Braised Star Anise Short Ribs
Making delicious, tender short ribs is deceivingly easy and requires little from the cook. For this low and slow comfort meal, a quick sear and browning is the only requirement to lay the foundation for a standout—albeit simple—entrée. The braise in the oven creates a deeply flavored meal.
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
3½ lb short ribs (8 to 9 ribs)
½ tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups beef stock
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 to 3 star anise pods
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp flour
Heat the oven to 350°F. Use 1½ teaspoons of the salt to evenly season the short ribs on all sides.
In a large Dutch oven, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, about 4 minutes, add half of the short ribs to the pan, meaty side down, and brown for 3 minutes. Brown the remaining sides of the short ribs, turning every so often, for an additional 3 minutes. Be sure to get an even sear. Set aside. Add the remaining short ribs to the pan and repeat the browning steps. If the pan gets too hot, turn down the heat accordingly. The entire browning process should take 6 minutes per batch.
Decrease the heat to medium-low and remove the pan from the heat. Pour out all but 1 teaspoon of the fat. Add the onion to the pan and cook off the heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Return the pan to the heat, add the tomato paste and brown for 2 minutes. Add the stock and deglaze the pan,scraping up any browned bits. Add the thyme, vinegar, star anise and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Mix well.
Return the short ribs to the pan. The ribs should be just over halfway submerged in the liquid. If they are not, add water. Bring to a boil, cover and place into the oven. Cook for 2½ to 3 hours, or until the short ribs are tender.
Turn the cooktop to medium-low. Remove the pan from the oven and place onto the cooktop. Spoon off 2 to 3 tablespoons of the rendered fat, or more if desired. Remove the short ribs, place onto a serving platter and cover.
Remove 1 cup of the cooking liquid and place into a small bowl. Add the flour to the liquid and whisk until the flour has dissolved, creating a slurry. Pour the slurry back into the pan and stir to combine. Simmer the cooking liquid until the sauce has thickened to a gravy-like consistency. Serve the short ribs warm topped with the gravy.
COOKING NOTES: Star anise can be a very strong flavor. Similar to a cinnamon stick, star anise should be used sparingly and given time to permeate the ingredients with which it cooks. If you haven’t used star anise before, start with 2 pods, then add another the next time you braise short ribs if more anise flavor is desired.
Collect rendered fat from the pan twice: once after the short ribs are browned, and again after the short ribs are braised. Gently insert a shallow spoon just under the surface of the simmering gravy and discard the fat into a bowl.
Reprinted with permission from The Ultimate 5-Ingredient Cookbook by Rebecca White (Page Street Publishing, Co. 2021) Photo credit: Rebecca White