Friday, March 5, 2010

stay behind me, short round. step where I step...

I got it into my head that I needed to make short ribs. And, I bought enough to feed a family of four, but there was one small problem... I don't have a family of four. And with the snow that came? No one was coming over for a dinner party. Tough life, these leftovers.

To start, the meat was seasoned with thyme and pepper overnight. Then, sprinkled with salt, they get thoroughly searing the short ribs on as many sides as physically possible. Then, into the crock pot they go!

You see these? The onions, carrots and celery? This is called "mirepoix," which is the base for a TON of French cooking: stocks, soups, stews, sauces, braises, etc. These are also referred to as "aromatics." because they're... er... aromatic.

So, the mirepoix went into the sauté pan with the leftover mean juices and cooked until softened. With the spices, wine & stock, all of this goes into the crock pot, too, and let the braising begin!!

Once ridiculously tender, these are tossed into the oven to brown a little more.

I strained the sauce from the veggies, put back into a saute pan with some mushrooms, tasted and adjusted seasonings, and reduced.

Meanwhile, polenta! Polenta is cornmeal. Cornmeal is polenta. Comes in yellow and white. There may be some difference between the coarseness, but you'll be fine with either. I used "yellow cornmeal" for this recipe. Anyways, polenta couldn't be easier: boil liquids and gradually add polenta, stirring to prevent clumping. Afterwards, you can add any cheese or mix-ins you desire.

Oh, and for the record? This was an AWESOME meal. Totally delicious and impressive. Also? Fairly cheap and easy for an impressive beef dinner.

Short Ribs with Mushrooms
serves 4, very, VERY loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen*

6 beef short ribs
dried thyme
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 diced onion
2 diced carrots
2 diced celery
~1/2tsp dried bay leaves
~1/2tsp dried rosemary
splash of balsamic vinegar
3-4c red wine
6c beef or veal stock
handful of mushrooms

Season the short ribs with thyme & black pepper, and refrigerate overnight, (or in my case? 3 days.)

Remove ribs from fridge & allow to reach room temperature.  Season with salt.  Heat saute pan** over high and add ~3tbsp olive oil.  You want the pan to be very, very hot to get a good & fast sear.  Brown meat on all sides.  Transfer ribs to crock pot, with bones pointing up.

Turn heat down, and add onion, carrot, celery, more thyme (~ 1-2tsp), rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir to scrape up all the brown bits and cook for 6-8 more minutes until veggies are soft and the onions start to darken.  Add the balsamic vinegar and red wine.  Reduce the liquid by a third - a half over high heat.  Add stock and bring to a boil.

Pour liquid & veggies over the ribs, (should almost cover.)  Turn crock pot to High, and cook for ~3hrs (+/- 30 min.)

Meat is done when it yields easily to a knife.***  Remove ribs, and let rest for 10 minutes.  Then, transfer to a baking dish and roast for 10-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Meanwhile, throw a package of mushrooms into a saute pan.  Skim off any fat from broth in the crock pot and strain out the veggies, (pressing down on them to squeeze out any extra juices.) Add to the mushrooms and reduce over medium-high heat.  I think I reduced this for about 15 minutes, and was too hungry to wait any longer.

* When I say "adapted," I mean I used this recipe as more of a "how-to" to guide me.  Also?  It's been quite some time since I've made this... measurements are off.  Best to follow Smitten Kitchen's recipe.  She's knows things.
**If you have a dutch oven, you can do this all in one-pot.  Just return the meat back to the broth.
*** This can be made a day ahead of time, if you want to really impress your guests AND socialize!  Stop here.  To serve, remove the solidified fat, bring to a boil, and continue with recipe.  

Asiago Polenta
serves 4, adapted from Cooking Light*

2c fat-free milk
3/4c water
3/4c instant dry polenta
1/2c Asiago cheese, grated
salt & pepper

Bring milk, water, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a boil. Slowly, add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Reduce heat and cook 2 minutes, stirring.  Add cheese & serve. 

*In a fascinating coincidence, Crash Bandicoot (my partner in culinary crime,) made the full recipe the same weekend.**  This synchronization was unplanned.
**Yes.  It's been THAT long since I've made this.  Who says timeliness is anything to be proud of?

To serve, plop a spoonful of polenta onto plate.  Place 2 short ribs on top of polenta, and spoon mushroom sauce over the meat.  And serve with a side salad, so you get your greens!!

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