Braised Short Rib Tacos

June  4, 2014

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A deeply restorative meal, born entirely of the freezer.  

Braised Short Ribs from Food52

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After a weekend away and some heavy-duty denial about the fact that it’s officially June, I wake up early Monday morning to find the rest of my life sitting on my chest. This unfamiliar weight scares me. 

I make my coffee, paw around in the freezer, pray that there is something I can MacGyver into two school lunches. Frozen peas land on my jet-lagged son's head. Lamb bones fall onto my bare toes. And before I can stop it, an avalanche of unlabeled freeze-burned Ziplocked scraps slides down to the floor.  

I shove it all back into the freezer, heave my body weight against the door, and lock the chaos back in. 

And things don’t improve. 

It is the kind of morning where my son cries because his daddy will miss his Ninjago-themed sleepover birthday party. It is the kind of morning where I drop my husband off at the airport, lean in for a long deep kiss, and say goodbye for the entire summer. My heart aches so much that it is hard to turn my head over my shoulder to change lanes. I find myself driving down the freeway singing along and sobbing away to John Cougar Mellencamp. 

It’s only 11 AM. 

Bird by bird. 

Braised Short Rib Tacos from Food52

I open the freezer. I face my future. 

Ten years ago, if you were scrounging around in my freezer for a stick of butter, you would have run into a placenta, a dozen bags of breast milk, some very stale pot, and lots of New York Super Fudge Chunk. Period. 

Now you’ll find enough tortillas to open a Mexican restaurant, fancy-ass square ice cubes (small, medium, large), lardo, bacon, bacon, bacon, two uncooked short ribs from this year’s Super Bowl party, fresh horseradish, a smorgasbord of pastries, pesto, egg whites, my neighbor’s homemade lemon curd, mini pissaladières, brown butter cupcake brownies, chocolate chip cookies, pulled pork, garlic confit, slow-cooked tomatoes, soup, pizza, pizza, pizza. And that, my friends, is just the beginning.  

Starting with the short ribs, I begin cooking the next six meals that will go into my kids’ bellies. I sear off the frozen meat in bacon fat, toss in some onions, garlic, and anchovies. I deglaze with wine while the meat is still in the pan. I break all of the rules. And then I add some gooey balsamic and a large frozen block of diced tomatoes. 

I throw the mess into the oven and forget about it until the smell brings me back.

I lift the lid. I shred the meat. I pick out the fatty bits. My heart rate slows down.

Braised Short Rib Tacos

Serves 4

6 short ribs
Kosher salt (for seasoning ribs)
Pepper (for seasoning ribs)
1 teaspoon bacon fat
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced yellow onions
4 cloves garlic, grated or pressed or finely chopped
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction (or regular balsamic vinegar)
28 ounces diced San Marzano tomatoes, canned 
12 tortillas
Crème fraîche for serving
1/2 cup cilantro leaves for serving

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here. 

Photos by Phyllis Grant

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • tuesdaywine
  • Brandi
  • Emily
  • Megan Town
    Megan Town
  • Erica
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


tuesdaywine January 12, 2015
I discovered this recipe last night while searching for inspiration for the short ribs I found in the back of the freezer. Wow. What a perfect meal for a busy and frigid evening. I swapped out red wine for the white because it is what I had open (and felt like drinking!). The aroma that filled the house made me glad that I had my act together and got dinner in the oven at a reasonable hour. My husband went back for thirds and both of us are looking forward to leftovers.
Brandi July 25, 2014
Well, I'm late to the party, but I just made this recipe and wanted to chime in. The only thing I did differently was pre-salt the meat because I always regret it when I don't. This recipe made my house smell amazing, gave me a reason to pour another glass of wine, and I think it even made my husband love me more! This meaty, melty goodness is what I will make to resolve marital static. Thank you!
Phyllis G. November 6, 2014
Your comment made me cry. Thank you.
Emily June 23, 2014
I started reading this because short rib tacos sounded so good but what I got out of it was so much more than a recipe. I did what my daughter calls "the cackle". I even read it to my husband. Your writing is so much about real life, it made my day! I will be following you and if I ever get around to making those delicious looking tacos that will just be lagniappe.
Phyllis G. June 25, 2014
this comment moved me so so much. "so much more than a recipe." that's always my goal. so i'm thrilled you feel that way. and you taught me a new word! lagniappe. thank you.
Megan T. June 20, 2014
How many pounds is "6 short ribs"?
Phyllis G. June 25, 2014
not sure. sorry. just ask for 6. if they're enormous, go with 4. it's a very flexible recipe.
Megan T. June 25, 2014
I asked for six and they looked at me like I had sprouted horns, so I went with six pounds and it made more than enough! We enjoyed the short rib tacos and the many, many leftovers. Great recipe!
Erica June 5, 2014
My son is 28. You do not want to know how many of those freezer items I still have.
Phyllis G. June 5, 2014
ha! i love it.
Gail T. June 4, 2014
Why do you need to say goodbye to your husband for the summer? I felt sad reading your column but at the same time really enjoyed it, recipes look great too.
Phyllis G. June 5, 2014
my husband is shooting a feature film in seattle. the truth is, he's pretty much gone until december. but i'm facing it all one season at a time. so glad you enjoyed the recipe!
Gail T. June 5, 2014
Sorry I was being nosy but I was worried about you. Thanks for sharing.
Jane A. June 4, 2014
Phyllis, you are my absolute favorite. And you had me at Ninjago. I just made a chocolate cake that looked like Kai for my little dude's 5th. Life these days...
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
jane. yes. life these days! my son told me this morning that the party needs to be ninja-themed. not ninjago. i got it wrong! would love to see the cake you made.
Jane A. June 4, 2014
At the risk of being fully self-promoting, the Kai cake in this blog post:
It is all ninjas, all the time here.

Can't thank you enough for all of your bloggy, culinary, and mama inspiration!
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
jane, look at all of those amazing cakes you've made! i make simple three-tiered cakes. but i've never been brave enough to take on anything else. thanks for sharing!
Jane A. June 4, 2014
thank you! the key is not to care how ridiculous they look... if the kid is happy, i'm happy :)
Val June 4, 2014
You lost me at placenta...
Kenzi W. June 4, 2014
You had me at placenta!
Jen B. June 4, 2014
I'm craving a placenta taco with hella crème fraîche.
Jill D. June 4, 2014
I concur. Love Phyllis.
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
jen, did you hear me laughing from berkeley? i snorted.
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
thanks, jill! means a lot.
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
kenzi, no one has ever said that to me before. kind of beautiful. xoxo
Marian B. June 4, 2014
I'm echoing you over here in Brooklyn, Phyllis. (P.S. can you spare a pizza?)
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
marian, come to berkeley and i'll give you a pizza tour. pizzaiolo, chesseboard collective, summer kitchen. we will fill you up with pizza. or, if you're brave enough, you can open my freezer.
Carolyn C. June 4, 2014
Jen! Best comment anywhere ever. And yay for Phyllis.
Marian B. June 5, 2014
A resounding yes to all of these things.
Allyn June 4, 2014
Phyllis is one of my favorites, and cooks how I cook on the days that I have time and enjoy it with every ounce of my being. Made her all'amatriciana sauce recently and it was heavenly. Adding this to the list of things to make that will make me happy.
Phyllis G. June 4, 2014
oh i love that sauce. i might make it this weekend. thanks for reminding me about it.