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Cooking with Beer: Aged Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Stout-Braised Short Ribs

The roast, toast, and deeper malts in stouts, porters, and brown ales find echoes in other flavors of the season—the smoke of a bonfire, a warm cup of coffee or cocoa, a bit of chocolate, the caramel dessert at a family gathering. It’s no wonder these beers find such compatibility with food, whether in the dish or at the table.

Aged Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Stout-Braised Short Ribs

Serves: 4

  • 1 lb (454 g) boneless short ribs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup (118 ml) flour
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) vegetable oil
  • 9 oz (255 g) onion, large dice
  • 6 oz (170 g) carrot, large dice
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 12 oz (355 ml) dry Irish stout
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs thyme, fresh
  • 2 cup (473 ml) beef broth
  • ½ cup (118 ml) milk
  • 8 oz (227 g) cream cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 6 oz (170 g) sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • Salt
  • 8 cup (1.9 l) cooked pasta
  • 1 Tbs chives

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Place the short ribs in a small bowl, add the salt, and mix well. Add the flour and toss with the ribs, making sure each rib is covered. Remove the ribs from the bowl, shake off excess flour, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Gently lay the short ribs in the oil and brown on each side. Remove the ribs from the skillet and set aside.

Add the onion and carrot to the skillet and cook just until they begin to brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Deglaze the skillet with the stout. Return the ribs to the skillet with the bay leaf and thyme. Add the beef broth, making sure the ribs are submerged. Cover tightly and place in the oven for 4 hours.

About an hour before the ribs are finished cooking, make the mac-and-cheese. Cook pasta of your choice according to the package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, cream cheese, and garlic over medium heat until it is just hot to the touch, about 120°F (49°C). Using a stick blender or a whisk, whisk the cream cheese into the milk until it is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheddar until the sauce is smooth. Add a pinch of salt, toss with the cooked pasta, and reserve warm.

After 4 hours, remove the ribs from the oven. Using a fork, test the ribs to make sure they are tender. Once the ribs have cooled enough to handle, remove them from the liquid and shred the meat with a fork. Strain the liquid and add that to the ribs.

To plate, divide the mac-and-cheese among 4 bowls. Top the mac-and-cheese with the shredded short ribs and cooking liquid. Garnish each bowl with the chives.

Beer Tasting Notes: The enduring popularity of Guinness notwithstanding, dry Irish-style stout has a strong case to make as one of the beer world’s most underappreciated styles. How many of us who ought to know better habitually overlook it on beer lists or store shelves, not sure we want something that dark—or, if we do want something dark, not sure we want something that low in alcohol. It’s only when we find ourselves drinking one that we remember: espresso-like notes balanced with a deceptive impression of sweetness from round body, perhaps a hint of dark cocoa, and a quick bitterness and dry finish that make it (despite appearances) consummately refreshing. Then it’s easy to order another, and so on. In this dish, that roast character adds a touch of coffee-like depth and darker color to the rich, fatty umami of the ribs.

Beer Suggestions: Birds Fly South Nights Like These (Greenville, South Carolina); Guinness Draught (Dublin); Pinthouse Bearded Seal (Austin); Porterhouse Oyster Stout (Dublin).


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