Bangkok-Braised Short Ribs with Baby Bok Choy
Short ribs are an edible metaphor for spring, really. Think about it - they start off crazy tough, but with time and patience, they turn out to be a very beautiful thing. The thing you need! Never heard of short ribs? It's time to get to know this affordable and delightful cut, which comes from the beef plate primal (lower rib area) and is loaded with layers of delicious fat. In this recipe for Bangkok-Braised Short Ribs with Baby Bok Choy, beef short ribs are slow-simmered with aromatic vegetables and served with fresh baby bok choy. Bloody Bangkok plays the role of an epic sauce, balancing the short ribs' unctuousness with the bright acidity of tomatoes. Slowly reducing the Bangkok brings out its unique flavors, which melds with the richness of the short ribs.
You'll need a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven with a lid for this adventure. But first - please wash your hands! 20 seconds or more.
1) Prepare and brown the meat.
Rinse your short ribs in cold water and pat them dry. Then, cut them crosswise so you wind up with four roughly equal, squarish chunks. On a cutting board or large plate, season each side generously with salt (we like pink Himalayan, or sea salt. No table salt - it imparts a weird flavor!) and freshly cracked black pepper (can't go wrong with Tellicherry).
Heat two tablespoons of coconut oil or a neutral-flavored, high-temp cooking oil in your heavy pot or dutch oven, over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add your short rib chunks, being careful not to crowd the pot. You want to brown the meat evenly to bring out its flavor, about 5-7 minutes per side. Use your eyes, your nose, and your best judgment! If the oil is spattering, reduce heat to medium.
2) Chop and sauté veggies.
While the meat is browning (don't forget to check it and turn it so each side gets some love), prep your produce. Cut the bottoms off the bok choy and discard them, give rinse the leaves, and set them aside. Thinly slice some of the red onion and set that aside, too. Chop the rest of the onion, carrot, and garlic cloves. This doesn't have to be perfect and precise, since they're all going into a blender later. When your short ribs have browned nicely on all sides, use tongs to carefully remove them from the pot and set them aside. Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped veggies to the pot, sauteeing them in the fond (the goodness the short ribs left behind) until they are just softened and browned on the edges, about 4 minutes. Don't forget to stir up all the crispy brown bits in the pot!
*Note - if desired, you can discard the fat from the meat and cook the vegetables in 1 tablespoon of your oil of choice. We were using happy grass-fed beef, so there's wasn't too much fat, and what was there was delicious.
3) Mix it up.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the veggies from the pot and put them in a heavy-duty blender or food processor with 2 cups of water. Blend until smooth, with no large pieces remaining. Return the short ribs to the pot, and pour in the veggie puree you just blended up. Then, pour in 32 ounces of Bloody Bangkok and stir till combined. Keep the stove on medium and wait till you see a few bubbles forming - just shy of a boil - then reduce to a simmer. If you like it hot, throw in a dried red chili pepper or a teaspoon of crushed red pepper.
4) Play the waiting game.
This is the hardest part of this recipe - waiting! Short ribs need a low, slow Bangkok bath to turn their toughness into melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Depending on the size of your short ribs, this braising process can take from 2.5 to 3 hours or so. Keep the lid of the pot on, but with enough of a gap to let some of the liquid reduce. This way, you'll wind up with an awesome sauce. If you need something to do while you wait, use a spoon to skim off and discard the clear fat that will rise periodically to the top of the sauce. If you want to serve rice with dinner, go ahead and make it according to the directions on the package.
5) Cook bok choy, plate, and serve.
After 2.5 hours, check your short ribs with a sharp knife or a fork. If they pierce easily and the meat is soft and fork-tender, they're ready. If not, give them another 30 minutes to braise before checking them again. Remove the ribs from heat. In a large saucepan, add the bok choy and spoon over about a cup of the liquid from the short ribs. Cook the bok choy on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. You're looking for tender, yet still crisp and green bok choy. Pick your favorite big plate(s) or shallow bowls and start with a generous helping of the saucy bok choy. Place short ribs atop the bok choy and pour the remaining liquid from the bok choy pan over it all. Garnish with the thinly sliced red onions from earlier, plus the red chili from the pan (if you are so bold). Add salt to taste. Serve with rice if desired.
Worth the wait! Enjoy with a glass of riesling, sake, or a crisp pilsner.
Bangkok-Braised Short Ribs with Baby Bok Choy
Serves four (or a couple, with leftovers).
2.5-3 pounds beef short ribs, cut English-style
1 pound baby bok choy
1 medium red onion
1 small carrot
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons coconut oil, or neutral high-temp oil like peanut, sunflower, or even vegetable oil
Salt (pink or sea salt - no table salt, please!) - enough to generously cover the short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper (we love Tellicherry!) - enough to generously cover the short ribs
Dried red chili pepper or a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups white rice (optional)
Rinse and pat the short ribs dry, then liberally coat each side in salt and pepper. Brown all six sides in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven on medium-high heat, turning to ensure each side is evenly browned, about 6-7 minutes per side.
While meat is browning, chop the onion, carrot, and garlic. Set aside some thinly-sliced red onion for garnishing. Remove the meat from the pot when browned and add the vegetables, reducing the heat to medium. You can either cook the vegetables in the fat from the meat, or discard the fat and add 1 tablespoon of your cooking oil of choice. Saute the veggies for about 4 minutes or until they are starting to soften and brown on the edges. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot and add them to a high-powered blender or food processor with 2 cups of water and blend until you have a consistent liquid with no large pieces remaining.
Return the short ribs to the pot, and add the liquid from the blender and 32 ounces of Bloody Bangkok. Stir until combined. Bring to a simmer and let it slow-cook for at least 2.5 hours, with the pot lid slightly open to help the liquid reduce into a sauce. Skim fat off the surface with a spoon if desired. Check short ribs for doneness with a sharp knife or fork. If the meat pierces easily and is fork-tender, it's ready to rumble. Remove from heat. Add the bok choy to a large saucepan with about a cup of the liquid from the short ribs. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally, or until the bok choy is tender yet crisp and still bright green. Serve the short ribs on a bed of bok choy and pour over the remaining sauce from the bok choy pan. Garnish with thinly sliced red onion, and serve with rice if using.