At this time of year, as the weather continues to be cool, I am awash with tea in all forms, in the cup and in a dish. It’s used here in one of my favorite seasonal classics: Beef short ribs cooked with the intensely dusky notes of tea. This is a dish to make when you have a few lazy hours to spare – a good weekend project. It does not require much active preparation after you have provisioned the pantry, so now’s the time to lay in a batch of these meltingly tender beauties perfect for freezing and rewarming in the spur of the moment.

Here is a non-recipe set of guidelines to achieve stewed perfection. 

Beef Short Ribs in Tea Braise

Serves 3-4.  Feel free to increase the yield in direct proportion.

I like to use mellow, lightly-brewed Assam or Nilgiri teas from India as the base for the braising liquid. Using 4 T. of leaves per 3 quarts of water heated to 212 degrees F. Let steep for about 3-5 minutes, and then decant, discarding the spent leaves. Add in some aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 1 t. dried thyme and 1 t. dried rosemary (if using fresh herbs, use twice as much).

Beef short ribs with a slice cut and being removed

Salt and pepper 4 lbs. short ribs and in a heavy saute pan with a lid or Dutch oven with a lid, then sear in a slick of olive oil over medium high heat to brown well on all sides.

Remove from the pan and then add in a pound of sliced onions, 6 to 8 large cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed), six to eight medium-sized carrots (peeled and chunked), a bunch of celery (cut into ½ inch pieces), and cook all slowly over low heat until the vegetables have softened and are a bit browned, stirring occasionally to achieve even browning.

Add the meat back and then pour the lightly-brewed tea over all. Add in a pint of vegetable or beef stock or water to cover the meat. Add in a bit of tomato paste and a small handful of brown sugar. Now season the mixture lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the mixture has come to a simmer, taste to correct the seasoning, adding in more salt and pepper as your palate dictates. Be sure to taste the liquid once the meat has become fall-off-the-bone tender (this takes about 2 hours), either covered on the stove or in the oven at 350 degrees F. Add more stock or water as needed to be sure that the liquid in the pan is covering the meat well and not evaporating. Be sure to taste to correct seasoning again, if needed, at the end of cooking.

Cool and chill overnight.

Remove most of the solid layer of fat that will have congealed overnight. Divide the meat and its sauce into portions, serving some on that day and freezing the rest, as desired.

When you reheat the dish, feel free to add a bit more stock or water to the liquid surrounding the solids to yield more sauce which will intensify as you reheat the dish.

The sauce should be of coating consistency. To accomplish this, remove the meat and other solids and reheat the liquid, and then cook down the liquid over medium to high heat to reduce to the desired consistency. Watch carefully to avoid burning it.

Garnish with a nice scattering of fresh herbs and/or parsley, finely chopped. Serve with some crusty bread and you will have comfort in a dish on the table in no time.

Excerpted and adapted from Cooking with Tea by Robert Wemischner and Diana Rosen (Periplus, 2000).
Copyright@2000 Robert Wemischner and Diana Rosen

Photo “beef short ribs 002” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “dirtsailor2003” and is being posted unaltered (source)