Rich Short Rib Soup
Everyone thinks of short ribs as fodder for braising, but their intense flavor can be put to use in other ways, as it is in this recipe, which builds a soup around them. The ribs are browned and slowly simmered in stock until they are tender, then shredded and returned along with carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables, resulting in a dish brimming with potent flavors.
- 4 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a knife and peeled
- 2 quarts chicken stock or cold water
- 1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 5 parsley sprigs, and 2 thyme sprigs, wrapped in the green top from a leek, below, and tied with kitchen string)
- ¾ cup diced carrots (large dice)
- 1½ cups diced Idaho potato
- ¾ cup diced celery (large dice)
- ½ cup sliced leeks, white part only (from about 2 medium leeks), well rinsed
- Cracked black pepper (optional)
- Fleur de sel (optional)
- Thirty minutes before you plan to begin cooking, remove the short ribs from the refrigerator and season them generously with salt and pepper. Set them aside at room temperature.
- Warm the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat. Add the meat and lightly brown it on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. (Tongs are a good tool for turning the ribs.) Transfer the ribs to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pot, and cook for 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the stock. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any flavorful bits. Return the ribs to the pot, and add the bouquet garni and the remaining stock. Raise the heat to medium-high and slowly bring the liquid to a boil. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, periodically skimming off any fat that rises to the surface, until the meat is fork-tender and falling off the bone, 2½ to 3 hours. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and bones from the pot, and set the meat aside to cool slightly. (Discard the bones.) As soon as the meat is cool enough to handle, trim off any remaining fat and shred the beef into large chunks.
- Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, and discard the solids. You should have approximately 4½ cups of liquid. Spoon off any fat that rises to the surface. Return the liquid to the pot, set the pot over medium-high heat, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by one quarter, to concentrate the flavors. Add the carrots, potatoes, and celery, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Add the leeks and cook for 6 more minutes.
- Return the meat to the pot and season the soup with salt and pepper. The soup can be made to this point, then cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently over low heat before proceeding.
- To serve, ladle the soup into individual warmed bowls and season with some cracked black pepper or a few grinds of black pepper from the mill. Pass fleur de sel alongside in a small bowl, if desired.
Flavor Building: This soup can accommodate a wide variety of vegetables, including diced turnips, parsnips, celery root, cooked white beans, and cooked savory cabbage. It’s also a great vehicle for cooked cheese tortellini.