Red-Cooked Beef Short Ribs
Traditional red-cooked dishes — they take their name from the mahogany color the sauce imparts to the meat — are simple braises of rice wine, light and dark soy sauces, with some sugar and aromatics. The version Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin and Quealy Watson serve at Best Quality Daughter, their restaurant in San Antonio, turbocharges that formula. Dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns bring fire and tingle, and star anise and cinnamon provide warmth. There’s a whisper of orange, a bite of ginger. Tomato paste and doubanjiang, a fermented chile bean paste, offer depth. Do take the time to use some of the braising liquid to serve as the base for the finishing glaze, thick and glossy as demi-glace. It’s worth it.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 2tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
- 5pounds bone-in short ribs, at least 1 1/2 inches thick
- 1(3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
- 2cinnamon sticks
- 8dried Chinese chiles
- 4pieces dried orange peel (or fresh orange peel with no pith, well toasted)
- 3tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, toasted, then crushed or ground (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 2whole star anise
- 1cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 ½cups low-sodium soy sauce
- ½cup dark soy sauce
- 1packed cup light or dark brown sugar
- 1tablespoon molasses
- 3cups chicken stock
- 3cups braising liquid from the ribs
- 2medium white onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼cup tomato paste
- ¼cup doubanjiang
- ⅓cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ½cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1(1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
- 5garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1teaspoon five-spice powder
- 3tablespoons cornstarch
- Bibb lettuce leaves
- Thai basil, chopped cilantro and sliced scallions
- Sliced cucumbers
- Cooked white rice
Step 1Heat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare the ribs: Heat oil in a large lidded Dutch oven over medium-high. Working in batches, sear short ribs on all sides until deeply and evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer browned short ribs to a large plate, and continue with remaining ribs.
Step 2Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of remaining fat, leaving the good browned bits behind. Reduce heat to medium. Add ginger, cinnamon, chiles, orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, black peppercorns and star anise, and stir to get them coated in the fat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ginger has started to soften.
Step 3Add the rice wine, soy sauces, sugar and molasses, then the chicken stock, and stir to combine. Using tongs, return short ribs to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated, nestling them into the braising liquid bone-side up, so the meat is submerged. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to oven.
Step 4Cook, undisturbed, until short ribs are meltingly tender and falling off the bone (you should be able to shred the meat with a fork), 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Step 5Using tongs, remove the ribs from the pot and put them on a warm platter. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and a couple of dish towels to keep them warm while you make the sauce.
Step 6Prepare the sauce: Strain 3 cups of the braising liquid from the Dutch oven into another pot, discarding remaining braising liquid and solids. Set it over medium-high heat, and add the onions, tomato paste, doubanjiang, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, garlic and five-spice powder; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then cook, undisturbed, for 15 minutes, until reduced and thickened.
Step 7Strain the sauce through a colander back into the Dutch oven you used to cook the ribs, and place the pot over medium-high heat. Make a slurry of the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water, then whisk it into the sauce to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. You’re looking for something thick and glossy, like a demi-glace.
Step 8Unwrap the ribs, daub them liberally with the sauce and serve with Bibb lettuce leaves, Thai basil, cilantro, scallions, cucumbers, rice and the remaining sauce.