Why It Works
- Short ribs are braised until tender, then shredded and combined with their cooking liquid for a moist, flavorful, and substantial sandwich filling.
- Two slices of Gouda ensure a gooey grilled cheese experience.
- Caramelized onions lend sweetness and balance the mixture of savory, creamy, and piquant flavors.
Editor’s note: This recipe originally appeared as part of our Sunday Supper series.
After buying a copy of Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal—And a Meal into a Sandwich, I remember thinking, "Who in their right mind would spend this much time laboring over a sandwich?" But since I'd already paid for the book, I had every intention of finding out.
The answer came quickly: I would. Now I'm a true believer in taking the time—even several hours—to prep delicious components, all in the name of a great, nay, stellar sandwich. My first Colicchio-inspired attempt is this hearty creation with tender short ribs, Gouda cheese, and caramelized onions.
The ribs start out on the bone, and are slow-simmered for hours in red wine and stock, scenting the house along the way. Once the meat is fully tender, I shred it (discarding the bones) and toss it with the braising liquid. While the beef is cooking, I slowly caramelize onions with thyme and just a touch of sugar.
Once those two components are ready, I assemble the sandwiches by layering buttered marbled rye bread slices with thick slices of Gouda cheese, the beef, and onions, along with a bit of mustard sauce, and get ready to cook 'em up.
There are many ways to griddle a sandwich. At my place, I use a George Foreman grill, which I love solely for its ability to make hot pressed sandwiches. But a panini press works just as well, or, lacking that, you can also sandwich the sandwiches (yup) between two heavy, preheated skillets and finish them off that way. In short, your goal is to compress the sandwich as you cook it, so you need a weight of some kind to press it down as it cooks.
I also like to turn and flip my sandwich halfway through to help it cook more evenly.
Despite all of the prep work, cooking the assembled sandwiches doesn't take long. They're done when the slices of cheese are melted and the meat and onions are warm. It won't take nearly as long to eat as it is to make, but it's absolutely worth it.
- For the Short Ribs:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 stalk celery, cut into large chunks
- 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 3/4 cups dry red wine
- 1 cup beef stok or low-sodium broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- For the Onions:
- 1 tablespoon unstalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the Mustard Sauce:
- 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- For the Sandwiches:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 slices seeded marbled or regular rye bread
- 8 thick slices Gouda cheese
For the Short Ribs: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer ribs to a platter and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Return meat to Dutch oven and add wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, thyme, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and return to a simmer. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until beef is fork-tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours; add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water halfway through, if necessary, to keep meat halfway submerged in liquid.
Transfer ribs to a clean platter. Pour sauce through a fine strainer into a large heatproof bowl; discard solids. Skim fat from sauce and discard. Pull meat from bones and shred, discarding bones and any large pieces of fat. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Add shredded meat to sauce and toss to combine, allowing meat to absorb the liquid.
Meanwhile, For the Onions: Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over low heat until butter is melted. Add onions and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring periodically, until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Remove cover, add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often and adding water 1 tablespoon at a time if onions begin to burn, until onions are deep brown, about 15 minutes. Discard thyme.
For the Mustard Sauce: In a small bowl, mix together mustard and sour cream.
For the Sandwiches: Preheat a sandwich grill, panini press, or two heavy skillets until hot but not smoking.
Spread butter on 1 side of each rye bread slice. Spread Mustard Sauce on opposite side of each slice. Set 4 of the bread slices, Mustard Sauce side up, on a work surface, and top each with 1 slice of cheese, then caramelized onions, shredded beef, and finally the remaining slices of cheese. Close sandwiches, butter side up, with the remaining bread slices.
Working in batches if necessary, cook the sandwiches, compressing them within the panini press or 2 skillets (or even in 1 hot skillet while pressing down with a sturdy spatula) until cheese is melted and filling is warmed through, about 5 minutes total; if cooking surface doesn't heat evenly, rotate and flip sandwiches halfway through cooking. Serve immediately.
Panini press or 2 heavy skillets