Very late last fall, Ree Drummond, one of my favorite bloggers, posted a delicious looking recipe for braised beef short ribs with creamy polenta. Ree — better known as The Pioneer Woman — always has fantastic recipes (and beautiful photography to match), and after seeing the short ribs, I promised myself I’d make them some day this winter. Preferably on a chilly, rainy night when Joe and I were all bundled up in sweats with nowhere to go.
That pretty much describes this last Sunday. And the short ribs did not disappoint.
To give you a little sneak peek, the short ribs went from this:
And I’m so excited to show you how (with the Pioneer Woman’s help!) we got there.
But let’s back up a bit. Two Sunday’s ago, we were shopping at Whole Foods when I saw that beef short ribs were on sale for $5.99 per pound. Not a bad deal, which is funny when you consider that a few years ago, beef short ribs were hardly fashionable and you could pick up a pound for two or three bucks. This humble cut of meat went mainstream in the last few years, with chefs and home cooks alike realizing that with a little love, short ribs can really shine — in fact, they can be a real showstopper.
In any case, ordering some of the short ribs was a no-brainer. I asked for a pound, and off we went.
Fast forward to this last Sunday, as I set out to make Ree’s recipe (with a few minor tweaks) in my brand new Dutch oven. As I prepped all the ingredients, I unwrapped my package of short ribs only to realize that one pound amounted to exactly three short rib pieces.
Joe had been going on and on about us eating less meat (a wise decision, to be sure), so I hadn’t even considered the pound and portion yield on these suckers.
My advice? Before you embark on this recipe, make sure you have enough short ribs for leftovers. Because you’re really, really going to want them.
Beyond the sadness of realizing I wouldn’t have much in the way of leftovers, putting this recipe together was a very happy affair. It doesn’t take too many ingredients to make this dish. See?:
A little yellow onion; some carrots; herbs; a good, hearty table wine; cured pork products, and some beef stock. Two variations I added not in PW’s recipe are tomato paste (can’t beat the depth of flavor it adds to these types of things) and a few smashed cloves of garlic. Also, her recipe uses pancetta, but I went ahead and used four strips of applewood smoked bacon I had on hand. I also omitted the shallots, since I just plain didn’t have any, and I reduced the amount of cooking liquid since I was dealing with fewer short ribs. All things considered, I think it turned out pretty gosh darn fabulous.
First up, dice your bacon. I find it easiest to halve the strips, stack them on top of each other, then cut up into a nice medium dice.
Also, in case you didn’t hear the news, any recipe that starts with bacon will never end badly. You heard it here first.
Throw the bacon into a cast iron enameled pot, then turn the heat on your stove to medium.
While I’m thinking about, let’s all give a big shout out to the newest member of the cookery family here at VMAC + Cheese. My new cast iron enameled pot is from the Mario Batali line. I mostly went with this option because it was half as much (or more in some cases) than competitor brands, and much as I love those brands, cast iron is cast iron. I’d rather spend that extra $150 on dining chairs, which we currently don’t own.
I thought about naming this pot, but then wondered if that made me a weirdo. In case you’re curious, it’s name was going to be Frank.
Let the bacon sweat it out in Frank the Dutch oven, until it’s crisped up nicely and the fat has rendered.
Oh, sweet heavens. This is going to be good.
While the bacon cooks, you can chop up the onion and carrots.
Now’s also a good time to dredge your short ribs in some seasoned all purpose flour. Once the bacon is crisped, transfer it to a separate little bowl with a slotted spoon. Leave the fat in the pot alone. We need it.
Turn the heat on the pot up to medium high, then place your floured short ribs in there. We want to get a nice, browned crust on each side. Hopefully, you’ll have more short ribs then I do, so that your pot won’t look so woefully empty.
Brown these on all sides, and don’t worry if it looks like the bottom of the pot is burning.
Once good and yummified, remove the short ribs, then throw in the vegetables and garlic. Season these with a bit of salt and pepper, add in a tablespoon of tomato paste, then let everything cook for several minutes until the veggies have softened.
Pour in a few good glugs of red wine, and stir.
Once this has cooked long enough for the alcohol to burn off (say, a minute or two), add in a few cups of beef broth. Bring the whole she-bang up to a simmer.
Have you called Comcast yet and requested installation of smell-o-vision at your house? You should. It would make looking at this photo way more pleasurable. Oh me, oh my, did this smell DIVINE.
Last step before we say goodbye to our short ribs for a few hours: nestle them lovingly in the liquid. You’ll also want to sprinkle the herbs on top, and give the whole thing a good seasoning with salt and pepper.
Fast forward nearly two and a half hours. The short ribs are pretty much ready, so it’s time to make the creamy polenta. Don’t worry, this is the easy part (as if this whole recipe isn’t pretty easy!).
Ree’s recipe called for 4.5 cups of water, but since I had some leftover vegetable stock lying around, I used half stock, half water. Bring whatever liquid you choose to use up to a boil, then whisk in one cup of polenta.
Once the polenta has cooked and thickened, it’s time to get serious.
You know what I’m talking about.
Whisk in a couple tablespoons of butter and a few ounces of goat cheese.
We’re almost ready to taste a little slice of heaven. Say hello to my little friend:
You guys, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. Seriously:
Are you drooling yet?
Skim the surface of the braising liquid with a ladle to get rid of any excess fat. Otherwise, the mouthfeel of the sauce will be too greasy. Now that the polenta is ready to go, you’re just a hop, skip and a spoon lick away from serving this to your guests:
We chowed down on this while watching the New Orleans Saints win a trip to the Super Bowl. Maybe it was the football, maybe it was the sweats, but Joe said this was better than anything you could get in a restaurant. It was the nicest thing he’s ever said about anything I’ve made.
You’ve gotta try this recipe! A million thanks to the Pioneer Woman for sharing this one.