Costillas de Res con Chile y Jamaica – Short Ribs with Chile and Hibiscus

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Hibiscus flowers are not used only for beverages in Mexico, also being eaten in savory crunchy tacos, mixed with potatoes, chiles and occasionally cheese. Using the flowers in this way isn’t surprising at all once the very meaty texture of the rehydrated flower is experienced.

This recipe takes advantage of the leftover flowers from a batch of agua de jamaicaThere’s absolutely no reason to waste this still useful ingredient. Combined with the the strong beefy flavor of short ribs and the earthy heat of New Mexico chiles, jamaica flowers bring a light floral flavor to an otherwise straight forward dish.   

Though short ribs are used in this recipe, any other braising cut of beef would substitute just as well. New Mexico chiles are frequently found in sweet and hot varieties, with the occasional ‘medium’ thrown in. Do not take the warning of hot lightly, even those ‘sweet’ chiles will be spicier than the average anaheim (aka California) or ancho chile. If these chiles are not available, dry anaheim, ancho, or guajillo chiles will do just fine, though each has their own particular flavor.

Short Ribs with Chile and Hibiscus

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
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  • 3 pounds bone-in short ribs
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 New Mexico chiles, seeded and deveined
  • 1 cup hibiscus flowers, reconstituted, from agua de jamaica
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Season the short ribs generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown on all sides over medium high heat in a dutch oven. Remove the ribs from the pot and add chopped vegetables, seasoning with salt and pepper and scraping any browned bits from the bottom. Sweat until onions just become translucent. Add garlic and bay leaf and cook until fragrant. Deglaze with dry red wine (or your average lager style beer will do), cooking until dry. Return short ribs to the pot, along with enough cold water to cover them almost completely. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, cover and braise for approximately two hours, or until the short ribs begin to tenderize.

Add the dried chiles to the pot and gently simmer until soft, approximately 15 minutes. Remove the chiles, along with some bits of onions, celery and carrots, and place in a blender. Add just enough of the braising liquid to keep the blender blades moving, pureeing until completely smooth.

Short ribs braised with red chile and hibiscus.
Short ribs braised with red chile and hibiscus.

Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot. Strain the braising liquid, skimming as much as the fat from the surface as possible. Return the ribs and braising liquid to the pot, adding the reconstituted hibiscus and straining the red chile into the liquid. Check for seasoning. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes, or until the short ribs are fork tender.

Serve with a generous portion of the sauce and cooked hibiscus.

For other savory hibiscus recipes, check out Lesley Téllez’ wonderful book, Eat Mexico, which includes a recipe for jamaica quesadillas.

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