Citrus-Braised Short Ribs With Star Anise and Cocoa

Dinner table staples (short ribs, anyone?) don’t have to be dull—if you have the courage to try new, weird spices.

braised short ribs recipe
Food styling by Sue Li for Hello Artists; prop styling by Megan HedgpethTed & Chelsea for Men's Journal

You say you like spicy food. But when was the last time you cooked with, say, sumac? Or Urfa pepper? The fact is, there’s a whole universe of flavor that even hardcore home cooks seldom deploy. Lior Lev Sercarz, owner of the New York City spice shop La Boîte and spice consigliere to superstar chefs including Eric Ripert, aims to change that. His new cookbook, Mastering Spice, is packed with recipes for old classics elevated with unexpected spice tones. Take these braised short ribs.

Sercarz seasons the short ribs with sweet cocoa; tangy, lemony sumac; and the aforementioned Urfa—a smoky-hot Turkish chili with undertones of dried fruit.

Give them a try. And don’t stop there. “Once you find a spice you like, add it to the meals you make regularly,” Sercarz says. “Spices make everything better.”

Here are some of our favorite recipes that utilize unique spices:

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  • citrus-braised short ribs with star anise and cocoa
  • 4 1⁄2 pounds bone-in short ribs, cut into 2- by 4-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil
  • 1 1⁄4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 tbsp plus 1⁄4 tsp sumac
  • 2 tsp Urfa pepper
  • 4 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oranges, cut into 1 1⁄2-inch wedges
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 medium carrots, cut on the bias in 1-inch chunks
  • 6 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
Heat oven to 300°F. Season short ribs generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Add ribs to fit in a single layer. Sear to brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove and repeat with remaining short ribs.
While the short ribs are browning, finely grind caraway and star anise together, then mix with the sumac, Urfa, and cocoa. Reserve.
When second batch of ribs are seared, remove meat and add oranges, onions, carrots, and garlic to the Dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt and cook until onions have a little color, 5 to 8 minutes.
Sprinkle 2⁄3 of the spice blend over orange mixture. Reduce heat to low and stir to evenly coat (being careful not to let spices burn). While stirring, add pomegranate juice in a steady stream, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Raise heat to high and bring to a simmer.
Sprinkle remaining spice mixture over short ribs. Nestle ribs in Dutch oven bone-side up. Add 1⁄2 cup water and return to a simmer. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake until the bones lift right out of the tender meat, 3 to 3 1⁄2 hours. Discard bones and cartilage and serve hot.