By Rose McAvoy
Many home cooks are crazy about their electric slow cooker. Personally I am a bigger fan of braising in a Dutch oven. I just like the taste of food cooked slowly in the oven better than on a counter top. The meat and vegetables achieve a deeper flavor in the Dutch oven. Their tops and edges get caramelized while the meat cooks to a buttery tenderness. Rustic ingredients become a sumptuous meal when braised in a Dutch oven. The heady aroma of simmering sauce may be reason enough for some to adopt this age-old method of cooking. For me braising is a simple way to prepare a meal that feels extravagant.
It may sound fancy, but braising is merely searing food before cooking it slowly in a heavy covered pot, partially or completely covered by liquid. Usually braising is done with a tougher cut of meat, hearty vegetables, and a broth. Think pot roast.
After stocking my freezer with the 1/8 of a cow we purchased from 3 Sisters Farm I was excited to think about all the braising in my future. The liquid used to braise meat plays a large role in the flavor of the finished dish. I wanted to make sure I didn’t overwhelm the natural gamey flavor of the grass-fed beef but I also wanted to make something that felt really rich. This combination of orange and beef broth struck a delightful balance between sweet and savory. The carrots were nicely glazed by broth and the other vegetables softened to become part of the sauce.
This was universal hit at our dinner table and with some restraint we managed to leave enough for a couple of lunches later in the week. The short ribs were paired with a fresh green salad featuring leftover fennel fronds (feathery leaves) and a side dish of quinoa inspired by the flavors of Morocco (I’ll have to share that with you soon – it was really easy).
Orange Braised Beef Short Ribs
Throw these ingredients into a pot in the early afternoon and leave them in the oven to simmer until supper time. Serve with a light and spicy side dish made of quinoa or couscous.
Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 15 minutes on stove top – 3 hours in the oven; Yield 4 servings
- 2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approximate yield of 2 oranges)
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons oil (grape seed or other neutral flavored cooking oil)
- 2 lbs beef short ribs, trim most of the fat (grass fed beef recommended)
- 1 lb carrots, peeled and quartered
- 1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/8 wedges
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/8 wedges
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- salt &pepper
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Juice the oranges into a medium bowl. Stir in vinegar and beef broth. Set aside.
- Heat the cooking oil to two notches below the highest heat in a large dutch oven (the oil should not be smoking). Salt and pepper the meat before placing the pieces into your hot pot. Sear the short ribs on all sides until the outsides have caramelized. Remove seared ribs to a plate. Carefully pour or wipe the oil from the pot leaving only a thin coating on the bottom.
- Return the pot to the heat and add the carrots, fennel, and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes until they just begin to sear. Stir a few times while they cook. Remove pot from heat, stir in the chopped garlic, and nest the seared ribs into the vegetables. Pour over the orange juice mixture. – The liquid should be enough to reach halfway up the contents of the pot. If the liquid is low add a bit more beef broth to make up the difference.
- Cover and place pot into the hot oven for 3 hours. The ribs are finished when the meat falls easily away from the bones.
If you would like to make a gravy for your ribs – Move the cooked meat and vegetables to a serving dish. Pour the remaining cooking liquid into a small container and allow the fat to rise to the top (at least 5 minutes). Use a spoon to remove the fat and pour the defatted liquid into a sauce pan over medium high heat. Whisk 1 tablespoon of thickener such as cornstarch, arrowroot, or rice flour into 1/4 cup of beef broth and add the liquid to the pot. Whisk while the liquid begins to bubble. The cooking liquid should thicken into gravy within two to three minutes.