Introduction: Smoked Chipotle, Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs
Short ribs are one of the most under appreciated cuts of beef. One of the reasons for that, in my opinion, is that they have a very high fat content and unless you cook them low and slow (and I mean really slow), they are tough and just not very good. However, cook them for a couple of hours, at a low temperature, and they become tender, juicy, and flavorful.
Marry them with smoked chipotle peppers, coffee, and chocolate, and you've got a meal fit for the most romantic of dinners.
I've been making (and adapting this recipe) for about three years now, and I have to say that this latest adaptation has certainly blown the previous incarnations away. If you're curious about the original recipe, before I started making changes, it can be found here.
I like to serve this recipe over rice or mashed potatoes, or use it as the filling for soft tacos.
You'll need the following ingredients:
Olive oil or lard, about 4-5 Tbsp
5 lbs of beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 smoked dried chipotle pepper, crumbled (or one chili from a can of chilies in adobo sauce, minced)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chocolate, dark or bittersweet (70% or higher cacao)
1/2 cup espresso or chocolate stout, or 1 shot espresso or hazelnut liquor (optional)
Step 1: Salt and Pepper the Short Ribs
I find the easiest way to cook is to prepare all of my ingredients ahead of time. That way, I'm not rushing around trying to chop the peppers while burning the meat.
Wash and pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel. Then salt and pepper them liberally. Use more salt than you think you need. Then add a pinch or two more.
Step 2: Chop a Red Bell Pepper, a Large Onion, and Mince a Smoked Chipotle Pepper
Chop one large red bell pepper (or half a red and half a yellow pepper) and one large onion. Mince one smoked chipotle pepper (dried or fresh). If you can't find dried chipotle peppers, you can buy a can of chilies in adobo sauce and use one pepper from the can. These will go into the pot at the same time, so you can combine them into a single bowl if you'd like.
Step 3: Mince Two Cloves of Garlic and Assemble Your Spices
Mince two cloves of garlic and set aside. In a single dish, measure out two tablespoons of brown sugar, one teaspoon of cumin, one teaspoon of chili powder, and half a teaspoon of oregano.
Step 4: Measure Out the Coffee, Tomato Paste, and Tomatoes
Measure two cups of strongly brewed coffee, one tablespoon of tomato paste, approximately 28 ounces of chopped tomatoes, and, optionally, either half a cup of a good espresso stout or a shot of hazelnut coffee liquor.
*Hazelnuts, coffee, and chocolate are a fabulous combination. We used a shot of hazelnut coffee liquor, but a good espresso stout or even a chocolate stout would give the dish a little extra depth.
*We used a jar of our home canned tomatoes, but any good brand of crushed or chopped canned tomatoes would work.
Step 5: Brown Your Short Ribs
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Now that all of your ingredients are in place, heat a cast iron pan over high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil or lard to the pan and bring it to temperature.
Place the short ribs two or three at a time into the pan. Make sure you're leaving plenty of space between the short ribs, even if that means you have to cook them in several batches. If you crowd them into the pan, you'll steam them instead of sear them.
Brown them on all sides, until they are very nearly burnt.
Step 6: Transfer the Short Ribs to a Plate and Set Aside
Remove the browned short ribs to a plate and set aside. Brown the next batch of short ribs and set those aside on the plate as well.
Set the cast iron pan aside.
Heat a large Dutch Oven (large enough for the short ribs and all of the liquid ingredients) over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of lard or oil and the pan drippings from the cast iron pan.
Step 7: Saute the Onion and Peppers Over Medium Heat Until Translucent
Add the onion, pepper, and smoked chipotle pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, or until the onions are mostly translucent.
Step 8: Add the Garlic
Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute.
Step 9: Mix in the Spices
Add the brown sugar, cumin, oregano, and chili powder and mix well.
Step 10: Add the Coffee, Tomato Paste, Chopped Tomatoes, and Beer and Bring to a Boil
Next, mix in the two cups of coffee, the tablespoon of tomato paste, the 28 ounces of chopped tomatoes, and the beer or hazelnut liquor (if you're using) and bring to a boil.
Step 11: Transfer the Short Ribs to the Pan and Braise
Return the short ribs to the Dutch oven and nestle them in with the rest of the ingredients. Cover, and transfer the pan to the oven to braise for two hours.
Step 12: Mix in the Chocolate
After the two hours are up, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully transfer the short ribs to a separate dish with slotted spoon. They may fall apart, and that's ok. You just want them out of the pan so you can mix in the delicious, rich, dark chocolate.
Step 13: Serve the Short Ribs With a Generous Serving of Sauce
You can plate this dish several ways. If the short ribs totally fell apart on you when you took them out of the pan, just go with it. Discard the bones, use two forks and shred the meat well, and mix it directly in with the sauce. Serve this over rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta, or mashed potatoes.
If the ribs held together, just set one rib in each dish (perhaps over the rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta, or mashed potatoes) and spoon a generous serving of sauce over and around it. Enjoy!
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