Braised Short Ribs with Pumpkin Orzo

I’ve been making this braised short ribs recipe for almost as long as I’ve been doing this site. It was one of the first recipes from Mario Batali that I ever made, and in all these years, it’s never disappointed. Just a word to the wise: One of the biggest potential problems home cooks encounter when braising short ribs is the amount of fat that this cut of beef throws off. What I do to combat that is make the dish the night before I’m serving it. This serves two purposes: 1. The overnight chill in the fridge allows the fat to congeal on the surface of that luscious braising liquid, so the next day you can easily scrape it off with a spoon before reheating everything. 2. When I slowly simmer the braised short ribs and their liquid, that extra bit of cooking makes the ribs that much more tender.–David Leite

LC David Goes Over the Top Note

David wouldn’t be David if he didn’t find ways to take an already over-the-top braised short rib recipe and make it even more, uh, over the top. During his latest outing in the kitchen, he made ultra-silky mashed potatoes into which he swirled 1/4 cup white truffle oil. The potatoes took the place of the pumpkin orzo. He also swapped orange zest for  lemon zest, which lent the dish “slightly fruity high notes,” as he said. (Uh, that just means it gave it flavor. Sheesh.)

Braised Short Ribs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 2 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • For the braised short ribs
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Four 16-ounce beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine
  • One 16-ounce can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juices
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch fresh oregano
  • For the pumpkin orzo
  • 1/2 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, seeded and peeled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock, or good-quality store-bought stock
  • For the horseradish gremolata
  • Leaves from 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Zest from 2 lemons (preferably organic), julienned (that just means cut into matchstick-size strips)
  • 1/4 pound fresh horseradish, peeled and grated

Directions

  • Braise the short ribs
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • 2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot but not quite smoking. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and cook them in the skillet, being careful not to crowd the skillet, until they’re deep brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total.
  • 3. Dump the short ribs on a plate and keep the pan over high heat. dd the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. (Be careful, as the rendered fat and olive oil may spatter.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables and aromatics are browned and softened, about 4 minutes.
  • 4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the red wine, tomatoes and their juices, beef stock, and herbs, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. Bring the mixture to a boil and return the short ribs to the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender and literally falling off the bones. (You can cover and refrigerate the ribs in their cooking liquid for up to 24 hours. The next day, when you’re ready to serve, simply skim any congealed fat from the surface of the liquid and rewarm the ribs gently in the now lower-fat sauce over medium to medium-low heat.)
  • Make the orzo
  • 5. Carefully hack the pumpkin or squash into 3 or 4 evenly-sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in foil. Roast in the 375°F (190°C) oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until very soft. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then unwrap the cooked squash and dump in the bowl of a food processor. Add the honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper, and pulse until you have a relatively smooth purée.
  • 6. Bring 3 quarts (12 cups) water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Set up a large bowl filled halfway with ice water. Have a rimmed baking sheet ready. Cook the orzo in the boiling water for 3 minutes. (You want to blanch it, not cook it through.) Drain the orzo and plunge it into the ice bath to cool. Drain the orzo and turn it out onto the baking sheet to dry.
  • 7. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 12-inch sauté pan. Add the orzo and squash purée and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the stock is fully absorbed by the orzo. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Make the gremolata
  • 8. In a small bowl, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and horseradish and gently toss by hand.
  • 9. Divvy the pumpkin orzo evenly among 4 warmed serving plates or bowls. Place a braised short rib atop each mound of orzo, top with a little of the pan juices and some of the gremolata, and serve immediately.
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Testers Choice
Amy Goodwin

Dec 04, 2009

This braised short rib recipe was very easy to follow and yielded great results. The gremolata was a very nice accent to the dish. It was amazing that such a simple garnish could result in such a nice overall flavor. The pumpkin orzo, on the other hand, was a nice accompaniment but was very time-consuming to cook. It took three different pans. I make risotto frequently and would have been happy with that as my filler. I assume I could make the orzo in a similar manner and yield good results.

Testers Choice
Dan Kraan

Dec 04, 2009

Braised short ribs: The short ribs were beautiful. The meat fell off the bone, as promised, and the sauce was wonderful for a crisp autumn evening.

Gremolata: I was a bit disappointed by this. I love horseradish, but all I was able to taste was the parsley. I don’t know how to solve this, maybe add salt or lemon juice? I’ll experiment next time. I also ended up with way more of the gremolata than I needed. The amount of the gremolata could have been used on twice as many servings.

Orzo: This is a great recipe. I love unique side dishes like this, which can serve as a bed for a piece of meat or fish. It’s particularly wonderful this time of year. My orzo got a little overcooked, because I was doing other things. I would have liked it if there was a time estimate in the recipe of how long it would take the orzo to absorb the chicken stock.

Overall I give this recipe my highest recommendation. The long cooking time for the meat gives you a chance to prepare everything else. The final result is beautiful and satisfying.

Comments
Comments
  1. Lisa says:

    These braised short ribs are a great dish. I loved it. We made it the day before, because we wanted to give the flavors time to meld.

    Two tips: 1. I put the herbs in a small cheesecloth satchel so I didn’t have to fish out woody stems. 2. After letting the dish cool, I refrigerated it overnight. The next morning, I skimmed of the fat that had congealed on top. It made the final dish much more appetizing.

  2. maggie simonelli says:

    Rich…A layered taste of textures. Pumpkin Orso was particularly delicious. I substituted a Barbaresco for the Barolo, as I was able to buy a half bottle of it at the wine store instead of a $40 bottle of Barolo. The meal did take quite a long time to prepare so next time I will probably braise the beef shortribs earlier.
I have never used gremolata before and truthfully do not know what it is…perhaps you can explain…but it was delicious as the combination of lemon/fresh horseradish/parsley seemed to melt over the meat and create a wonderful new layer of taste to the meal. Thanks! Maggie

    • David Leite says:

      Maggie, a few things.

      First, Mario Batali doesn’t use $40 of Barolo for this dish. It was discovered he uses a simple, good cheap bottle of red wine.

      Two, traditionally, gremolata is a chopped mix of herbs and garlic that gives a lift in flavor to heavier, oftentimes, fatty dishes.

  3. Cindi Kruth says:

    Just had the most wonderful version of this dish. No orzo or horseradish. Instead creamy truffle oil scented (which I normally don’t like, but this was perfect, not too assertive) mashed potatoes and a real gremolata with a hint of orange peel. Spectacular meaty little ribs melting into it all. Could not ask for a more comforting dish on a frigid New England afternoon. Like my fuzzy socks or a warm hug; no like fuzzy socks AND a warm hug. Thanks David. Yes fans, despite all his claims to the contrary, the man really can cook! Absolutely yummy.

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