BY BILL ST. JOHN
Of the two types of beef ribs - back ribs and short ribs - we’re generally more familiar with the latter. Beef short ribs sport straight bones, are 3-4 inches long, and have a good chunk of meat laying on top of the bone. By and large, we braise them, so you’ll find them on many a cold-weather menu.
Beef back ribs are 6-8 inches long, slightly curved, and have very little meat on top of them, but a nice finger-thick piece of meat in between them. They’re bare of top meat because that meat was taken for the great ribeye, butchered as steaks (the best of the seared steer?) or roasts, without which the English could not get through Sunday.
Like their siblings, the short ribs, beef back ribs are made for autumn and winter dining, although, unlike them, they also are very popular at warm-weather barbecues. Beef back ribs are finger-lickin' meat all year 'round.
About the only profitable way to cook beef back ribs is “slow and low,” so that means using the indirect method on a charcoal grill to smoke ‘em and melt them, or to braise the ribs either in or out of the oven (or in a slow cooker) for a couple-plus hours. The braise may be as ornate as French-style wine, aromatics and herbs, or as simple as capturing the meat’s own steam in a closed container.
This recipe comes from The New York Times. You’ll note that it also allows for beef short ribs, should you chose to cook those.
Braised Beef Ribs with Vegetables
from The New York Times — serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds beef rib bones or short ribs, washed
2 medium onions, peeled, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
3 medium Yukon potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
6 brown mushrooms, washed, sliced
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into thick rounds
2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch lengths
3 broccoli crowns, washed, the florets cut apart
10 Brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered
1 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
4 cups water
In a Dutch oven or high-sided frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Brown the ribs on all sides, then remove, and discard the fat. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and brown 1 onion and 2 garlic cloves. Deglaze the pan with the water, add back the ribs, cover, and put into a 400-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the pan, turn over the ribs, and put back in the oven for another hour.
Check the ribs. The meat should be tender and almost falling off the bone. If you're using short ribs, you may need to increase the cooking time another hour and you may have to add another cup of liquid. Put the ribs into one container. Strain out the onions and garlic and discard. Put the braising liquid into a second container and refrigerate.
The next day, peel the thick layer of fat off the braising liquid and discard. In the same pan you used the day before, heat the olive oil and butter. Brown the potatoes, mushrooms, and the rest of the onions, add the ribs and the braising liquid. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, broccoli, parsley, the rest of the garlic, and Brussels sprouts. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes. Serve the ribs in bowls with plenty of vegetables, the braising liquid, and a fresh baguette.