One of the things I love most about winter is indulging in the kinds of substantial comfort foods that you wouldn’t necessarily want to cook or eat in the middle of summer – like braises that need to cook for several hours in a hot oven.
While I always really enjoy short ribs (Jenny and I even had them on the menu at our wedding), until a couple weeks ago I’d never actually cooked them at home. But when I found myself standing at the meat counter staring at racks of short ribs on a seriously cold day, I knew it was finally time to try them out.
This recipe started when Jenny suggested Chinese five-spice powder as an ideal flavouring for the ribs. I agreed, then immediately thought of cocoa powder as the ideal partner to five spice and wine in a braise. You’ll notice that the recipe below actually calls for red wine and beer. I was originally just going to use wine, but subbed in the beer when I realized we were short on leftover wine. The end result still turned out delicious, with the sweetness from the five spice and the earthy, smoky notes from the cocoa powder pairing perfectly with the flavourful ribs. I ended up cooking this in the oven for three hours, which produced an amazing, thick sauce, but made the ribs a bit too fall-off-the-bone for my liking. As a result, I’ve suggested braising for 2.5 hours in the recipe below… check it at that point and if it needs a bit more time, just pop it back in the oven to finish.
Short Ribs Braised in Cocoa and Five Spice Powder
1 C red wine
1 C beer
3 C vegetable stock
2 TBS cocoa powder
2 TBS Chinese five spice powder, divided into 2 1 TBS portions
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 C flour
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Chop ribs and dredge in flour mixed with 1 TBS five spice, and generous grinds of salt and pepper
Heat oil in a dutch oven or other large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. When hot, sear ribs in small batches on both sides until browned. Remove ribs and set aside.
Turn heat to down to medium. Add fennel and garlic and sauté a few minutes until translucent. Add onion and sauté several minutes more until it becomes soft.
Add ribs back into pot. Stir in cocoa and 1 TBS five spice, then add wine and stock. Turn heat back up and bring everything to a boil for a couple of minutes.
Cover with lid and put in oven for 2.5 hours, or until fork tender.