Stout Braised Short Ribs With Horseradish Cream

Well, we are officially in braising season.  The nights in Ontario are now frightfully cold and we had our first tumultuous snowstorm last week when it took me two hours to get home instead of my usual 25 minutes.  I wrote a mental ode to stalled cars during that time (note:  it was not flattering) and was so relieved when I eventually reached my cozy warm abode that I almost cried.  In celebration of said storm the gas company cut us off for a day and a half due to ‘construction’ in the area.  I now have a new definition of what a cold-room refers to, and I’ve been craving comforting braised foods and casseroles ever since.

We had a gaggle of people over on Saturday night to celebrate the arrival of some friends who were visiting from Ottawa, and I wanted to make something that was easy enough to prepare in advance.  And it had to be something that used this:

Tell me that’s not the most compelling horseradish root that you’ve seen in a while.  The logical choice to go with horseradish would be roast beef, but since it’s hard to cook a roast for 10-12 people who like their red meat everywhere from bleeding rare to  well done naugehyde, I went for nice slow braised fall-off-the-bone short ribs instead.

One quick note:  this is not a Tuesday night dinner at all.  We’re talking hours of spice rub absorption and braising which does not make for a fast meal.  However, this has Lazy Sunday written aaaaall over it.

Stout Braised Short Ribs With Horseradish Cream

Serves 10 – 12 

Spice Rub:

  • 2 tsp dried rosemary 
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (preferably ancho)
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
For the Ribs
  • 6.5 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • olive oil (4-6 tbsp)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 28oz can ground tomatoes
  • 650 ml stout
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (preferably ancho)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1.5 – 2 cups beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
Horseradish Cream
  • 3-5 inches fresh horseradish root
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream

When you’re looking for short ribs, the butcher may be selling them as a flat (similar to side ribs but usually a bit shorter and much thicker), cut into individual ribs, or sliced horizontally into 2 or three smaller strips. I like a nice meaty short rib so if they don’t have short ribs that have been sliced in half I choose a nice flat or two and ask for them to be cut into two pieces.  If they’re in three pieces that’s fine too and they’ll  cook a bit faster, but in terms of presentation I find that they end up looking like oversized chunks of stewing beef…with bones….so go for the full or half ribs lengths.

I will also freely admit that I like getting the flat and asking for them to be cut because I like watching the butcher use The Meat Saw….which I’m sure is just a table saw or the like, but since it’s a miracle that I didn’t fail shop class way back when I was an impressionable 12 year old I couldn’t really tell you what kind of a very scary sharp toothed machine it is. Except that it’s one which cuts meat and bone.

When you’re picking your short ribs, look for the nice fat meaty pieces.  Skinny ribs may be hot on the runway but not so much in a Dutch oven.  You also want some nice marbling, which means a fair bit of fat. Don’t be afraid of this because they’ll cook for so long that most of that fat will end up melting and being scooped off.  All of that connective tissue will disappear and leave you with those meltingly juicy, succulent, fall off the bone morsels of beefy goodness that you want.

Slice the meat in between the ribs so that each piece has a bone in the middle, a nice fat pocket in the underbelly, and a bit of fat to wallow in on the bottom is a nice touch if you have it.

Combine all ingredients of the spice rub.

Coat each piece of meat in the spice rub, and give it a nice massage.  You can do this and then leave them in a nice big bowl, but since I might actually be the laziest human being ever born I divide the meat amongst two large freezer bags, dump half the spice rub in each, then give them a nice shake and feel them up a bit until I’m confident that everything is covered.

The whole point of a spice rub is to add concentrated flavor to your meat as quickly as possible, but I like to let them sit for at least an hour or two to let some of that flavor get absorbed by the ribs.

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Heat some oil (a tablespoon or so) in a large pan over high heat and when it’s HOT HOT HOT add the ribs and sear them all around.  You will want to do this in batches.  I used my largest pan, totally overcrowded it because that’s just what I do, and it still took me a good 4 batches to get them all seared.  

Remember that you’re just searing the meat and not cooking it, so as soon as it gets nicely brown and caramelized you want to turn it.  Continue doing so until all of the edges have felt the wrath of a very hot pan and turned their faces in fear.  

Chop up the onions, carrot and celery into a very small dice and mince the garlic.  You may be wondering why the onions and garlic are not shown in the picture.  Well, one of our guests has an onion allergy so I omitted them this time around (and didn’t actually notice any difference in flavor, but maybe that’s just me and I’m too superstitious to do that again unless it’s necessitated).  As for the garlic, well, I just forgot to take a picture.  That’s okay, you know what ‘minced’ means.

In your very largest Dutch oven (or a high sided and heavy bottomed roasting dish if you don’t have a Dutch oven large enough), snuggle in half the meat, a layer of the vegetables, and then repeat until everything is accounted for.  Please don’t use my Dutch oven as an example of what a good size would be, because it’s not.  In fact, something about 30% bigger would likely do a much better job, but we work with what we have.

Pour in the bottle of stout.  I chose a nice smokey oatmeal stout.  In fact, it’s actually called “Smokey Oatmeal Stout”, and as we all know a label never lies.  Ahem.  Well then.

Follow the stout by emptying in the entire contents of your crushed tomatoes, honey, and the rest of the herbs and spices.  Please note that we still haven’t seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, and we won’t do so until closer to the end of the cooking process.  Pour in enough beef broth for everything to be just covered.

Give the whole mixture a bit of a stir.  My biggest Dutch oven is still a bit on the small side for these contents, so my ‘stir’ involved smooshing a spoon around the top until I could at least feel that the spices were incorporated with the wets.

Cover your dish with a tight fitting lid (or two layers of aluminum foil if you’re using a lidless roasting pan) and tuck it into the oven.  Please bear in mind that the liquids will bubble up and go running for freedom as they cook, so if your Dutch oven was as full as mine you may wish to place it in a roasting pan or high-sided baking sheet to prevent spills in the bottom of your oven that will make you weep with smoke for the next three weeks.

After the dish goes in we won’t need to check on it again for almost two hours.  Wheeeeeee!  I would say that this is time to go clean your bathrooms and put your laundry in the dryer, but you all know that for me it means a glass of wine and re-runs of Dinner Impossible until I get tired and go shuffling upstairs.

Alright, now that you have some free time, let’s talk about creamy horseradish sauce.  This recipe is so retro sixties that I’m almost ashamed, but not quite, because it’s good.  I never seriously considered making a creamy horseradish sauce until I made my first roast beef dinner for 10 people.  It was also the first time that I had ever cooked roast beef….which was probably a mistake.  My meat thermometer LIED TO ME about the internal temperature, and to say that it was ‘a bit pink’ does not do it justice.  Thank heavens there were a bunch of rare meat eaters at the table who were just thrilled, but to this day I still think of that meal as one of my crowning failures.  Sigh.

As I change the topic away and distract you from my traumatic kitchen incidents, I’ll tell you why I never used to make creamy horseradish sauce:  because I have a thing for the beige stuff that comes in a jar.  No jokes.  It’s shameful, really.  I used to work in a pub that did prime rib every Sunday, and of course one of my responsibilities was to portion out the horseradish sauce.  That was my FAVORITE DUTY EVER. Thousand Islands salad dressing was the worst (particularly when hung over), but oh, the HORSERADISH!  I would bring in two spoons to do the deed.  When people questioned why, I would give them some cockamamie excuse about precision portioning, but that was a big lie.  I would use one spoon for the portion cups.  I would use the other spoon to eat the horseradish straight out of the 8L jug.  A scoop for me, a scoop for the cups.

Yes, it’s true.  I would DINE on prepared horseradish sauce once a week for two years.
Judge me if you will, but save at least part of your horrified reaction for one day when I tell you about the things I used to do with mustard…..

If you have never had fresh horseradish, you should be advised that IT’S HOT.  I mean, WHEW BABY!  Nostrils on fire hot.  I can’t feel my tongue hot.  Well, that’s only if you take a bite of it, but even so.  My directions for horseradish sauce are really more of an open guide that you can tweak to your whims.

I like my horseradish sauce to have some good bite to it, so I use a chunk of horseradish about 4 inches long and peel off the exterior.

Grate the horseradish on the medium-fine holes of a box grater.  This is the same side that you would use to do parmesan cheese.

Mix together the horseradish, mayo and sour cream.  Let it sit for a bit before tasting it, because the heat will get more intense after a bit of mingling.  If it is too hot for you, add a bit more mayo and sour cream in a 1:2 ratio.

But lo!  We’re not done with our short ribs yet!  After 1.5-2 hours take the  dish out of the oven and remove the lid. You may not see this at first, but it’s covered with fat on the top.  Oh yeah.  Tons of melted fat.  Fat that you want to get rid of.  That’s not ‘meat juice’, it’s BADNESS…..or goodness, depending on how you look at it…..but mostly badness.

Using a large flat bottomed spoon, gently press down on the top and allow the liquid fat to flow into your spoon.  Basically you’re skimming off the fat, but do it gently because you want to get as much as possible without mixing it in to the rest of your dish.  Keep lightly pressing and scooping the fat off until you feel that you’ve done as much as a reasonable person can be expected to do, and it’s about as fat-free as it’s going to get.

You can also get a sense of how much fat you have by how deeply you need to press your spoon into the liquid (note:  NOT DEEP AT ALL!!  Ever.), as you see from the picture below.  Do you see the light orange part? That’s the fat we’re getting rid of.  Do you see the dark brown part?  That’s the tasty spiced brothy goodness that we want to keep, although some of it will inevitably come up as you scoop.

When you’re all done, cover the dish and tuck it back in the oven.  Check it dish again after 3 hours and skim off any remaining fat – and there will be some, trust me.  This is also when you want to season the dish with salt and pepper, according to taste.

Let the dish cook for another .5-1 hour, for a total time of 3.5 – 4 hours.  If you can leave it for another half hour, no harm no foul.  The beef likes it.

Are you into gravy?  Because after you take the meat out of the dish a LOT of liquid still remains.  You can discard it if you like (and I have, once or twice, but then I felt bad). I didn’t take any pictures of this, so I apologize in advance.  However, here are the two best ways that I’ve found to quickly make that liquid into a sauce that works for you.

The first step for both methods is straining out the solids (carrots, onions, et al) from the liquids which you likely want to discard.  After all, they’ve done their work. They’re TIRED now!

1.  Gravy:
Keep the liquids over a medium heat.  In a 2 cup jar mix 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tbsp corn starch, and 1/2 cup of water.  Shake this until it’s nicely combined.  Slowly pour this into the short rib liquid, whisking constantly. After 5 minutes it should have started to thicken, and you can use a shallow spoon to scoop out (and discard) any flour clumps which may have floated up to the surface.

2.  Glaze:
This is my favorite.  Pour the liquid back into a large saucepan (to increase the surface area) and keep it on a medium-high temperature.  As it comes to a boil, begin whisking to prevent any burning on the bottom.  Continue whisking for 5-10 minutes as the mixture boils down until it is reduced by 1/2 to 2/3, or until you like the nice glazey texture.

To serve the short ribs, I put them on a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and spooned the glaze/gravy and horseradish cream overtop.  They would be just as lovely over a nice saffron risotto, mushroom polenta, or glazed thick noodles.

Oh yes, braised meat can be a thing of beauty.  Just look at those glorious BONES! And do you see how much the meat shrunk away from them?  Well have no fear, it’s meltingly tender right now and just ready to be lovingly enticed away on your fork.

The horseradish cream is totally my favorite part.  I love the piquant heat that it brings, and it pairs so well with a roasted garlic mashed…..just saying….

So let’s give that horseradish root a hand for servicing us so well with our braised short ribs!   Because really, sometimes when the meat is soft, a bit of heat doesn’t go unnappreciated…just sayin’…….

  • Mike

    Seriously, that story about you spooning the horseradish out of the jug has now taken its place alongside my memory of you eating a jar of pasta sauce for dinner.

    These ribs are incredible, and never ever fail to please. Tender and flavorful, and are arguably even better as a quietly stolen leftover the next day.

  • Choosy Beggar Tina

    That was a balanced meal! It was tomato sauce with CHEESE and I capped it off with dessert as I recall….a couple of packets of strawberry jam.

    It’s amazing that I survived into adulthood.

  • noble pig

    Absolutely beautiful! Love the use of the horseradish.

  • Peter

    LOL…this is more of a brazen post than braising…what’s with the horseradish that Larry Flynt would be proud of?

    Short ribs are called for now and I do have a can of Guinness that needs a purpose. Gold star for you and the horseradish. 😉

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  • Tina

    Thanks Noble Pig!

    Peter – Any can of Guinness that enters my abode ALWAYS has a purpose, straight down my gullet. Your comment made me laugh – I don’t even want to imagine what Larry Flynt would have done with that horseradish, but I know that afterwards I would never have been able to use it as a condiment….

  • We Are Never Full

    there is not one thing i don’t like about this meal!! i can’t even imagine how annoying it must’ve been to have the heat cut off! exactly how cold is “really cold” up there? just curious.

    you have some lucky friends!

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