Long, cold New England winters would be unbearable if it weren’t for braises. There’s a solid six months between picking the last of the summer’s tomatoes and trimming the first spear of asparagus, and during that time I turn to sturdy, long-cooked recipes, like these short ribs, which have the added benefit of warming your kitchen as they cook. This is a recipe intended for a cold day, when the wind is blowing sideways and the snow shoveling feels never-ending.
Moxie soda is a beloved New England soft drink first created in 1876 as a medicinal beverage (and is the official soft drink of Maine, where the founder was born). It’s flavored with gentian root, giving it a bitter flavor, with hints of cola, root beer, and Dr Pepper, which is what you should substitute if you can’t find Moxie where you live. It’s the secret ingredient in these beans, giving them a complex, sweet, and fruity flavor.
A mustard jus, reduced until it coats the back of a spoon, finishes the dish. It adds a tangy, acidic element to the mellow, tender meat. Like all braises, these short ribs improve upon sitting, so make them the day before you plan to eat them if you’re able; the beans can also be made a day ahead and reheated.
- Put the beans in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover by a few inches. Soak at room temperature overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly oil an 8-inch-square baking dish.
- Drain the beans and transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add enough fresh water to cover and 2 teaspoons of the salt, then bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the beans are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Add 2 cups of the soda, the tomato paste, vinegar, the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt, and the pepper and stir to combine.
- Transfer the beans to the prepared baking dish and top with the bacon. The beans can be made up to this point, covered, and refrigerated overnight, or baked, cooled, and refrigerated, then reheated before serving. Bake until the bacon is crisp and the beans are hot and bubbling, about 1 hour, adding more soda to the dish if the beans are beginning to look dry. If, after an hour, the beans are still not tender, cover with aluminum foil and cook until they are (older beans take longer to soften). When the beans are tender, remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275°F.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the short ribs (in batches, if necessary) and sear, turning, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- In a food processor, combine the celery, carrots, onion, tomato, and garlic and process until the mixture is finely, evenly chopped.
- Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil and the thyme to the pot. Add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the browned short ribs to the pot; the liquid should almost cover the meat. Reduce the heat to bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the pot, and transfer to the oven. Uncover and check after 15 minutes; the liquid should be just simmering. Adjust the oven temperature, if necessary, then re-cover and cook. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the short ribs from the oven and return the beans to the oven to warm through. The short ribs can be prepared to this point, cooled to room temperature, then transferred to the refrigerator. The following day, scrape the congealed fat from the surface and rewarm gently, covered, over low heat.
- Transfer the short ribs to a rimmed platter. Pour the short rib braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl. Let stand until the fat rises to the top, then skim off and discard. Transfer 2 cups of the braising liquid to a small saucepan (discard any remaining braising liquid). Stir in the mustard, then bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the sauce until it has reduced to ¾ cup, about 15 minutes. Spoon the mustard jus over the short ribs, sprinkle the parsley over, and serve, accompanied by the warm beans.
Excerpted from "Homegrown" by Matt Jennings (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Huge Galdones.