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Short Ribs Braised in Ale

Braising is one of my very favorite ways to cook. In no other cooking technique is so little effort on the part of the cook rewarded with results that are so complex and wonderful. Short ribs are the perfect kind of cut for braising.

What happens when you braise? Do you remember the pictures in school of the rain cycle? Heat evaporates water on earth, the moisture rises into the atmosphere creating clouds, which eventually condense into rain? That is what happens in your braising pot. All the wonderful flavors in your tightly sealed pot – wine/ale, carrots, onions, herbs, meat – start to warm up in the oven. The liquid vaporizes and then condenses under the lid and falls back into your pot. The beef and vegetables release their juices and the cycle repeats. The meat takes on the flavors of the ale and vegetables. The vegetables take on the flavor of the wine and beef. In the end, all the distinct flavors meld into a complex, rich, marvelous meal.

One of the great things about braising is that it is a one-pot meal. In a small kitchen that is a huge benefit. You don’t need a special pot. Use a heavy pot, skillet or dutch oven – as long as it has a tightly-fitting lid. You don’t want extra room around your ingredients so pick a pot that fits what you want to cook.

pot with parchmentTo make sure you get a tight seal, put a piece of parchment between the pot and its lid.

The following recipe is a good base. You can experiment with the vegetables, herbs, and liquid. I tend to use what is at hand.

These short ribs taste even better the next day so cook them ahead. Doubling the recipe works well.

Note: You can brown the ribs in the oven, which is less messy and works well if you are doubling the recipe. Set the oven to broil. Put the ribs about 5” from the flame. You’ll want to have the ribs in a pan with sides that are high enough to capture the grease from the ribs. Turn the ribs several times with sturdy tongs while the meat broils.

Short Ribs Braised in Ale

Serves 4


3-3 ½ lbs short ribs, bone-in and meaty

2T          olive oil (enough to barely cover the bottom of the pot)

6             carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

2             yellow onions, cut into 1” wedges

3             celery stalks cut into 1” pieces

1/2 -1     bottle of ale (Use an amber ale or even a porter)

¾ c         beef stock (you can use chicken stock or water)

2             bay leaves

4             sprigs of thyme or rosemary

salt and pepper


One heavy pot, measuring cups, tongs, plate, spatula or wooden spoon, slotted spoon


Heat oven to 300F.

Liberally salt and pepper the ribs. Heat oil over a medium high heat then add and brown the ribs. You want them to look caramelized. You may need to do this in two batches because you don’t want to crowd them in the pot. Transfer the browned ribs to a plate.

Saute the onions in the same pot over medium heat. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any little bits from the browning. When the onions are translucent after 4-5 minutes, add the carrots and celery and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Now add the ale and beef stock, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the ribs back into the pot, nestling them among the carrots and onions. Tuck the bay leaves and rosemary around the ribs. Bring the liquid to a simmer.

ready for oven

Cover the pot with parchment paper and lid. Cook in the oven for 2 hours or until the meat is easily separated with a fork.

After 30 minutes, check to see that the liquid in the pot is simmering, not boiling. Turn down the heat if you need to. After an hour, gently turn the ribs over.

When the meat is done, gently transfer to a warm platter. Try and keep the bone and meat together.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables and place them around the meat.


Tilt the pot to the side and remove as much fat as you can with a spoon. Simmer until the remaining liquid is reduced to about ½ c, which should take about 10 minutes. It should be a bit syrupy. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour the sauce over the meat for a beautiful presentation.




Fruit Trifle

After a long early morning bike ride, while we were catching our breath in a coffee shop and chatting, my good friend Alanna mentioned she was having 12 friends over for dinner and still needed a dessert that would not require a long bike ride to be guilt-free. We were too tired to start messing up her clean kitchen by flinging pots and pans around and cooking something. Besides, she is one of those marvelously organized people who has her table set, her meal organized and the kitchen clean the night before.

We came up with a brilliant idea that is also easy: a fruit trifle. This version has no custard so it’s really quick to make. Alanna went to the store and bought an angel food cake, lots of beautiful berries and a little heavy cream. I dashed home and made the citrus syrup from my North African Orange Cake recipe.

Alanna brought out a beautiful glass trifle bowl that we created the trifle in, though any glass bowl or even individual ramekins would work. It only took a couple of minutes, and, as my fiddler friend says, viola! A great looking and great tasting dessert – hardly a trifle!

Fruit Trifle


The amounts depend on the size of your serving bowl.

1    store bought angel food cake

3     pints of hulled strawberries (about 1½ pounds) and enough cut in half to ring your bowl and the rest roughly chopped

3   dry pints of blueberries

1   dry pint of blackberries

1   dry pint of raspberries

1    pint of heavy cream

2T   Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liquor

3T   white sugar

Citrus syrup

juice of 1 orange

juice of 1 lemon

1/3c sugar

2T    Grand Marnier or other orange liquor

2     cloves

1     cinnamon stick (or ½ tsp cinnamon powder)


Glass bowl, measuring spoons, measuring cup


Make the syrup first by mixing all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for use.

Cut the angel food cake into 1 inch layers saving 3 layers for the trifle and using the rest to fill the center hole. To start to assembly the fruit trifle, place the first layer of cake in the bottom of the bowl, fill the center with pieces of cake then brushed the top of the cake generously with the citrus syrup. On top of this add a layer strawberries, with half cut ones pressed against the outside of the bowl to look beautiful, and the roughly chopped ones filling the inside. Brush the orange syrup over the strawberries and then add another layer of cake, orange syrup and then a layer of blueberries, building the layers. You get the idea.

The final layer at the top of the bowl is raspberries on the outside, with a ring of blueberries and blackberries inside.

Allow the fruit trifle to sit to soak in all those great flavors for 30 minutes up to a few hours.

Whip the heavy cream till it starts to thicken, adding the sugar slowly, then the Grand Marnier. Whip until soft peaks form. You can do this several hours ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve pile a good dollop of the whipped cream into the center of the trifle and put the rest in a serving bowl with a spoon for your guests to add a bit more on their fruit trifle as they choose. Continue Reading