Brown ales are fine, but a good stout hits the spot in winter, when the beer's dark, roasty, almost chocolate characteristics add an element of comfort on a cold night. Either beer will work here; it just depends on what flavors you prefer.
MAKE AHEAD: The pickled vegetables need at least 1 hour and preferably 24 hours to brine. They can be refrigerated in their liquid for up to 2 weeks. The short ribs can be braised, cooled and refrigerated in their strained braising liquid up to 3 days in advance. Reheat the meat and braising liquid with the horseradish sauce shortly before serving.
Adapted from ” 'Wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich Into a Meal — and a Meal Into a Sandwich,” by Tom Colicchio with Sisha Ortuzar (Clarkson Potter, 2009).BEER-BRAISED SHORT RIB SANDWICHES
For the pickled vegetables
1/2 medium bulb fennel, cut in half from top to bottom, cored and thinly sliced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 to 6 red radishes, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic
2 cups water
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 whole star anise
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the meat
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, scrubbed well and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 cups brown ale or stout beer (see headnote)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons store-bought horseradish sauce, such as Robert Rothschild Farm brand
2 long French baguettes, each cut into 4 equal sections
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices
2 to 4 tablespoons store-bought horseradish sauce (see above; optional)
For the pickled vegetables: Toss together the fennel, carrot(s), radishes and garlic in a large, nonreactive bowl.
Combine the water, vinegar, wine, sugar, fennel seed, coriander seed, peppercorns, star anise and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then pour the mixture over the vegetables, making sure they are submerged. Cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and preferably 24 hours. The yield is 3 cups.
For the meat: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add half of the short ribs; brown on all sides, turning with tongs as needed, for a total of 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat the process with the remaining short ribs.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion, carrot and garlic to the same Dutch oven or skillet, stirring to coat. Cook the vegetables until they pick up some color, 3 to 4 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic. Pour in the beer; use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits.
Return all of the short ribs and any accumulated juices to the Dutch oven or skillet, along with the rosemary, salt and pepper. The short ribs should be mostly submerged. Cover tightly, then transfer to the oven. Braise the meat for 2 3/4 to 3 hours or until it is fork-tender. Transfer to the stove top; uncover. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the short ribs to a clean plate; discard the bones. Strain the braising liquid into a large bowl, preferably using a fat separator; discard the solids and return the liquid to the Dutch oven or skillet. Stir in the horseradish sauce.
Return the boneless meat to the Dutch oven or skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Stir to make sure the meat is evenly coated. Remove from the heat.
When ready to assemble the sandwiches, position racks in the middle and bottom of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Seat an ovenproof wire rack on a baking sheet.
Cut each section of baguette in half horizontally. Remove/discard some of the interior crumb from the top half of each section (to create room for the sandwich filling). Arrange the bottom halves of the baguette sections on the rack/baking sheet and top each with a layer of the meat. Drizzle a tablespoon of the braising liquid over the meat, then top each portion with cheese. Arrange the scooped-out top halves of the baguette sections on the middle oven rack. Place the rack/baking sheet on the bottom oven rack; toast just until the bread is slightly browned and crusty and the cheese has begun to melt.
Spread some horseradish sauce, if using, on the insides of the toasted top baguette halves. Use a slotted spoon to add a layer of the pickled vegetables (minus any garlic cloves) on top of the melted cheese.
Combine top and bottom halves to form 8 sandwiches. Serve right away.
Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.