Monday, January 19, 2009

Braised Short Ribs with Polenta

This is one of my very favourite recipes to make for company. It comes from an old Fine Cooking Magazine and I actually could not find the magazine today so I had to wing it..........But I've made it so many times....I don't think I forgot anything. You can serve it with polenta, garlic mashed potatoes, or gnocchi.....all very good choices!
Braised Beef Short Ribs
2 lbs beef short ribs
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, quartered
2 sticks of celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 cup red wine vinegar
4-5 cup chicken soup stock
5-6 large dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes

Season all sides of the ribs with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a dutch oven (I use a 5.5 qt oval le creuset) over medium heat and brown all sides of the beef short ribs. You should get the cut that looks like a block with a long (5 inch) bone running through each piece, not the thin strip cut kind. The browning takes place slowly and should take about 15 minutes. Remove ribs to a dish and remove any excess oil from the pan, leaving 2 tbsp behind. Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery and slowly brown. this step should also take 15 minutes, and it is important to take your time and actually brown the vegetables rather than burning them. Once the veggies have some nice golden brown spots on them, add the thyme rosemary and smashed garlic cloves. Stir and saute for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove all veggies from pot and add the vinegar. Turn up the heat a bit and reduce the vinegar down to 1/2 it's volume by letting it boil. Once there is about 1/2 cup remaining in the pot, put veggies back into the pot and place the ribs on top. Fill the pot with chicken stock until the ribs are almost all covered. Bits of them should be still poking out. Add the shitake mushrooms to the pot.

You can add the soaking water as well, just be careful not to pour in any sediment that may have settled to the bottom. Heat all of this on the stove (still on medium high) until it all starts to bubble. Then put into the oven and cook uncovered at 325 F for 2- 2 1/2 hours, turning the ribs every 20 minutes. Remove ribs to a plate and cover with foil. Discard veggies, and defat the broth. Personally I like the carrots and the mushrooms so I keep those rather than discarding them and serve them with the ribs. Keep in mind that you must remove the stems from the mushrooms as they will be too tough, but the mushroom tops are very yummy. Reduce the broth down until it thickens and starts to coat the back of a spoon. It will not get very thick, but you can see when it starts to be able to coat the back of the spoon. Serve over polenta, gnocchi or mashed potatoes.

This is an oven baked method for cooking polenta which also comes from an old Fine Cooking Magazine #31. I ended up making this to accompany the ribs one night when our guest could not eat potatoes......
Oven Cooked Polenta
1 cup cornmeal
5 cups water (or half water, half milk)
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 3 quart oven proof baking dish, pour in cornmeal, water, milk (if you are using it), butter and salt and stir with a fork until blended. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir again with a fork and taste for salt, adding more if needed, and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Pour into a buttered bowl.
You can vary the consistency of the polenta by adjusting the ratio of cornmeal and water.

6 parts water to 1 part cornmeal= very soft
5 parts water to 1 part cornmeal= soft
4 parts water to 1 part cornmeal= firm
3- 3 1/2 parts water to 1 part cornmeal= very firm

If you are planning to grill or fry the polenta to reheat it you are better of with firm or very firm whereas the soft is better to be a bed for serving stew etc.

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