this looks complicated, but it's really not, and there isn't as much prep time as you'd think. mostly you want to start it enough ahead of time to let the ribs get to falling-off-the-bone-tenderness.
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and ribs discarded
3 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
guajillo and/or pasilla chiles, to taste, stemmed and seeded**
2 c boiling-hot water
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 T pure maple syrup
3 T fresh lime juice
3 T tomato paste
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground coriander
3-4 lb beef short ribs or flanken
fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1/2 c strongly brewed coffee, preferably latin american
1/2 c red wine (optional-substitute water if not using)
2 cubes lamb bouillon
put chiles in heat proof bowl and pour hot water over them. steep for 20 minutes. meanwhile, combine onion, garlic, maple syrup, lime juice, tomato paste, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and coriander in a blender or food processor. drain chiles in colander over a bowl. reserve a cup of the soaking liquid and taste (carefully--it will be very spicy!). if liquid is unpleasantly bitter, discard it. if not, and you want these to be spicy, reserve for braising. add softened chiles to food processor and puree. this will not taste good yet, but you may want to taste for salt and adjust.
preheat oven to 350º. pat ribs dry, season both sides with salt and pepper. in a heavy skillet, heat oil on medium-high until hot but not smoking. brown ribs in batches, turning occasionally, around 5 minutes a batch. transfer to a roasting pan just big enough to hold ribs in 1 layer.
turn the heat down to medium-low and carefully add puree. cook for a few minutes, and add bouillon cubes to a cup and a half of hot water, or to the chile-soaking-water. stir bouillon, coffee and wine (if using) into puree, and bring to a boil. stir well and then pour over meat. liquid should come at least halfway up sides of the meat. if it doesn't, add water or bouillon until it does.
cover pan tightly with foil and braise ribs in the middle of the oven until very tender; this will probably take at least three hours. using a heavy casserole dish may speed this up considerably, but I used a regular lightweight nonstick roasting/lasagna pan. important: check the ribs a couple times to make sure you don't need to add more liquid--they will burn if the liquid cooks down too much.
skim fat from pan juices and serve juices with ribs. ribs improve in flavor if braised a day or two ahead. cool, uncovered, then chill, surface covered with parchment paper or wax paper and roasting pan covered with foil. remove any solidified fat before reheating.
serves 3-4(?) (depends on how thick the ribs are). was excellent served over polenta, but would also be good with garlic potatoes.
- ancho - dried poblano chile, ranging in color from green to red. sweet, yet moderately hot.
- chipotle - dried jalapeno pepper that has been smoked. usually very hot, it is also sweet, and chocolatey.
- guajillo - a dried deep red chile with a tough skin, actually a Mirasol chile variety. medium heat; it has an earthy flavor with plum and raisin tones.
- pasilla - a dried fresh Chilaca chile. medium to hot with berry and tobacco flavor tones.