I love beef. Seriously, I’d eat it every day if I didn’t care about being around for my daughters’ weddings. And when I do have it, any cut that weighs less than 12 ounces just isn’t worth my time. Horrible? Possibly. Wonderful? Most definitely. But as much as I love a viking’s portion of beef, I also value my health and try to keep my cravings in check. The short rib is the perfect solution for that.
The short rib is just that. A short section of rib. Very short. Like, a 3-4 inch square. It’s the perfect portion size when trying to be responsible, but so exquisitely delicious that you don’t feel like you’re missing out. It’s also unbelievably simple. Check it.
First thing you need to do with the short rib is remove the silver skin on the underside (the “underside” being the side the bone is closest to). This silver skin is a membrane that I’m pretty sure turns into kevlar when cooked. Not fun to chew on. Any time you see a piece of meat with the silver skin, trim that stuff off.
Next, braising. We’ve talked about braising before, but here’s a recap. Braising is essentially when you quickly pan-fry something, then cook it low and slow in liquid. The frying process moves pretty quick, so you want your cooking liquid put together in advance, which is where we’re gonna start. But first, put a lidded pot on medium heat on the stovetop. Now here’s what you need for the liquid:
For the braising liquid:
• 4 cups beef stock
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1-2 tsp smoked Tabasco sauce
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1 Tbsp tomato paste (not pictured)
• 2 tsp fennel seeds
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp ground allspice
Mix all that stuff together in a bowl. Set aside. Here’s what you need for the rest of this dish:
• 8 beef short ribs, silver skin removed
• 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
• 10-12 oz fresh Cremini or button mushrooms, quartered (not pictured)
• 8 servings of prepared polenta (not pictured)
Once your pot is nice and hot, salt and pepper the short ribs and sear them on all sides. Classically, you would dredge the short ribs in seasoned flour before searing, but we try to cook mostly gluten-free, as most of you know, so I just leave that part out.
To be clear, you’re only searing the outside of the meat to give it a crust. You’re not cooking the beef through. Just sear it and remove it from the pot. And in order to get a good sear, your ribs need to be spaced apart. Otherwise the steam that releases from the meat while cooking gets trapped in the pot and everything just boils. Much less appetizing. So sear the meat in groups if needed, and set aside.
Once the meat is seared and set aside, add the onion to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes or so. Then, place the short ribs in the pot on top of the onions and pour in your braising liquid, like so:
Usually Jules takes the pictures for me, but I made this after we returned from our pre-term labor scare in the hospital last week and I wouldn’t let her get out of bed, so my apologies for the darkness of this picture and some of the others. Moving on.
Braise the beef for in a 325 degree oven for 2.5 hours, then open the oven and add your mushrooms to the pot. Finish cooking for another hour (3.5 hour total cooking time). After cooking this long, the bones fall right out, so you can just remove those from the pot.
I haven’t talked about the polenta thus far, so I better mention a few things with that. First, what is polenta? It’s essentially a very rough-ground cornmeal that is cooked in liquid, almost like oatmeal. But it’s way better than oatmeal (I don’t care for oatmeal). It’s actually super easy to make as long as you accept the fact that you’re not going to be able to do anything else while you make it. And it’s about 30-40 minutes. So just plan on that and follow the instructions on the package of whatever kind you buy. If the instructions only call for water, then I would substitute half of the water for unsalted chicken stock.
After you cook the polenta, put it in a rectangular baking dish so that it’s about 1 inch deep and allow it to cool. I make my polenta ahead of time and then have it in the fridge up until about 30 minutes before the ribs are done. At which point, I cut it into squares and sear each polenta cake in little olive oil on a flat-top griddle for a few minutes each side to develop a crust. Then plate, like so:
Polenta cake on bottom; beef short rib next; then some of the onions, mushrooms and braising liquid. Serve with a side of sautéed kale or spinach.
Despite the potential heaviness of the ingredients, this dish is surprisingly light. And whether you’ve cooked short ribs before or not, it makes no difference. I think you’ll be please at how forgiving and friendly this meat is. Enjoy and we’ll check ya later.
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