November 21, 2009

Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate-Rosemary Sauce

I know what you're thinking after reading the title of this latest experiment of mine, but trust me, don't judge this recipe by its name. Sweet it is not. Instead, the chocolate and cocoa powder lend depth and a complexity to the sauce that would otherwise be flat and mundane.

I've been dying to braise some short ribs for quite some time now. Because truth be told, I've never actually braised anything- ever. I've never had the right equipment for it. For my 25th (sigh...) birthday I celebrated last week, however, I finally got the Le Creuset dutch oven I've had my eye on for ages. That's when I set off in search of the perfect braising recipe to christen my new ceramic friend. I searched far and wide through many a foodie website and saw many of the usual suspects: beef braised in wine, chicken braised in wine, lamb braised in, you guessed it, wine. So when I ran across this recipe for braised beef short ribs with a chocolate-rosemary sauce, I pretty much stopped dead in my tracks. I think it had something to do with that word chocolate... but more than that, I was intrigued by the flavor combinations promised in the recipe's title: beef, chocolate, and rosemary- such 3 distinct flavor profiles. I just had to know what the outcome would be.

As I said earlier, this dish is not in the least bit sweet. It is most definitely a savory entrée. Some of you may already know that chocolate is the secret ingredient in a mole sauce. A sauce that is also savory and not sweet. The chocolate in this particular recipe is added at the end, after the beef has been slowly tenderizing in a hot oven. It helps to thicken the sauce, providing a much more pleasant mouthfeel and the rosemary gave it just a hint of earthiness. And have I mentioned how mouth watering-ly tender the ribs were? Fall off the bones tender! And oh so juicy. A braised beef recipe worth waiting the three plus hours necessary to acquire that certain degree of tasty tenderness.

Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate-Rosemary Sauce
Recipe Adapted from

1/4 cup diced bacon (or pancetta if you're feeling fancy)
6 pounds bone-in short ribs
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/3 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups dry red wine
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups chopped drained canned diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 very large fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons shaved or grated bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.

2. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

3. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown ribs in drippings in pot over medium-high heat until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

4. Add onions and next 4 ingredients to pot. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add wine. Boil uncovered until liquid is reduced by half, scraping up brown bits, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and reserved bacon. Return ribs to pot, cover, and transfer to the oven. Braise for approximately 3 hours or until the meat is tender.

5. Remove pot from the oven and transfer ribs to plate; discard bay leaf and thyme. Spoon fat from surface of sauce. Boil sauce until beginning to thicken, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add chocolate, cocoa powder, and rosemary; stir until chocolate melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return ribs to pot. Simmer to rewarm, about 5 minutes.

Makes 6-8 servings

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