Smoked and braised beef short ribs recipe and notes

Weddings are awesome, but so is the wedding food, especially if it includes smoked and braised beef short ribs. Congratulations Jen and Matt Stone. I just got back from an awesome wedding weekend celebration between two of my best friends. The rehearsal dinner was at Tra Vigne, a restaurant staple in the Napa Valley area and made famous by Michael Chiarello. Jen’s a pastry chef, so she knows here food and the entree she selected, the smoked and braised beef short ribs stole the show. Combining smoking & braising is one heck of a one-two combo.

Smoked and braised beef short ribs

Braising and smoking are two techniques that helps transform once inedible cuts of meat into incredibly tender and flavorful eats.  At Tra Vigne I experienced enjoying a meat that was smoked and braised. Never before have I tasted a dish in which both techniques were deployed on the same protein. The lingering smokey taste introduced suchdepth and made the dish all the more primordial. The lingering concentration of the smokiness was spectacular with the short ribs & polenta.

I’ve thought about the cooking process to achieve this. I’ve searched online and have come up with a few hypotheses. Unfortunately I do not currently have access to a grill or a smoker, so to play around with my ideas will have to wait. It is also double unfortunate that after some Googling, I was unable to find an exact recipe on Chiarello’s smoked & braised short ribs. He is good at playing for keeps.

Tra Vigne's short ribs up-close from t-bet's flickr

There are a couple of ways I think to achieve the subtle yet present smoke to the braised short ribs:

  1. Have a smoker going with a combination of woods and other burning agents. It is my assumption that grape vines and other local Napa Valley goods are used to create the smoke. Grape vines make for what seems like initially a harsh smelling fire, but great smokey & lingering flavors on meats. Plus it is Napa Valley and everyone loves their locavorism there. After some time (15-30 mins), the short ribs are moved into the braising liquid pot, covered with the lid, & finished in either an oven or simmered on low heat for a few more hours.
  2. Like a tradition braise, sear the meat in a smoking hot pan and cook in in a braising liquid. Well before the meat is tender and complete, remove the meat from the braise and finish it in the smoker.
  3. Rather than using a tradition smoker, use a very hot grill that is lite not by gas but coals and/or wood+vines. Because the Tra Vigne short ribs were in a brine and loaded with sugar, throwing them on a flaming grill will instantly char the meat and create a smokiness taste to them – even though they were not officially smoked in a smoker as in a tradition BBQ sense.
  4. Cheat and use liquid smoke, learn more here

Recipe of Tra Vigne’s smoked & braised short ribs

I’m still not sure if this is the real deal, but here is a recipe of Tra Vigne’s short ribs. I’m not sold this is the smoked and braised recipe in its entirety, but I’ll let you be the judge too. For the recipe at Napa Valley Flavors click here

It is interesting to note a brine is used for the short ribs. This is an intelligent way to impart a bit more flavor (in this case sugar, juniper berries, and bay leaves) in addition to further tenderizing the meat to keep it moist and succulent. This is a fantastic idea as I normally do not brine my short ribs and save brines for poultry and pork. Mazel Tov!

Tra Vigne from

6 comments… add one
  • christopher garrett grimes Sep 3, 2013

    I brined (as per MC), braised (as per MC), separated meat from sauce overnight, removed congealed fat from sauce the next morning, smoked ribs at 250 degs for 45 mins, brought sauce to boil and reduced by a third, served on mashed potatoes with cavolo nero and a glass of pino noir.

    Not a bad Sunday night.

  • Ray Oct 21, 2010

    I’ve never had the pleasure of trying these ribs at MC’s restaurant but did have a smoked and braised short rib dish at the Elote Café in Sedona (fantastic food and their short ribs are what initiated my quest to find a recipe for smoked and braised short ribs). The flavour of MC’s brined/smoked/braised ribs was outstanding and worth all of the time involved. My wife considers herself a short rib / braised meats connoisseur and ranked these higher than any other I have prepared. The cold smoking is key, and adds a great depth to the sauce. After the braising, it actually penetrates the meat as well.

    I served the ribs with MC’s 5 onion cavalo nero and a celeriac puree. I thought the sweetness of the cavalo dish worked well. We like the earthiness of celeriac with ribs too but I think I will try his polenta with them next time, which will be in the very near future….

    Since I couldn’t find the Popular Plates magazine to get a look at the complete recipe, I used the online versions I found earlier with a few revisions. I made the brine the night before (so I would have it cooled for early in the am) but only used 1 ¼ cups of salt as I thought 2 cups would be excessive. The end result left no trace of salt and I think I will use the full 2 cups next time. I put the ribs in the brine at 9:00am Sunday and used 2 ½ lbs of cross cut ribs (about a pound each) and 1 ½ lbs of boneless short ribs (they looked real good and I had never tried cooking boneless before). I took them out after 3 hours and then came the cold smoking. I rigged up my BBQ using a new soldering iron and soup can with apple wood chips (I found the technique online) and smoked for about 45 minutes. This seemed to provide just the right amount of smokiness.

    Browning and braising: – I browned the meat then braised them at 300 for 4 hours. I used an Australian cab for the wine. I removed the lid after 3 hours to let the sauce reduce. When done, I took the ribs out, separated the fat and then reduced some more. I wasn’t able to get a real nice glaze on the ribs but the sauce really was fantastic. Like nothing I have prepared before. Like most braised dishes, the left over’s the next night were even better. My only complaint (very minor) was that after 4 hours, the meat was not just falling off the bone, but falling apart too. Next time I’ll cook them until tender but still with some body and do it the day before so they can soak in the braising liquid over night.

    If you have the time to make these ribs then I say give them a shot. If you don’t, then make the time as they are exceptional.

  • Eric Borzino Oct 20, 2010

    I agree, there is too much confusion online for this awesome dish. Wish it was out there and simply available. How did your version with the brine, cold smoker and braise come out? Talk about something that will sooth the soul on a cold day. What’d you serve it with?

  • Ray Oct 15, 2010

    Oops. I meant brine – smoke – braise……

  • Ray Oct 15, 2010

    I too have been trying to find this recipe. MC posts the recipe on his Napa Style site here:

    and it is also in the recent version of “Popular Plates” magazine. In the PP version he says to brine – smoke then braise for six hours. In the Napa Style site he says to have the ribs smoked then brine then braise for 4 hours. And to confuse things further, the recipe you posted from Napa Valley Flavors is completely different from MC’s Napa Style site…….I am going to give them a shot this Sunday. I rigged up a cold smoker and am going to try the braise – smoke (1/2 hour) then braise for 4 hours. I’ll try and repost with the results and final methodology…..

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