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By Veronica Meewes

When it comes to home cooking, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, the laidback chef duo behind Animal and Son of a Gun, are big believers in a “less is more” philosophy. Though their two Los Angeles restaurants feature modern, creative takes on offal and seafood (respectively), they believe it takes very few tools and little effort to create the type of delicious, home-style food that got them started.

They recently shared a couple of their favorite simple tricks at the Austin Food & Wine Festival, where they demonstrated beer braised short ribs with shiitake mushrooms using nothing more than one pot and a pair of tongs. This tasty and versatile dish is great for leftovers, which can be folded into a tortilla for a taco in a pinch, or stuck inside grilled cheese for a quick short rib melt.

The first mistake many home cooks make, they said, is assuming that salt and black pepper always go hand in hand.

“A lot of chefs, if they’re seasoning their meat, it’s salt and pepper, right? Well, that’s a perception that I think a lot of cooks in America have taken too far,” said Shook. “Pepper’s actually a seasoning so it’s going to add heat.”

Chefs Vinny Dotolo, left and Jon Shook are the masterminds behind Los Angeles eateries Animal and Son of a Gun. Today

While some dishes might not need any, others might flourish with the addition of something other than standard black pepper -- like these short ribs, which call for crushed red pepper.

Next, Dotolo stressed the importance of starting the meat off with a good sear. “You want to get a little caramelization on the meat, kinda helps build the flavor a little bit,” he said.

Once the meat has some good coloring and is removed from the pan, the duo roughly chop up their vegetables, noting that it’s just not necessary to take the time to dice them up really small. Next, all the liquids come together in the pot -- water, soy sauce, beer and ketchup -- which they reveal as their secret braising ingredient of sorts.

“I think ketchup has a lot of flavoring and seasoning inside of it, which adds really good base, especially when you’re using what I call pipe stock, which is just water,” Shook told “The ketchup has vinegar in it, it has tomato paste, it has garlic powder and onion powder, which are all flavors that American palates totally recognize … so using that in your braise helps with adding flavor.”

Dotolo adds that the acid from the tomato helps in the braising process.

“Tomato acts as a natural tenderizer, so it helps break down the meat a little bit but also adds a great flavor profile to the sauces,” he said. “It’s not for everything, but we use it a lot.” He noted that barbecue sauce is used in their pork belly sandwich and the pork ribs on the menu at Animal.

What kind of ketchup do they swear by? “Heinz is the only one. Heinz is ketchup!” Dotolo declared.

But all tips, tricks or directions aside, Dotolo offered these simple words of wisdom: “Trust your instincts.” Shook adds that the best way to test a recipe is to “Make it, and if you don’t like it, don’t make it again!”

Feeling much better equipped to host a one-pot dinner party? Read on for their recipe for beer braised short ribs with shiitakes.

Beer-braised short ribs and shiitakes

Courtesy of “Two Dudes, One Pan,” by Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook

  • 4 pounds bone in beef short ribs

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or grape seed oil
  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 20 shitake mushroom caps (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium turnip peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 12 oz can of beer

  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce

  • 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup

  • 5 whole cloves garlic
  • 5 whole star anise

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 300 degrees farenheit.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle the short ribs with 1 tablespoon of the salt and cook until browned on all sides, 10-12 minutes. Place the short ribs on a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pot.

Add the mushrooms, carrots, onions and turnips and cook, stirring and scraping any browned bits up off the bottom of the pot, until the onions start to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir the remaining 1⁄2 tablespoon of salt and then add 2 cups of water, the beer, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, garlic, start anise, and red pepper flakes, stirring and scraping any browned bits up from the bottom of the pot.

Bring to a simmer, then return the short ribs and any accumulated juices back to the pot.

Cover and place in the oven. Bake until the short ribs fall off the bone in tender chunks, about 3 hours. Transfer short ribs and the sauce to a platter or a wide shallow bowl and serve.

Veronica Meewes is an Austin-based freelance writer who will travel for food but always comes back for breakfast tacos. Follow her on Twitter @wellfedlife and visit her blog.