Back two years ago, Jeff and I vacationed for a few days in Bar Harbor, Maine and dined at wonderful restaurant called Havana. It is this really cute American restaurant with a Latin flair. I ordered the coffee infused short ribs and to this day, it is the best set of short ribs I have ever had!
Last week, I was craving short ribs and remembered seeing one of our many cooking magazines announcing coffee flavored short ribs on the cover. I searched the house up and down and couldn't find the recipe. So, a-googling I went!
I found the recipe for Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs on a site called Cook Local. I read the ingredients and thought "this could work". A little bit of coffee, a little bit of chocolate...it almost had a brown mole feel to it. I also read all the hints for how to make this dish taste better (which included good quality cocoa). I got all the ingredients together, browned the short ribs, sauteed the peppers and onions, add the tomatoes and coffee and into the oven it went.
When it came out of the oven, it smelled delicious. Then I went into disaster mode. It was after 9 PM when the short ribs came out of the oven and I contemplated whether to continue or just finish the following night. I really wanted to see how it tasted and thought I would add the cocoa and it would be COMPLETED for tomorrow night's dinner. Mistake #1 - I used regular unsweetened cocoa, not the 70% or higher. Mistake #2 - Not tasting the sauce before I continued.
My goal was to put 1/3 of a cup of cocoa into the sauce and then taste it before I added more cocoa. I grabbed a 1/2 cup (where are my glasses when I needed them) and threw the first 1/2 cup in. I stirred it and it smelled wonderful. Without thinking, I threw the next 1/2 cup in. I gave it a big stir thinking I had only placed 2/3 cups of cocoa versus a full cup. I tasted the mixture and it tasted a bit flat with that deep cocoa after taste. I tried some salt and pepper but it seemed like the cocoa had dulled all the spices and flavors in the dish. UGH! So, I grabbed a spoonful and had Jeff try it. "I'm not sure I can eat this, it tastes like mocha meat." MOCHA MEAT...great, an entire meal down the drain. I know, I'll add beef broth. So, 2 cups of broth later and it was still...mocha meat. I put everything into the refrigerator and decided I would take this on the following day.
As Monday turned to Thursday, I was still contemplating what to do with this mess. I took it out of the bowl, dumped it into a large pot and began heating the mix. I added more beef broth to the pan and was able to get a thinner consistency. I drained about 2 cups of the liquid off and added another 4 cups of beef broth, 1 large can of diced tomatoes and two cans of kidney beans with their juice. I then added a few teaspoons of oregano, chili powder and cumin. I crossed my fingers and to my surprise, we enjoyed coffee and chocolate braised short ribs. The flavor was actually good with a just a hint of cocoa. We served it over rice and noodles and to my surprise, there were a few who returned for seconds.
I'm bound and determined to try this recipe again. My suggestion would be 1. Use a better quality cocoa and 2. Taste before you continue to add the cocoa. I'd say 1/2 a cup first and adjust flavors from there! I don't want you to spend the time and money on a dish that might be labeled...mocha meat!
Adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook
- Olive oil or lard
- 5 lbs beef short ribs
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 cups strong coffee
- 1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
- Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
- Remove the short ribs from their package and rinse them under cold water. Pat them dry.
- Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. (Use more salt than you think you will need).
- Heat the olive oil or lard in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.
- Place two or three of the short ribs in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the short ribs. You want to brown them, not steam them.
- Brown the short ribs well on all sides. You want the outsides of meat just a tad under burnt.
- Transfer the browned meat to a plate and continue to brown the rest of the meat. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium.
- If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cookin’.
- Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes.
- Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer.
- Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.
- Return the short ribs to the pot and cover.
- Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Mix in the chocolate until melted.
- Season with the cilantro and salt and pepper.