I Tried Smitten Kitchen’s Short Rib Onion Soup and It’s the Most Comforting Recipe I Made All Year
As is likely the case for most of us, my year-end fatigue is real. 2021 has felt exhaustingly delicate. Add the usual hectic nature of the holidays, plus gloomy COVID headlines and all the worry and anxiety that come with them (just in time for the festivities) and I am basically just feeling like I’d rather curl up under a blanket.
So yes, that’s where I am at. Late last week, however, I took a break from the noise and popped over to Smitten Kitchen. I’ve followed Deb Perelman and her recipe blog since her earliest days and it remains one of the few pieces of the internet that brings me unabashed joy. Call me old-school, but I actually visit her site’s homepage to check in on new recipes rather than scroll though Instagram. As soon as I caught a glimpse of her newest recipe, short rib onion soup, I knew I needed to make it immediately. It’s a wintery mashup of braised short ribs and French onion soup that sounded intensely decadent and comforting, which felt all too appropriate for right now. Here’s how it went when I gave the recipe a try.
Get the recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Short Rib Onion Soup
How to Make Smitten Kitchen’s Short Rib Onion Soup
You’ll start by browning a few pounds of bone-in short ribs on all sides in a large Dutch oven in two batches. You’ll transfer them to a large plate once well-browned, then drain off some of the fat in the pot and add chopped carrots, onion, and leek to the pot. Once the vegetables are lightly browned and barely tender, you’ll add tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes until the paste darkens. Next, you’ll pour in a cup of dry red wine and let it simmer until it’s mostly evaporated. You’ll return the browned short ribs to the pot, add smashed and peeled garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and a bay leaf, and pour in 8 cups of beef broth or stock. You’ll cover and transfer the pot to a 325°F oven and braise the short ribs until they’re very tender and falling off the bone, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
While the short ribs braise, you’ll thinly slice 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds yellow onions (about 5 medium). You’ll melt butter in a large pot or pan, toss in the onions, then cover and let the onions steep over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Next, you’ll uncover the pot, raise the heat a little, then slowly cook and caramelize the onions for 40 to 90 minutes. Once the onions are very slinky and deeply browned, you’ll pour in 1/2 cup of dry sherry, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and simmer until the sherry has evaporated.
Now that you have your braised short ribs and your caramelized onions, you can assemble the soup. You’ll remove the short ribs from their pot and let them cool until able to handle. You’ll strain the broth, discarding the vegetables, and skim it of any fat. Once you can comfortable handle the short ribs, you’ll discard the bones and pull and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Next, you’ll combine the meat with the caramelized onions and the strained broth in a large pot (you can use either the pot you braised the short ribs in or the one you caramelized the onions in), bring the soup to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve the soup garnished with chopped fresh chives and thick slices of toast that are rubbed with garlic, sprinkled with grated Gruyère cheese, and broiled.
My Honest Review
This soup was the most satisfying recipe I’ve made all year. Even someone who develops recipes for a living feels cooking burnout, and it has been in full force as of late. Slowly cooking my way through this recipe was restorative.
Preparing this soup is absolutely a project, but one that’s immensely rewarding. I took my time with it, making it on a lazy afternoon and intentionally focusing on the slow and steady process of braising the short ribs and caramelizing the onions. Each step was incredibly meditative and at the end, I was not only left with a hearty, bone-warming meal, but also with the dreamiest aromas wafting from my kitchen. Each spoonful delivered all the savory notes of French onion soup with an extra-meaty bonus. It’s practically stewy in consistency with this added bulk, and luxuriously rich. This recipe is a treat to make and to enjoy, and one I’ll absolutely be making again when I crave deep, brazen comfort.
If You Make Smitten Kitchen’s Short Rib Onion Soup, a Few Tips
- Make it a day ahead of time. Between the short ribs and the buttery onions, there’s a far amount of fat in this rich soup. Make it a day ahead, refrigerate it, and it’s oh-so easy to skim off the excess fat. Plus, short ribs always taste better on day two, and this gives the meat, broth, and onions extra time to mingle.
- Take your time. Half of the reward of this recipe is the process of making it. I recommend cooking it on a day you have a clear schedule, when you can focus all of your energy on the task at hand and enjoy slowing down.
- Swap the beef broth with chicken broth, if you prefer, and use low-sodium. I have yet to find a boxed beef broth I like the flavor of and didn’t have homemade beef broth on hand. I also generally prefer the cleaner taste of chicken broth, so I swapped it in and was quite happy with the results. The broth was plenty beefy from braising the ribs in it. Whichever you use, however, I also recommend using low-sodium broth — as it’s best to have control over the soup’s salt level and you’ll add plenty of salt throughout the cooking process.
- Use less salt for the onions. Deb recommends seasoning the onions with 2 to 3 teaspoons of kosher salt to start. I’d recommend starting with just 1 teaspoon, particularly if you don’t regularly cook with Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which is less salty than others, and tasting and seasoning with more, as needed.
- Add more broth, if you need. Deb mentions that the soup is stewy in consistency, and I can attest to this — especially after a rest in the refrigerator overnight. Feel free to add a bit more broth if you like, to make it more soupy.