September 5, 2012

Short Ribs in Red Wine with... Polenta!

Little baby girl is ready for short ribs!
I know it's still warm, despite it being September, and I realize I am jumping the gun a little here!  But!  I LOVE comforting, slowly braised short ribs in a flavorful sauce, and serve it over some polenta- we have a weeknight winner!  The very wonderful thing about a dish like this, though, is that it can be made ahead of time and then just pulled together quickly, making it a GREAT weeknight option.  That's precisely what I did here- I made this on a Sunday afternoon (while doing other glamorous Sunday tasks- laundry, dishes, catching up on everything...) and then I put it in the refrigerator.  We ate it the next night and all I needed to do was to warm the meat in the oven, reheat the gravy on the stove, and make some polenta, which, if you read the post on polenta you know it only takes a few minutes, and there you have it!  Open a lovely red, put the littlest baby in their Bumbo seat, and you have a great meal!

Short Ribs in Red Wine
(serves 3 adults and one presently finicky toddler)
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
5-6 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic (through a press or just peeled)
fresh thyme (3-5 sprigs)
fresh rosemary (1 small sprig)
1 bay leaf (small to medium sized, mine are Turkish)
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground white or black pepper
2 cups chicken broth (I use 'better than bouillon')
2 cups red wine
3 long or 6 short short ribs (this will depend on how your butcher prepares them- the 'short' are about 3-4" long and the 'long' are double that)
canola oil
olive oil

Browned short ribs
Let's begin!  First, pat your short ribs dry with a paper towel, this allows them to brown nicely.  Heat some canola oil at high heat in a pan on the stove- you'll only be using this pan to sear the outside of the short ribs. Brown all sides of the short ribs, just a few minutes on each side, then set aside.  You won't need to keep the fat from this that will now be in the pan (although if you'd like to use it for something else, you can!)

Coarsely chopped carrots, onion and celery
Now, in a large dutch oven, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onion, celery and garlic.  All of these ingredients just need to be chopped coarsely, they won't be served, so it does not have to be pretty.  We're just getting all their wonderful flavor here.  Cook these, stirring occasionally for a little while, it may be 10-25 minutes depending on the heat and the surface area of the pan, you want the onions to be translucent and for there to be a small amount of browning occurring.  You don't need to cook these for such a long time that caramelizing starts.  Go ahead and add the salt and pepper.  Now, add the remaining ingredients- place the short ribs on top of the vegetables, add the stock, wine, and herbs- I've included pictures of the amount of thyme and rosemary because sometimes I find it hard to judge from written directions only.  This is the amount I used- I find that thyme is sometimes a bit shy and rosemary can easily overwhelm, so be sure to be prudent in the amount on that one!

Fresh thyme
Fresh rosemary
Let's bring this beautiful pot to a simmer and cover, on my stove that is 'low,' you want this low and slow, completely covered, for about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  If your liquid doesn't completely cover the meat, turn it with tongs at about the half way point.

Removing the membrane that attaches to the bone
Now, remove it from the heat after the 2 hours and 45 minutes and remove the meat.  One or more of the short ribs may have come unattached from it's bone, that is fine, we're going to remove them anyhow!  If you've eaten short ribs before, you may or may not have come into contact with the membrane that surrounds the bone.  What I like to do it remove that and just reserve the top portion of the meat that doesn't have any unattractive funky parts like that (and I don't think this part is very appetizing). Anyhow, your meat is nice and soft and you should be able to easily do this with a knife and fork, but, you'll need to be very gentle to keep the rest of the meat in tact- like I said, it's nice and soft!  Try to keep them in tact as best you can and then refrigerate these pieces of meat until you are ready to serve them.

Everything added to the pot before braising
For the sauce, you are going to say thank you to all these lovely ingredients and you are going to just strain this and reserve only the liquid.  Don't worry, it has PLENTY of flavor on its own.  In a small pot, boil the liquid for about 15 minutes, or until it's about half of the amount it was.  Now we refrigerate it until we need it!

Fast forward to the next day, when you are going to save the day and pull together a delicious dinner in a snap.  Preheat your oven to 225.  Place the meat in a foil covered dish and place in the oven for 45 minutes.  When you are about 15 minutes away from eating, start heating your gravy on the stove and let's pull together a nice basic polenta!

Between 3/4-1 cup of freshly grated parmesan and or pecorino romano
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 cup polenta
freshly grated white or black pepper

In a medium to large pot, heat the milk and chicken broth.  Once it's simmering, add the polenta in a steady stream while stirring.  Depending on the polenta, it will take between 2 and about 10 minutes to absorb the liquid.  You want this to have the consistency of mashed potatoes, so add liquid as needed (in equal amounts water and whole milk).  Once it is the consistency you'd like it to be, turn off the heat and add the cheese and the pepper.  You won't need salt because both the chicken broth and cheese have significant amounts of salt.  But, taste it to make sure it's to your liking.

Adding gravy to polenta and short ribs
You have your meal!  To plate this and present it, place some polenta in a dish, I use soup plates, place the meat on top, then pour some of the gravy over this- delicious!

For another take on polenta, and musings on its origins, check out:

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