On its own, Mourad Lahlou's Short Rib Brine tastes like a mix of salt water and simple syrup, steeped with earthy cumin and coriander seeds and aromatic cloves, star anise, bay leaves and spicy peppercorns.
When we soak the short ribs in this concoction, all of the assertive flavors come together to complement its beefy richness. Chiles de arbol impart a subtle heat that cuts through the heaviness of the short ribs.
- Why brine? Short ribs start out as a tough cut of meat, but they’ll be melting off the bone by the time they hit your plate. Brining the short ribs is the first step in breaking down their fibrous connective tissue.
- Cool it down. It’s important to add ice to the brine – and refrigerate it, if necessary – to ensure that it’s cool before you add the meat. The purpose of the brine is to tenderize the meat, so it would be counter-productive to boil the outside of the beef in the hot brine.
These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.
- Stockpot. This large, tall pot – often used for preparing soup or stock – is perfect for simmering the brine. Use one that fits in your refrigerator, as you’ll need to chill the beef in the brine for at least 6 hours.
The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.
Large wooden spoon
Baking sheet with rack
- 2 quarts (8 cups) water
- 2 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon Tellicherry peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon cloves
- 4 pieces star anise
- 2 teaspooons coriander seeds
- 4 chiles de arbol
- 5 bay leaves
- 8 cups ice cubes
Total Time: 6 1/2 hours to overnight
Active Time: 30 minutes
- Bring the water to a simmer in a large stockpot. Add the remaining ingredients except the ice and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Turn off the heat and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to infuse the flavors.
- Add the ice to cool down the brine. If it is not cold, refrigerate it until it is.
- Add the short ribs to the brine and weight them with a plate to keep them submerged. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or for as long as overnight.
Flank steak & cinnamon spiced couscous
This brine is not only great for short ribs, it is also a versatile brine for other red meats such as flank steak. Brine the steak for an hour and then grill the meat until the exterior is slightly charred, but the interior is not overcooked. To round out the meal, slice the flank steak into strips and serve over a bed of couscous lightly seasoned with cinnamon and dried fruit.