over egg noodles* or with mashed potatoes. The ribs have a nice robust flavor so this dish generally goes best with a bland starch accompaniment.

For those of you who are like me and like to have an old fashion printed copy of recipes, the below link is to a PDF (minus photos to keep it on one page).

Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs.pdf

* Gluten allergy and intolerance has become increasingly common.  I will not go into detail about the specific symptoms, causes, or differences but I will note beside the recipe titles “(GF)” for those recipes that are gluten free.  Please note that although I have labeled these recipes to be gluten free you must do diligence to review ingredient labels of prepared products to verify that they are truly gluten free. Also consider the side you choose to serve. In some recipes I recommend pasta or bread, which in most cases are not gluten free.

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