Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta
This dish may be the very definition of comfort food. The tender, flavorful, slow-cooked meat rests upon a creamy-soft bed of polenta—all so satisfying on a very basic level. Fresh peas and cippolini onions enhance the dish. Small, flat cippolinis are sweet onions that are fairly easy to find in most supermarkets. If they’re not available, you can substitute smaller pearl onions; you’ll need about twice as many.
Note that the recipe calls for a full bottle of red wine. The finer qualities of what we love to drink in a wine is almost entirely lost in the cooking process, so we recommend using any drinkable but inexpensive red wine for the pot. (For more information about cooking with wine, see page 46.) Save your better wines for your glass—these ribs call out for a hearty Syrah or a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4–6 bone-in short ribs (about 2 lb/910 g total weight)
1 large yellow onion, cut into large cubes
2 leeks, white parts only, cut into rounds 1 in/2.5 cm thick and rinsed and drained thoroughly
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5-cm chunks
5 garlic cloves, halved
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
1 1/2 lb/680 g fresh peas, shelled (about 1 1/2 cups/215 g)
4 tbsp/60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
6–8 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
8 cippolini onions, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup/60 ml Vegetable Stock (page 215) or canned low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tbsp unsalted butter
For the polenta:
1 cup/240 ml heavy (whipping) cream/double cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup/140 g yellow polenta
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup/60 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Lightly salt and pepper the ribs on all sides. In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine the ribs, yellow onion, leeks, carrots, garlic, and 2 cups/480 ml of the red wine. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4.
In a Dutch oven or large, ovenproof saucepan with a lid, heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove the ribs from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and sear the ribs until dark brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium and, using a slotted spoon, add the vegetables from the marinade to the pot. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the wine from the marinade plus the remaining red wine in the bottle to the pot. Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Return the ribs and any juices accumulated on the plate to the pot, cover, and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours, stirring every 30–40 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven and uncover. The meat should be very tender, and some may be falling off the bone. The sauce will be thick, but if you’d like a thicker consistency, simmer over low heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Re-cover to keep warm and set aside until ready to serve.
Bring a small pot half full of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook until tender but still slightly crunchy, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with ice cold water. Return the peas to the pot and set aside for use later.
In a medium sauté pan or frying pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the cippolini onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a simmer, and cook until the stock is reduced by one fourth, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To make the polenta: In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine 4 cups/960 ml water, the cream, and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly pour the polenta into the pot in a stream, stirring with a whisk. Using a wooden spoon, stir the polenta frequently—about every 45 seconds—until it has thickened to a rich, creamy texture, 8–10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the 2 tbsp butter and the Parmesan and stir to mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, add the peas to the onions and reheat over medium-low heat, stirring in the 1 tbsp butter until it melts. (The ribs should still be quite warm. If not, reheat gently over medium heat.) Spoon a large serving of polenta in a circle on each dinner plate. Arrange the sauce and vegetables from the braising pot in the center of the polenta. Top with the peas and onions. Place 1 or 2 short ribs on top of the polenta, sauce, and all of the vegetables. Serve at once.
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