It’s a slow-cooking time of year, which calls for a meal like this: an aromatic pot of braised short ribs, blanketed in a richly fortified sauce, exuding warmth and comfort. This stew will satisfy any cravings for cozy, wintry food and focus your attention solely on the task of digging into this fragrant pot, one spoonful at a time.
I make variations of this recipe under the guise of other comfort-food standards, such as beef bourguignon and Irish stew. The ingredients shift slightly, but the principle is the same. Chunks of meat are seared brown on the stovetop, then submerged in a heady stock of wine, broth and spices. The pot is then banished to the oven for several hours to bubble and simmer until the meat is falling-apart tender and infused with the flavorful stock.
The keys to making this meaty stew are time and patience, which are requisite for the slow-cooking process. Ideally, you will exert even more time and patience by starting the dish one day in advance of serving. This way, the stew can chill overnight, further enriching its flavor and allowing the persnickety fat to rise to the top so that it can be deftly removed before rewarming.
This stew leans to the Southwest for inspiration, with chipotle peppers, cumin and coriander. Root vegetables team up with the meat, adding a touch of earthy sweetness. Note that this recipe calls for boneless short ribs; beef chuck can be substituted.
Chipotle Short Rib and Root Vegetable Stew
Serves 4 to 6
2½ to 3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut in 1½- to 2-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
6-ounce can tomato paste
1 (750ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
2 cups beef stock or chicken stock
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled, thickly sliced
1 large turnip, cut into bite-size chunks (or 1 bunch baby turnips, trimmed and scrubbed)
1 medium rutabaga, peeled, cut into bite-size chunks
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (optional)
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, without crowding the pan, brown the meat on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well.) Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining meat.
Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onion softens, about 3 minutes, stirring up the brown bits in the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the paprika, cumin and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste and continue to stir to slightly cook the paste and create a slurry, about 30 seconds.
Add the wine, stock, chipotles and bay leaf to the pot. Stir in the meat and any collected juices. If the meat is not completely submerged, add more stock or wine to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook the stew until the meat is very tender, 2½ to 3 hours, stirring every hour or so. Remove the pot from the oven.
(If making the recipe one day in advance, cool the stew, then cover the pot and refrigerate overnight. One hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift or scrape off the layer of fat on the surface. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the meat. Proceed to next step.)
Carefully remove the meat from the sauce and place in a bowl. Bring the sauce to a boil on the stovetop. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until it’s reduced by about half and thickened to a rich sauce consistency, 12 to 15 minutes, skimming any fat as necessary.
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While the sauce is reducing, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, turnip and rutabaga and lightly season with salt. Saute until the vegetables are bright and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the vegetables to the sauce along with the beef and any juices. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and add the sugar if desired. Simmer the stew over medium heat until the vegetables are al dente, about 10 minutes more. Serve warm.
Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer.