Beef Short Ribs

Numbers 11:5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.

There are favorite foods from my childhood, such as Swedish Pancakes, that I hope my children will continue to make, passing along the recipe for generations yet to come.

There are other foods, like beef short ribs, that I decided would end with me. My mother was a good cook. Her marinara sauce, which gently simmered for hours to perfection, is not something I’ve successfully replicated. She made a veal “hotdish” (Midwestern roots are showing) that earned praises and cheers. But when it came to pork chops or beef short ribs, they were, at best, tedious to eat, always dry, leathery and tough. My father always graciously excused them, saying to my mother, “That’s just the nature of short ribs. Good sauce, honey!”

He was right about the sauce, a rich, thick tomato base loaded with diced carrots and celery, thyme for seasoning, and always, like her spaghetti sauce, one or two bay leaves. She never covered the short ribs while they baked, the meat dehydrated, the fat rendered off into the tomato sauce, which was condensed to an intense, flavor-filled paste resulting in incredible flavors – the most enjoyable and memorable part of the meal.

Late one night, I found myself salivating over Alton Brown’s short ribs, which he refers to as Beef Stew. Strangely similar to my mother’s short rib recipe, swimming in tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and a vegetable mixture, Alton opted for an aluminum foil pouch as his cooking vessel, in which the ribs, tomato base and veggies braised for several hours at a low temperature.

“You know”, I said, thinking out loud, eyes glued to Alton smacking his lips, enjoying a large plate of his good eats, “those look really, really good to me.”

“Nah”, said my husband, “You know they’re always dry and tough. There are so many other good foods to make instead….”.

Later that same week, stopping for a dinner at one of our local favorite restaurants, The Common Man, I did something totally out-of-character, ordering short ribs. “What??”, said my aghast husband, “they have those on the menu?? But….but why would they have those on the menu?”

“They’ve been a favorite of our guests for many years,” replied the server, who, when out of earshot, my husband commented, “I’m glad they’re good about taking food back when it isn’t up to their usual high standard, so when you find them inedible, dry and tough, think about what else you’ll order, like the duck, maybe”.

The short ribs were anything but dry and tough, instead, tender and moist, the meat falling off the bone with the slightest nudge of my fork. I restrained myself from lapping streaks of lovely sauce off my plate, in which the ribs had slowly braised, wishing there was just One More Bite.

And so it was, I found myself going against my vow to protect future generations from Bad Food, concocting my own version of beef short ribs. Throwing out the aluminum foil package part of Alton’s recipe, I filled my Le Creuset stoneware casserole with a combination of favorite flavors and techniques that I think Alton Brown, The Common Man’s recipes, and my mother’s recipe, would approve. The final result was plate-licking good, something which may be enjoyed in the privacy of your own home.

I’ve also proven that bone-in lamb shanks work equally as well in this recipe.

Three In One Beef Short Ribs

2-cups beef stock (preferred), or chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 14-oz organic tomatoes with juice (I use 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes rehydrated with 2 cups warm water – I give them a 5-second spin with a stick blender, chopping them up into smaller pieces, making a sauce)
4 T tomato paste (I use 2 T dehydrated tomatoes, ground into powder, rehydrated with 3 T warm water)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 T parsley leaves
2 tsp sea salt
2 medium onions – cut into thin rings
1 lb potatoes or rutabaga (my favorite) or sweet potatoes, bite-size chunks
1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled, chopped into 1/4 slices
3-4 stalks celery, slices
4-6 lbs grass-fed beef short ribs, browned 3-4 minutes per side

  • Mix all of the above, EXCEPT the ribs, together in a casserole dish (LARGE SIZE) that can be covered. * Brown short ribs – gently, medium heat, just enough to get a light-brown colorization on the ribs – about 3-4 minutes per side
  • Place browned ribs on top the tomato ingredients.
  • Back at 225 for 4-5 hours.

It makes a complete meal, served with a salad and a piece of well-buttered sourdough bread. I often make an artichoke, garlic risotto as a side dish. Yet other times, I skip the risotto and make a big batch of Boston Baked Beans (beans must be soaked for at least 20 hours and then parboiled for 10-minutes before baking) baking them alongside the casserole dish along with a big pan of Indian Corn Pudding. Talk about efficient use of oven energy! I love making multiple dishes at one time! Enjoy!