Braised Short Ribs with a Latin Twist

Another reason to cook outside, if you need one

It’s been so hot this spring, we’ve already used our grill more times in a month than we did all last summer. Cooking over coals (and whatever flavored woods you like to add) makes just about anything delicious; there’s less clean-up; and dinner’s usually ready fast, too. But here’s a recipe for short ribs with some spice that’s a long, slow-cooked alternative. It’s from Douglas Rodriguez’s book, Latin Flavors on the Grill (Ten Speed Press), which is a trove of terrific recipes with a little kick. (If it’s not in your local bookstore, you can find it on Amazon.) Rodriguez is a Cuban-American chef, credited with inventing what’s called Nuevo Latino cuisine. He used to live in Sleepy Hollow, although he appears to have flown south. My Cuban friend loves to make this dish. I spoke to him to see if he had any extra info to share, but his only comment was that I should refer to him as “my fabulous Cuban friend.” (I’ll add that he’s a terrific cook.)

Anyway, don’t be daunted by the length of the recipe — it’s easy, and after the initial browning of the ribs, you can wander off and lie in the hammock or whatever while the dish slowly cooks itself. Just make sure the coals aren’t too hot at the outset.

Boneless Beef Short Ribs with Opal Basil Chimichurri
Serves 4

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2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
1 cup Barbecue Spice Rub (see below)
¼ cup canola oil
1 qt. beef stock
1 cup red wine
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Opal Basil Chimichurri

¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño
2 dried bay leaves, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped opal basil leaves (regular basil works just as well)
½ cup olive oil

  1. Prepare a medium fire in the grill.
  2. Place the ribs in a bowl and toss with the spices and oil, rubbing the mix in with your hands. Oil the grill. Arrange the seasoned ribs on the hot grate and brown evenly on all sides for about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the ribs to a roasting pan or a cast iron Dutch oven and add the beef stock, wine, celery, carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil on your grill (or the stovetop, if it’s easier), and then slowly simmer the ribs, uncovered, until fork-tender, about 90 minutes to two hours.
  4. While the ribs are braising, prepare the chimichurri. Combine the vinegar, garlic, jalapeño, bay leaves, and salt and pepper in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the basil and olive oil. Set aside.
  5. When the ribs are tender, use tongs to remove them from the roasting pan and place on a serving dish. Strain the braising liquid and reduce to thicken (you’ll need your stove again for this step). Adjust the seasoning and pour over the ribs. Drizzle the chimichurri over the ribs and serve immediately, passing the leftover chimichurri at the table.

Barbecue Spice Rub
Makes about 3½ cups

1 cup Spanish paprika
½ cup ground ancho chile
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup ground chipotle chile
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup granulated garlic
¼ cup granulated onion
¼ cup freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. ground cumin

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  1. Thoroughly mix together all the ingredients.
  2. Use at once or store in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to 6 months.

As the spice rub keeps so well, you can make a larger amount and use it another time. And, of course, you can braise the ribs on your stove top, or in the oven, but the grill adds a nice, smoky flavor. The longer you let the ribs cook, the smokier they get. My fabulous Cuban friend likes to serve them with warm, soft flour tortillas and a big salad.

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