There are a number of things I will order without fail at restaurants but would hesitate to ever make at home. This is usually for good reason. I don’t need to learn the hard way that frying fish and chips in my poorly ventilated little kitchen is a bad idea, and I have already learned the hard way that making homemade dumplings is more of an activity than it is a meal. But in some cases, my reluctance is just based on lack of experience or the feeling that my homemade version couldn’t possibly compare to the restaurant version. Short ribs have long been on this list for me. They are my favorite cut of beef, but it was not until recently that it occurred to me to actually make them. Turns out, they are ridiculously easy—dare I say idiot-proof—to make.
I started with boneless beef short ribs, browned them quickly and then sautéed onions and garlic in the drippings. The braising liquid could not be easier—a generous pour of Guinness and lots barbecue sauce. It’s up to you whether you want to go the sweet or spicy BBQ route—I did a mix of both. The ribs went into the oven to simmer away and a few hours later, came out perfectly tender and incredibly moist.
I knew immediately I wanted to serve the ribs on a bed of cheddar grits. On a freezing February night, there is something very appealing about comfort food with a Southern twang. Wishful thinking, maybe. My little twist on classic cheddar grits is to lighten them up by mixing in some steamed, pureed cauliflower. Cauliflower actually thickens the grits considerably, and makes them creamy without adding too much richness. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a whole lot of milk, cheese and some butter in the recipe, but I’m pretty sure the cauliflower negates all of those. The cauliflower also makes the grits easy to reheat without over-thickening, so you can make those ahead, too.
I served the short ribs and grits with a simple sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. A little green goes a long way on a plate of ribs. Whatever you do, don’t throw away the leftover grits. Spoon some extra sauce from the short ribs on top, keep them in the fridge overnight, and add a poached egg for a seriously good brunch.
Barbecue Braised Short Ribs with Cauliflower Grits
– 2 lbs boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2½-inch pieces
– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
– 3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 3 small onions)
– 1 tbs minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
– 16 oz Guinness draught beer (1 ½ standard bottles)
– 16 oz sweet or spicy barbecue sauce
– 1 medium head cauliflower, core removed and chopped into small florets
– ½ cup old-fashioned grits, such as Quaker
– 2/3 cup grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
– 1 tbs unsalted butter
– 1 cup whole milk, plus extra for finishing
– fresh chives, for serving
DirectionsFor the Short Ribs:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel and toss with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.
In a medium sized Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add half the short ribs, and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until the ribs are nicely browned all over. Remove and repeat with the rest of the short ribs. Add the onions to the pan drippings and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, until fragrant (careful not to burn the garlic!)
Pour one 12 oz. bottle of Guinness into the pan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced considerably. Add 6 oz (one half bottle) of Guinness, along with the barbecue sauce, and stir to combine. Add the short ribs back to the pot and spoon the sauce on top so they are covered as much as possible.
Bake uncovered until the sauce is boiling, about 15 or 20 minutes. Cover the pot and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Cook for 2 ½- 3 hours, until the short ribs are tender and almost falling apart. Spoon any visible fat from the surface and serve hot on a bed of Cheesy Cauliflower Grits with a sprinkling of minced chives.
For the Cheesy Cauliflower Grits:
In a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring 2 inches of water to a boil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower florets, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is very tender. Drain and transfer the cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until the cauliflower is pureed, about 30 seconds. Stir in ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Set aside.
In the same saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a full boil. Slowly whisk in the grits, cover and turn the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the grits have just begun to thicken. Pour in 1 cup of milk and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes, until the grits are cooked and are the consistency of a thin porridge. Add the pureed cauliflower and the cheese. If the grits are too thick (this will depend on the size of your cauliflower) add up to 1/2 cup more milk. Off the heat, stir in the butter, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper.
To reheat: heat grits over low heat, stirring often. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper.