"Carbonnade à la Flamande" Short Ribs
['1 cinnamon stick', '2 bay leaves', '1 whole star anise*', '5 whole black peppercorns', '1 tablespoon butter', '2 tablespoons canola oil', '4 to 4 1/2 pounds beef short ribs (about 8)', '1 large onion, sliced (about 3 cups)', '1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce', '2 tablespoons all purpose flour', '2 12-ounce bottles Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale or other brown ale', '2 cups beef broth', '1 12-ounce bottle Guinness stout', '16 pitted prunes', '1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar', '2 tablespoons Dijon mustard', '1 5 x 3 x 1/2-inch slice crusty country-style bread', 'Chopped fresh Italian parsley', 'Cheesecloth']
Wrap cinnamon stick, bay leaves, star anise, and peppercorns in piece of cheesecloth and tie to secure; set aside.
Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until butter starts to brown. Sprinkle short ribs with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Working in 2 batches, add short ribs to pot and cook until deep brown on all sides, turning occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer ribs to large bowl.
Add onion to same pot and sauté over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add spice packet and Worcestershire sauce; stir 1 minute. Return short ribs to same pot; sprinkle with flour and stir 1 minute. Add ale, broth, and stout, then prunes and brown sugar; bring to boil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread mustard over bread slice, then place bread slice atop short ribs in pot, pressing to submerge bread into liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until short ribs are very tender and begin to fall off bones, stirring occasionally, about 2 1/2 hours. Discard spice packet. Transfer short ribs to plate. Strain pan juices through large sieve set over large bowl; reserve solids in strainer. Spoon fat from top of pan juices and discard. Return juices to same pot and boil until liquid is reduced to 4 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Season juices to taste with salt and pepper. Return short ribs and solids from strainer to juices in pot and simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer short ribs and sauce to large bowl; sprinkle with parsley and serve.
A brown star-shaped seedpod; available in the spice section of some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Asian markets.
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