Braised Short Ribs With Espresso & Cocoa Rub

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Espresso Short Ribs finish 1

Buon giorno!

So summer is officially over.. because I have declared it so! My senses are turning to cool temperatures, crunching leaves, aromas of spice, and definitely heartier foods. I am thinking of comforting flavors and preparations that do not require a grill. My first thoughts turn to a favorite cut of beef far more interesting to me than “fancier cuts” like steak, prime rib, etc. Yeah! Yeah! They are all great but give me a short rib any day! –Why? There is so much you can do with short ribs. They are so tender and juicy when cooked properly, and they emit so much intense flavor. Let’s look at this recipe for BRAISED  SHORT RIBS WITH ESPRESSO & COCOA RUB and see how these tender and juicy ribs with perfectly cooked meat, dropping effortlessly from the bone, and assisted by some good ingredients, can bring forth a treasure trove of undeniable flavor and intensity.

The flavors in this luscious dish are not exotic. They are hearty, deep and rich giving a slight sweetness to the sauce. The dish can be a special creation for guests, but it is also very much a family dish. This one has a Sicilian ring to it when the ingredients are investigated. The Moorish influence of the conquerors of Sicily is prominent with the use of lemon, dates, and pistachios. I use Valpolicella for a reason. It offers a fruitier and lighter essence instead of the expected heaviness from Barolo etc. or even the Sicilian wines often paired with beef. This essence pairs nicely with the sweeter sauce and the dates.

These short ribs can be prepared by beginning on top of the stove and finishing in the oven – a classic braise. It can also be made in the slow cooker as I have done here. Either way, I recommend preparing the ribs a day in advance and refrigerating the sauce overnight. By doing this, the next day you can easily remove the fat that congeals at the surface with a fork or spatula in a mere minute. Such ease!

There is no shortage of ideas for serving these BRAISED SHORT RIBS WITH ESPRESSO & COCOA RUB . Here you see them served over gnochetti. They are lovely with Risotto, gnocchi, polenta, mashed potatoes, or pasta. YOU choose!

Finally, the garnish of chopped pistachios, lemon zest, and fresh parsley is almost a gremolata, transforming the dish and taking it to a different flavor level. Do not ignore this final addition!


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 3 hours on the stove; 4 1/2 hours using Slow Cooker


4 lb. Short ribs with bones

1/4 C. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Espresso Powder or Instant Expresso

2 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 chopped onion

1/2 C. Chopped Carrots

1 large Stalk Celery – chopped

2 Fresh Cloves Garlic – chopped finely

1/2 C. Valpolicella Wine (or another medium red)

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 C. Beef Broth

1/2 C. Dates cut up, pits removed

3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1 Bay Leaf

2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1/2 lb. Mushrooms – I like wild. Buttons are fine.

Salt and Pepper

Garnish each serving with:

Fresh Parsley – chopped

Pistachio Nuts – chopped coarsely

Lemon Zest


Mix espresso powder and cocoa together and lightly dredge each rib in it.

Heat oil in a large pan and brown the ribs. (Great aroma!) Remove them to a plate. This takes about 5-6 minutes.

Espresso Short Ribs 1

In the same pan, cook the onions, carrots, celery and garlic for about 4-5 minutes.

Add the wine and balsamic vinegar. Deglaze – scraping up the bits from bottom of pan – about 2 minutes.

Espresso Short Ribs 2

Then add the brown sugar and broth – stir in.

If cooking on the stove – add the ribs back to the pan along with dates and herbs and cook in oven for about 2 1/2-3 hours. or until meat is tender and falls away from the bones. Stir occasionally.

If using the slow cooker – add the liquid and vegetables from the pan to the slow cooker. Add the ribs, dates, and herbs and cook on High for about 4 hours, or until the meat is tender and falls away from the bones.

Espresso Short Ribs 3

When cooking is finished, remove the ribs to a plate. Strain the liquid into a pot, discarding the vegetables and solids – season with salt and pepper. It is important to use salt which will bring out the flavors. Add the mushrooms and cook about 1/2 hour in the liquid until they are tender. This will also cook the sauce down some.

Store in a container in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will congeal at the top and you can quickly and easily remove it and discard, leaving a luscious sauce.

When you plate for each guest, remember to add some of the parsley, pistachios, and lemon zest which enhances the flavor and really takes the dish to another flavor level.


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