Saturday, October 23, 2010

Five-spice Short Ribs with smashed garlic

Photo by Amy Fletcher for information go to

I love short ribs.  The tender fatty bits of slow braised meat that fall apart in their buttery goodness - what's not to love???  I've also discovered, I have a fondness for 5 spice powder and garlic and my slow cooker and red wine.  So I decided to experiment last night, and the results are what you see above (good thing there's a photo because I don't remember chewing....)

Beef short ribs go well with a few other flavors - onions, garlic and red wine if you're doing a western style preparation, 5 spice powder, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic and mirin if you're doing an Asian style preparation.  I decided to combine the two and see how it came out - delicious that's how!!  I think this would only have been improved if I'd done a stove top or oven braising but I have DVR programming I wanted to catch up on so crock pot it was.

You're going to need;

  • Short ribs - I've used boneless as well as slabs with bone - either works (short ribs shrink like crazy so eye ball two portions size raw for one portion cooked.)
  • Onion - mine were regular yellow onions, but I bet one of the sweeter varieties would have been good.  I used half - you can use the whole thing if you're a big fan of onions
  • Garlic - I tend to use too much, like 8 cloves, I suggest somewhere around 4
  • Soy sauce - half a cup or so
  • Sesame oil - 1 - TBSp
  • Beef Broth 2 to 3 cups
  • Splash of rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • Mirin - about 3 table spoons (more or less to taste)
  • Red wine - I used an inexpensive Cabernet 
  • 5 spice powder - about 3 TBSP. 

I discovered that 5 spice powder varies from one place to another - mine personally has 6 spices in it for crying out loud!  However, most of the time you'll find it's a combination of cinnamon, clove, anise, licorice root and ginger in varying portions.  Mine happens to have fennel in it as well.  It's a wonderfully aromatic blend so I wouldn't spend too much time worried about it.

Dice the onions into substantial chunks - no need for a super fine dice here, one inch chunks ought to do - set aside.  Smash the garlic using the side of a chef's knife or cleaver - smashing the cloves make it easy to pull the papery skin off.  Cut the short ribs into uniform pieces (figure one or two chunks per serving).

In the slow cooker/crock pot, combine 5 spice powder, beef broth, soy sauce, red wine, mirin, vinegar, and sesame oil.  I find that pouring the oil in last makes it easier to incorporate the 5 spice powder which tends to stubbornly float on top.  Stir to mix, and give it a little taste - it might seem a little on the salty side which is fine, but you want to make sure the cooking liquid tastes good from here - I found I added a bit of red wine to make the flavor a bit more robust here.  Add the onions and smashed garlic, and the rib meat.

Turn on the cooker and walk away - my slow cooker has three settings, low high and warm - I set it on high for about 3 hours (it's called a slow cooker for a reason).  At about two hours take a peek - you want to make sure the onions are taking on a translucent look to them - give everything a good stir and - if you're like me - now's a good time to poke it.  The rib meat needs to fall apart with a fork alone before it's ready.

Once the meat is falling apart soft, you're ready to serve - I found mine took about 3 and a half hours total, times will vary based on your cooker.

I'd suggest topping it with something green - thinly sliced scallions or chives - cilantro would also probably be good although not sure on that one as I'm one of those people that thinks it tastes a bit like soap.  This would be great served on top of a steaming hot bowl of ramen soup as well for those not carb conscious!!

As a treat thick slices of daikon added in the last hour would also be delicious, as would chunks of carrots or potatos (though less so for the last two in my opinion).

If you don't have a slow cooker, don't despair, you can make this on a stove top or in the oven;

I suggest you use a large pot like a cast iron dutch oven.  Doesn't have to be cast iron, but I like the way those pots disperse heat.  Make sure you have a lid for the pot and if you're putting the pot in the oven, make sure it's oven proof (no plastic handles etc.).

In Oven directions:
Set your oven to about 350, and for added flavor, pour a splash of oil in the pot first, drop in the garlic and do a quick sear of the short ribs in the pot before you add the braising liquid.  Pour in enough liquid to cover the ribs half way (not all the way), cover and pop the whole thing into the oven and let it cook checking periodically to see if you need to add liquid as it cooks off. You want to let it cook until the meat is falling away from the bone.

Stove top directions;
Pour a splash of oil in the pot first, drop in the garlic and do a quick sear of the short ribs in the pot before you add the braising liquid.  Add enough liquid to cover the ribs half way, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to the low end of medium and let it simmer slow and low till the meat is fall off the bone tender.
(if you're using a gas oven eye ball it, it's more accurate than the dials, if you're using electric you'll need to pay a little more attention and possibly adjust the heat to get a simmer)


1 comment: