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Braised Beef Short Ribs with Butternut Squash and Cinnamon

A white bowl of beef short ribs stew with butternut squash and a sprig of parsley

This fragrant stew of exceptionally tender braised beef short ribs with butternut squash and cinnamon is the ultimate cold weather comfort food. Serve this with mashed potatoes or crusty bread, and a green salad, for the perfect fall or winter meal.

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Light olive oil or vegetable oil, for sautéing
  • 4 pounds of beef short ribs on the bone (More details in the notes)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3 carrots, scraped and roughly chopped
  • 4 large shallots, roughly chopped (1 cup chopped shallots)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 2/3 cups red wine (see notes)
  • 1 28-ounce can of good quality whole plum tomatoes with their juice, chopped (see notes)
  • Zest of 1/2 orange, removed in long strips using a vegetable peeler, the strips stacked and thinly sliced cross-wise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups of cubed squash)
  • 1 1/4 cups water

TO GARNISH:

  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon

Instructions

  1. Brown The Beef: Preheat oven to 325ºF. Tie thyme and rosemary sprigs together with kitchen twine and set aside. Pat meat dry with paper towels and season it on all sides with 2 teaspoons salt. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, lidded pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and when the oil is hot, brown the ribs on all sides, taking care not to crowd the pot (work in two batches, if necessary) for about 5 minutes per batch, then transfer them to a large bowl. (For more details, see the section in the post on "how to brown beef short ribs.")
  2. Sauté The Vegetables: Remove pot from heat. Pour off all the fat and wipe out any burnt black bits. Add 1 tablespoon oil, turn the heat to medium, add the shallots, carrots, and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables are golden brown.
  3. Make The Braising Sauce: Add the wine to the pot and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to mix in any flavorful bits stuck on the bottom. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes, thyme and rosemary, orange zest, bay leaves, cinnamon, star anise, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir through.
  4. Braise The Short Ribs: Return beef to the pot, sinking it into the sauce and spooning some sauce over the beef. When the sauce comes to a simmer, cover pot, transfer it to the oven and cook for 2 hours, undisturbed.
  5. Debone and Cut The Meat: Lift the ribs from the sauce with tongs and place them in a large bowl. The meat should be tender and practically falling off the bones. Pull the bones out and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Set it aside while you defat the sauce.
  6. Defat The Sauce: This can be done with a spoon while the sauce is warm (see notes below and in the post), or you can refrigerate the pot of sauce and the meat, separately, overnight, and remove the hardened fat layer from the sauce the next day.
  7. Add the squash and finish cooking: When the sauce is degreased, return the meat to the pot, along with the squash and water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook gently for 30-35 minutes, covered, or until the squash is soft. Taste and season the sauce with salt and more black pepper, if needed.
  8. Garnish and Serve: Mix the parsley with the lemon zest and sprinkle it over the stew and serve. Or garnish with parsley and lemon zest after the short ribs are plated.

Notes

Canned Whole Tomatoes vs Canned Chopped Tomatoes: This recipe calls for canned tomatoes that are chopped. If you buy canned chopped tomatoes, they tend to be watery. I prefer the quality of canned whole tomatoes and I recommend that you buy them whole and chop them yourself. My favorite brand is San Marzano. Here's a recent NYT article that ranked canned tomatoes. And another good article on why it's best to buy canned whole tomatoes.

When Buying Short Ribs:  Look for beef short ribs on the bone that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick, with good marbleization. Typically these ribs weigh 3/4 - 1 1/2 pounds each and have enough meat to satisfy one to one and a half people. You'll need at least 4 ribs for this recipe. I like to ask the butcher to cut each rib in half so there's more surface area for browning, but this is not essential - whole short ribs will work well, too.

Which Red Wine is Best for Braised Beef Short Ribs? Choose a dry red wine that you would enjoy drinking. It doesn't have to be expensive but it has to be tasty because it will flavor your braising liquid. Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir are good choices.

Nutrition Information shown is an estimate calculated by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a professional nutritionist. The fat and calorie content of this recipe vary, depending on how much fat you skim from the sauce.

Keywords: short ribs, braised short ribs