Winter, as a season, is especially conducive to saving money by using inexpensive cuts of meat. When the weather begins calling for rich stews and slow-braised roasts, I put the cheapest selections at the butcher to their best use.
Though they are no more expensive than a few handfuls of chuck, short ribs feel a little more chic than their odd-cut beef counterparts. These days, you're likely to find them incorporated on the menu of even the fanciest restaurant, topped with something elegant like, say, truffle butter.
When I am looking for a dish that's just a little more special than everyday fare but am not necessarily prepared to pay restaurant prices for my dinner, I turn to short ribs and prepare them simply but with tons of flavor. Adding herbes de Provence and Nicoise olives (available in bulk, for cheap), livens up a rustic red wine braise, and naturally calls for the best cheap side dish ever: crusty baguette. If you're looking for something with more body, creamy polenta or mashed potatoes make a wonderful bed for the sauce, which you will want to consume to the very last drop.
Shopping List: 1 pound shortribs, $6.00; purchased beef stock, $0.50; ¼ cup olives, $0.35; 1 carrot, $0.20; 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, $0.50 (prorated).
Pantry Items: olive oil, onion, garlic, herbs de provence, red wine, bay leaf, salt
Total Cost (for 2 portions): $7.55
About the authors: Phoebe and Cara are the co-founders of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a food and cooking website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. They have a heated, decade-long rivalry about whose Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie is the best. Their book, Big Girls, Small Kitchen, will be published in the spring of 2011 by William Morrow. Visit their blog here.
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:3 hours
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound short ribs, cut into 2 pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon herbs de Provence
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup pitted Nicoise olives
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Position a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 300°F. Heat olive oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Brown short ribs on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and carrots. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in herbs, red wine, stock, tomatoes, salt, and bay leaf and return heat to high. Bring to simmer, cover, and bake in oven about 2 1/2 hours, until very tender, turning short ribs over halfway through cooking.
Remove pot from oven and spoon off excess fat from surface. Carefully remove short ribs to plate. Discard bay leaf and bring sauce to a boil over high heat. Reduce until liquids thicken and reduce by one third, about 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in olives and taste for seasoning. Return short ribs to pot and heat through. To serve, divide the short ribs between two plates, ladle sauce over top, garnish with parsley (if using), and serve with crusty French bread.