Braised in red wine and packed with root vegetables, this flavorful Braised Short Rib Stew is topped with dark rye biscuits for a hearty fall dinner.
[Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Torakand Adventures LLC and is part of a series of recipes developed for the fictional fantasy setting of Lost Colonies, an immersive live-action roleplaying community in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. This post also contains affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links.]
As part of a special Halloween collaboration, I crafted a story and a stew unique to the world of Sobukand and I’m so excite to share it with you. This recipe for a Braised Short Rib Stew is part of a series of recipes inspired by the fictional cultures and traditions of Lost Colonies, a live action role playing experience based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. (You can learn more about this collaboration in the first post of the series.)
Even fictional worlds have urban legends.Jump to Recipe
Braised Short Rib & Root Vegetable Stew
A dark and creepy-looking cousin to a traditional chicken and dumpling casserole, Short Rib & Root Vegetable Stew is full of rich, comforting flavor. The succulent short ribs are slow braised in red wine until they fall off the bone, and the thick stew is packed with mushrooms, purple potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and fresh herbs. A simple buttermilk biscuit dough made with dark rye flour, molasses, and a bit of bitter cocoa is dropped in handfuls over the dish and baked in the oven for a complete one pot meal.
With colors that are perfect for a Halloween party on a chilly October night, you’ll love making up this hearty dinner all winter long.
The Emerald City of Terradinum
The Emerald City is rich not only in resources, but in history. The oldest of Terradinum’s subsurface cities, this historic site is more formally named Smaragdestad, and its construction is a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its inhabitants. The Emerald City sits at the cusp of the infamous Bodenlos – a bottomless pit ringed in precious metals and gems. Colloquially called The Drop, expeditions into the pit are practiced but still dangerous, and efforts to find the bottom have often resulted in missing miners. Nevertheless, the benefits of The Drop have always outweighed the dangers and the city thrives to do this day.
– Excerpt from A Traveler’s Guide to Sobukand by Donla Pheinkuk
The Beast of Bodenlos
Not all who descend into Bodenlos returns. While modern thinkers attribute this to the very real dangers of cave diving in this seemingly bottomless pit, superstition gives credit to the legendary Beast of Bodenlos.
The Beast of Bodenlos is the stuff of Terradinum nightmares. Twice the size of a man with pale albino coloring, it resembles a (much smaller) common bat that frequents Bodenlos. Called Flying Cave Bears (acerdon ursus) for their bear-like faces and thick dark fur, they’ve been nicknamed “Drop Bears” both because of how quickly they can descend on a target and for their natural habitat. While Flying Cave Bears are relatively harmless herbivores that feed on lichen and glowberries along the rim of The Drop, the Beast of Bodenlos is believed to be their carnivorous ancient cousin – an ancestral creature that haunts its depths.
To appease this creature, tradition dictates that a proper sacrifice must be made before any expedition – a portion of the communal meal eaten by the minors the night before their journey into The Drop. Alternatively called Drop Biscuit or Drop Bear Stew, this hearty meal is topped with dark rye biscuits and full of chunks of red meat, purple potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms with a thick gravy of glowberry wine. Once the miners have eaten their full, the last portion is saved to be carried down into The Drop, to be left at a cave shrine some 30 meters down. Legend has it that a properly made sacrifice will protect the party on their journey, while the loss of an expedition is attributed to a poorly made dish.
Today, the Beast of Bodenlos is considered mostly fable, used as a bedtime story to scare small children to stay inside at night. Nevertheless, the tradition continues, even if it’s just an excuse to enjoy a delicious meal the night before the understandably dangerous descent.
Braised Short Rib Stew with Dark Rye Drop Biscuits
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 pounds short ribs
- 1 tablespoon dark rye flour
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon ground coffee
- 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
- 1 cup red wine, divided
- 1 pound mushrooms, halved
- 2 tablespoons thyme, stems removed
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- ½ pound parsnips, cubed
- 1 pound purple potatoes, cubed
- 3 cups beef broth
Dark Rye Drop Biscuits
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dark rye flour
- 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, grated
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon molasses
Braise the short ribs:
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a dutch oven over medium high heat.
- Pat the short ribs dry and roll them in the flour so that there is a thin, visible dusting. Whisk together the 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, coffee, and cocoa to make a dry rub, and coat the short ribs so that they are completely covered. Sear the beef on all sides in the dutch oven, working in batches if needed – about 5 minutes.
- To braise the short ribs, spread them out evenly in the Dutch oven and add 2/3 of the red wine to create a thin layer of liquid at the bottom. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours, until the beef easily falls from the bone. Check occasionally – if the liquid cooks off, add a little more wine or broth so that there is always a thin layer of liquid at the bottom of the pot.
Make the stew:
- Remove the short ribs from the dutch oven to a plate, and discard the bones and any excess gristle. With the burner on medium heat, add the remaining olive oil in the Dutch oven and sauté the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
- Add the fresh thyme, celery, carrots, and parsnips and sauté another 5 minutes. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the remaining 1/3 cup red wine, scrapping up all the brown bits. Add the meat, breaking it up with your spoon if needed. Add the beef broth, potatoes, and remaining salt and pepper and stir well.
- Bring the stew to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the mixture cook and reduce uncovered for about 20 minutes.
Prepare the Drop Biscuits:
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in one large bowl, and the buttermilk and molasses together in another. Add the grated butter to the dry ingredients and fold to combine. Make a well and pour in the wet ingredients. Fold everything together until well combined, leaving some of the butter in chunks.
- Once the stew has reduced, drop golf-ball-sized rounds of dough around the perimeter of the dutch oven, leaving about an inch between (see note).
- Bake uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes, until the biscuits have risen and are cooked through. Serve in bowls, with a biscuit on top of each.
Making Ahead: You can easily break up preparing this recipe by making the stew the day before. Braise the short ribs and prepare the stew, and then transfer the ingredients to a seal-able container and store in the fridge overnight. About forty minutes before you intend to serve, remove the stew from the fridge and transfer it to an oven-to-table dish (like the stoneware in my pictures). Top the stew with the drop biscuits and finish the dish as described above.
Presentation: As noted above and seen in the photos, I transferred my stew to a stoneware dish for prettier presentation before adding the drop biscuits, but you don’t have to if you want to limit your dirty dishes. You can go from start to finish in the same oven-safe pot if desired.
Storing & Reheating: While you can simply store in a casserole dish and microwave a portion of stew at a time, I recommend storing and baking the biscuits separately when reheating leftovers. This will keep the biscuits from getting too soggy, and overall it will be a better tasting meal.
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