The debate didn't last long. "You could have used boneless beef short-ribs. You're paying for the bones when you buy them bone-in," my mother remarked in while we were all enjoying this wonderful stew.
"It's better with the bones," my father and I replied, practically in unison. "Better flavor," dad added. "And then there's all that goodness from the marrow," said I.
Mom, not willing to give in so easily, said, "these bones are too small, I can't see any marrow." At this point, dad and I put our forks down and focused our gaze upon her.
"Mom, just because you can't see a hole in the bones, doesn't mean there's no marrow."
"But they couldn't have cooked long enough for anything to come out."
"They cooked for two and a half hours."
And so it goes. Lest you think that my dad and I unfairly give my mom a hard time, tonight both of them pounced on me for not knowing who Falstaff was. "Shakespeare, Henry IV!," said they, rolling their eyes the way they do when they realize how little I, the daughter of two teachers, really know.
By the way, my mother is right more often than not, though in this case I'll stand by our assertion that this stew tastes better, and is better for you, when cooked with the short ribs bone-in.
This recipe is adapted from one in a old Sunset Magazine. We used a malty brown ale in place of the beer the original recipe calls for, and added carrots and turnips.
We love turnips in stews, though they have their own unique, somewhat bitter flavor; you can easily leave them out.
Short-Rib Beef Stew With Ale
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 Tbsp hot paprika
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bottle (12 oz.) a malty brown ale (we used Newcastle Brown ale)
- 1 can (14.5 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
- 2 large carrots
- 1 pound turnips (optional)
Cook the bacon:
Place bacon strips in a large (5 to 6 quart), thick-bottomed Dutch oven. Set the heat to medium and cook the bacon until much of the fat has been rendered. Remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.
Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat from pot. (Do not pour down the drain or you will clog your drain when the fat hardens as it cools.)
Dredge the short ribs:
Preheat oven to 300°F. While the bacon is cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, hot paprika, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Dredge the short ribs in the flour mixture.
Brown the short ribs in the bacon fat:
Add the short ribs to the pot with the bacon fat, taking care to not crowd the pot (work in batches if necessary). Brown on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.
If you want to get good browning, do not stir the short ribs unless to turn.
While the short ribs are browning, chop the bacon and set aside.
Cook the onions and garlic:
Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the short ribs from the pot to a bowl. Add the chopped onions to the pot. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Add ale and tomatoes:
Add the ale and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add tomatoes and their juices and reserved bacon. Increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil.
Cover and cook in oven:
Return the short ribs to the pot, cover, put in the 300°F oven, and cook for two hours. (Alternatively, you can do the cooking on the stovetop, just lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover.)
Add the root vegetables:
Peel potatoes, turnips (optional), and carrots, and cut into 1-in. pieces. Add to short ribs, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender and meat pulls away easily from the bone, about 30-45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove bones, excess fat:
Spoon off excess fat (it helps if you have a fat separator). If you want, remove the bones before serving and cut any big pieces of meat into smaller chunks.
Adapted from a recipe in Sunset Magazine, October 2007.