Nutty Braised Beef Short Ribs

Short ribs get gilded with plenty of orange peel, sticky dates, and crunchy pistachios
Short ribs get gilded with plenty of orange peel, sticky dates, and crunchy pistachios

Yes, these succulent, fall-off-the-bone short ribs sure are nutty — thanks to a final flourish of rich and crunchy pistachios.

“Braised Beef Short Ribs with Orange Peel, Dates, and Pistachios” is from “Pistachios Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by World Cuisines” (Cameron & Company, 2023), of which I received a review copy.

The book is by veteran cookbook authors Barbara Bryant of St. Louis and Palm Beach; and James Beard Award-winning writer Georgeanne Brennan of Winters, CA, who is also a co-founder of the wonderful aperitif company, L’Apero les Trois.

Pistachios may be native to to Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, but their appeal now reaches far and wide. The United States is the leading producer of pistachios, with California having bragging rights in producing 99 percent of them.

They are good for you, too. A handful of pistachios (about 50 kernels) has as much protein as an egg and more fiber than an orange, according to the book. Pistachios also have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and potassium.

And don’t toss those pistachios shells. Mix them with wood chips, bark or leaves to make a handy mulch that will slowly break down over time to release nutrients into the soil. Just be sure to use unsalted shells; or rinse salted shells and allow them to dry beforehand.

In more than 60 recipes with global influences, Bryant and Brennan demonstrate just how versatile pistachios are in dishes such as “Orange and Pistachio Scones,” “Potato Salad with Pistachios, Celery, and Preserved Lemon,” “Chicken Milanese with Pistachio-Parmesan Crust,” and “Lime Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust.”

The short ribs braise for 3 hours in the oven.
The short ribs braise for 3 hours in the oven.

In a large Dutch oven, short ribs go into the oven for 3 hours until the meat turns impossibly tender. Among the aromatics nestled among the meat are bay leaf, parsley, thyme, onion, carrots, tomato paste, and a head of garlic cut in half crosswise that you don’t even have to peel. Don’t worry, the garlic stays largely intact, so the papery skins won’t be floating about.

The Barra Reserve Zinfandel that I used in the dish and served alongside it.
The Barra Reserve Zinfandel that I used in the dish and served alongside it.

The braising liquid is a combination of beef broth and dry red wine. I uncorked a bottle of 2020 Barra Mendocino Reserve Zinfandel ($26), of which I received a sample. Inky purple in color, it is fragrant with dark plum and graphite. With smooth tannins, it’s velvety on the palate with notes of boysenberries, blueberries, and violets. Since I needed only 2 cups for the recipe, that left me handily with two glasses to serve alongside dinner.

Slivers of orange peel plus chopped dates get added to the pot in the last half hour of cooking. Then, more orange peel gets strewn over the top of each serving, along with the chopped pistachios and sprigs of parsley.

Serve with pearl couscous, saffron rice or mashed potatoes, if you like.
Serve with pearl couscous, saffron rice or mashed potatoes, if you like.

The hearty meat gets a lovely bright boost from the fragrant orange peel and a touch of caramel-like sweetness from the dates. And of course, the pistachios add a nice crunchy component.

Bryant and Brennan suggest serving the short ribs with saffron rice or pearl couscous. I chose the latter to soak up all that beefy braising liquid beautifully. Mashed potatoes also would be a fantastic option.

This is a comforting dish that’s fit for company, too. And it makes a fine way to enjoy an abundance of pistachios.

A deeply flavorful and satisfying dish.
A deeply flavorful and satisfying dish.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Orange Peel, Dates, and Pistachios

(Serves 4)

3 pounds lean beef short ribs

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 thyme sprigs

4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, plus more for garnish (optional)

1 bay leaf

2 oranges

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 head garlic, halved crosswise

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups dry red wine, such as Zinfandel or Syrah

3 cups beef broth, plus more if needed

8 dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Season the meat all over with the salt and pepper.

Tie the thyme, parsley, and bay leaf together with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni. With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove the peel in large pieces from the oranges. Set the bouquet garni and orange peel aside. Reserve the oranges for another use.

In a Dutch oven or other large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate and repeat until all the ribs are browned.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic halves, cut side down. Add the onion and carrots and then stir. Add the tomato paste and stir. Raise the heat to medium-high and slowly pour in the wine, scraping up any clinging browned bits on the pot bottom. Return the ribs to the pan. Add the broth, bouquet garni, and three-fourths of the orange peel and bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat can easily be cut with a fork, about 3 hours. Turn the meat from time to time and add a little more broth if the liquid is running low. Thirty minutes before the meat is ready, cut the remaining orange peel into thin slivers and add half of it to the pot along with the dates. Set the remaining slivered peel aside.

When the meat is ready, remove the pot from the oven and remove and discard the bouquet garni and, if you wish, the bones.

To serve, mound the dish on a shallow serving platter, spoon with sauce, and garnish with reserved slivered orange peel, the pistachios, and, if desired, a few sprigs of parsley.

From “Pistachio: Savory & Sweet Recipes Inspired by World Cuisines” by Barbara Bryant and Georgeanne Brennan

More: Tasting Georgeanne Brennan’s L’Apero le Trois Aperitifs

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