Bourbon-Braised Short Ribs with Brown Sugar and Coffee
Where’s the beef?
The line comes from the mid-’80s advertising campaign for Wendy’s burgers, lauding that chain’s big, juicy patties while mocking its competitors’ big, fluffy buns.
It has also been a recurring lament in our house since 2015 when we had to face up to the fact that the rise in the price of red meat meant we needed to start treating all cuts of beef — not just the big T-bone steaks or prime ribs roasts — like luxury items.
For a good Alberta girl, that was a sad day. For her meat-eating, caveman of a husband, it was much worse.
Dan and I recently celebrated our March birthdays with a family dinner and, if we were looking for an occasion to splurge, that was as good a reason as any. Dan had recently muttered the phrase “bourbon-braised short ribs” and the image had stuck to our, um, ribs.
We’ll call this one the casting off of our kitchen budget.
Short ribs are less Fred Flintstone-ish than other types of beef ribs. However, as they cook they reduce down into what appears to be a tiny perfect pot roast on a stick.
The short story of this recipe is that you are going to devote a great deal of time to the prep and cooking and — just like Christmas dinner — it will be devoured in mere minutes. The ribs sit overnight in a rub that combines sugar, salt, ground coffee and cayenne. On cooking day, they spend the better part of three hours bubbling away in a mixture of stock, bourbon, orange juice and more coffee. If you’ve built in extra time, you can’t go wrong by cooking them, then reheating and serving the next day.
Were they good?
They yabba-dabba-do sure were.
Kitchen Castoff Used
Mainly we figured we were throwing out the budget on this meal, but with the meat ringing in at $36 for five adults, it didn’t seem too bad.
This is how we did it
3 1/2 to 4 pounds beef short ribs. (If you are in Edmonton, we got ours from Ben’s Meats on Stony Plain Road.)
For the dry rub
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- Ground black pepper, to taste
For the braising liquid
- 3 1/2 cups beef broth
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 5 cloves garlic, slivered
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Sea salt, to taste
Trim the ribs if necessary. We removed the silver skin and most of the fat cap. Combine the sugar, coffee, salt, cayenne and black pepper and rub all over the ribs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
On cooking day, remove the ribs from the fridge and let them sit for about an hour to come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy skillet, heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat, then start browning the ribs in batches. The sugar in the rub helps to caramelize quickly so you’ll only need three to four minutes per side. Transfer the browned ribs to a roasting pan or large Dutch oven.
To make the braising liquid, add the broth, coffee, bourbon, garlic, orange zest, orange juice and a couple of splashes of Worcestershire to the skillet. Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for about two minutes.
Pour the braising liquid over the ribs, then tightly cover the pan with either a lid or aluminum foil and put into the oven. Let cook for about 90 minutes, then uncover the ribs, flip them over and cover them back up to cook for another 90 minutes to 2 hours. When the ribs are done, the meat will fall from from the bone.
When the ribs are cooked, place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a smidge of salt. Skim off as much fat as possible from the braising liquid, then pour into a saucepan. Let it simmer for a few minutes to reduce a bit. Put the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes on each side, then return to the roasting pan. Pour the reduced sauce back over the ribs.
Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.
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