When I was working on my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1), I was fortunate enough to have the help of a small army of friends and family who helped test all the recipes with me.
When one of my testers told me that he’d made the recipe for “Short Ribs with Citrus-Olive Herb Salad” not once, not twice, but five times, I was immediately alarmed.
But then he told me why: It wasn’t because anything was wrong with it. On the contrary, he and his wife ended up loving this dish so much that they couldn’t resist making it multiple times to share with friends.
While I’m fond of all the recipes in this cookbook that spotlights 41 restaurants in the dynamic East Bay, that testimonial convinced me right then and there that this recipe by Chef Jen Biesty of Oakland’s Shakewell was truly a winner.
Because of book-publishing timetables, my friend had to test this recipe at the height of summer. But I patiently waited until winter to give it a test-drive, since long-braised short ribs are so made for this time of year.
This is definitely a comfort dish taken up a level. The short ribs cook up fork-tender in an almost mole-like brothy sauce made with ancho chiles, fennel, garlic, thyme, chicken stock, a little ground coffee, some chopped bittersweet chocolate and a whole bottle of Zinfandel. How can that not be good?
The finishing touch is a little salad of olives, citrus zest, garlic, capers, parsley, dill, mint and croutons that gets strewn over the top, adding a lively brightness to this long-simmered dish.
Start making this dish early in the day, as the cooked short ribs sit in the sauce for two hours after cooking and before serving, so the meat can relax and suck up all those juices.
Mashed potatoes make a great accompaniment to soak up all that flavorful sauce, too.
Will you end up cooking this dish five times, too? I sure just might.
Short Ribs with Citrus-Olive Herb Salad
6 lbs bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp canola oil (divided)
2 carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bulb fennel, cored and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 (750-ml) bottle Zinfandel
2 qts veal, chicken, or beef stock
2 ancho chiles or 3 Tbsp ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp ground coffee
1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Lilliput or nonpareil capers
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup dill fronds
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 red Fresno chile, cut into thin rings (optional)
Croutons (see Note)
For short ribs: Season short ribs with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 2 hours. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add short ribs and brown for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large stockpot or large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, fennel, garlic, and thyme and sauté for 8 minutes, until vegetables are lightly browned. Add tomato paste, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until wine has reduced by half.
Stir in stock, chiles (or chili powder), coffee, and chocolate. Place short ribs in the braising liquid and simmer, covered, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until short ribs are tender. Turn off the heat, uncover, and set aside for 2 hours so the ribs retain their juices.
Remove short ribs to a plate. Strain braising liquid into a large saucepan, discarding solids. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, until liquid is reduced by a third.
For olive salad: In a medium bowl, combine ingredients together right before serving.
To assemble: Divide short ribs among four plates, spoon sauce overtop, and top with olive salad.
Note: To make your own croutons, take slightly stale bread and tear into bite-size pieces. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil overtop and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 5 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake another 5 minutes or until nicely browned.
From Shakewell restaurant as published in “East Bay Cooks” by Carolyn Jung