Winter is the official season for braised meat. Nothing takes away the damp and chill quite like the warming scent of a good braise bubbling away in the oven. Perhaps that’s why saucy, meaty dishes like brisket and pot roast have become de rigueur on Hanukkah—the Jewish calendar’s most winter wonderland-ish holiday.Braised meats also pair perfectly with potato latkes. Although I could happily construct a Hanukkah meal out of latkes alone, the crispy-edged fritters make a noble side to a platter of fork-tender meat. And the latkes’ starchy centers serve as a sponge for the braise’s flavorful jus.Some years for Hanukkah, I like to deviate from the standard brisket and braise short ribs instead. The process is the same—sear the meat, soften chopped vegetables and aromatics in the rendered fat, add enough liquid to just cover, and let the whole mess cook low and slow until the meat falls off the bone. But short ribs have a certain bravado and elegance to them that a platter of brisket can’t quite match. So if my husband and I are hosting company for menorah lighting and I want to really impress, I turn to short ribs.In this recipe, I employ a hefty glug of hard cider to flavor the braising liquid. Apples are typically served on Hanukkah as the applesauce accompaniment to potato latkes, so the cider feels both seasonally appropriate and festive. Be sure to use a hard cider that you like the taste of—ideally one that is on the crisp and dry side of the spectrum, and not overly funky. The cider’s crisp, fermented flavor offsets the ribs’ richness. It’s a match made in braising heaven.Like most braised-meat dishes, the flavor of these short ribs continues to develop a day or two after it is cooked—making it a perfect make-ahead dish for company. Preparing the short ribs in advance also gives you a chance to let the dish chill in the fridge overnight and skim off the ample layer of congealed fat that will accumulate. The flavor left behind is clean and meaty without being overwhelmingly rich.
To make this recipe ahead of time, prepare through step 3, and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. To reheat, proceed with step 4, but leave the short ribs in the pan to reheat with the sauce.