Comfort Food to Comfort a Friend

Barbecued Roasted Beef Short Ribs 1My friend Maddy and I agreed that the best way to comfort a dear friend who had recently lost her mother after a long illness was to invite her and her husband for a home cooked meal. We debated the menu over several emails, but then it hit us. What we needed to serve was cold weather comfort food. When I mentioned barbecued short ribs served with creamy mashed potatoes and a cole slaw with capers and scallions, my fellow host jumped on the idea. She pointed out that our friend was from the South and loved barbecued fare.

If you’ve never roasted short ribs, you’ll discover, that this inexpensive cut takes to slow oven cooking naturally with mouthwatering results. In the following recipe, these ribs are rubbed with an assertive blend of brown sugar, smoked paprika, and other robust spices, then browned and simmered in a barbecue sauce, which conveniently cooks along with them. When done, the meat is fork-tender and bursting with smoky, sweet, and tart flavors. An added bonus is that these ribs improve in flavor when made ahead and reheated.

Maddy took charge of the ribs and also made cornbread, while I prepared the side dishes. Other guests insisted upon sharing too, and arrived with a beautiful pear tart and delicious Italian cookies. In the end we all agreed that food, especially simple down home favorites, was the best way to let our pal know that we were thinking of her.

Barbecued Roasted Beef Short Ribs
4 1/2 pounds beef short ribs (10 to 12 ribs, depending on the size)
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (see note)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Quick Pan Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard, such as Coleman’s
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for sautéing
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

1. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Mix brown sugar, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon in a small bowl and rub on all sides of ribs. Place the ribs on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

2. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. For the sauce, use a large, heavy, flameproof roasting pan that will hold the ribs comfortably in a single layer. Add ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and l/2 cup water to the pan and whisk until well blended.

4. Coat a large, heavy frying pan lightly with oil and place over medium heat. When hot, sear the ribs on all sides until lightly browned, watching carefully so that the coating on the ribs does not burn. Place the ribs in the roasting pan and turn to coat well with sauce. Place the pan over 1 to 2 burners on high heat and bring the mixture to a bubbling simmer. Remove and cover the pan tightly with a double thickness of foil. Roast until the ribs are fork-tender, for 11/2 to 2 hours or longer.

5. Remove the ribs from the oven and skim off and discard all the fat (there will be a lot) from the pan. (Ribs can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool them and the sauce to room temperature, but do not skim off fat if making in advance. Remove the ribs to a separate container. Cover and refrigerate the ribs and the sauce in the pan separately. When chilled, the fat in the sauce will congeal and can be removed and discarded easily. To reheat, return the ribs to the pan with the sauce, cover with foil, and place in a 350 degree preheated oven until hot, for 20 to 30 minutes.)

6. Serve ribs coated with some sauce and sprinkled with parsley, if desired. Pass any extra sauce in a bowl. Serves 6.

 Note: Spanish smoked paprika, called pimenton, is available in gourmet food stores and in some groceries, or you can order it online from Penzey’s at I used the sweet (dulce) style.

Recipe is from Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2011)

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5 thoughts on “Comfort Food to Comfort a Friend

  1. I immediately sent this on to 3 of my friends as they have been looking for good ribs recipes! What a fabulous thing to do for your friend. I am sure she felt very loved through this delicious comfort food.

  2. I love the Sunday Roasts book and enjoyed the “Brunch” on this past Monday. I would love to see the coleslaw recipe to go with the Beef Short Ribs. A

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