These Beef Short Ribs with Polenta are up amongst there with my most heavenly winter warmer marvels. There is something so impressive about creating dishes that melt away so effortlessly when you eat them. This is one such moment of magic!
Winter is here
In winter time, as you hunker down in the warmth, there is nothing more satisfying that having a house filled with the aromas of cooking. Whether it's cakes and pastries or the savoury smells of savoury stews - any house with the fragrance of cooking is a happy one.
Low and slow is the way to go
For the ultimate comfort food, low and slow stews are everything I crave for in the colder months. Nothing satisfies me more than these slowly cooked ribs with creamy, cheesy polenta. I warms every part of my soul and is invariably followed with a long cosy nap!
It's one of the only recipes I'll use red wine with, for most of my Italian ragu recipes, I'll use white wine as it gives a lighter finish, but for this sauce i want to crank the richness dial up to 100 to give the most sultry decadent texture and flavour I can.
I'm super heavy handed with the herbs in this dish too - I want all the ingredients to bring something to the table - nothing gets lost in this sauce. It has a deep, intense flavour.
When I travelled in Italy, it was just out of winter but a lot of restaurants were still serving heavier stews. One such stew - very similar to this that I ate, featured veal osso bucco (shin) as the cut - it was a welcome stew on that particular rainy day and like mine, came with rich creamy polenta and a TONNE of Parmigiano Reggiano on top!
Rich, cheesy polenta - the perfect accompaniment.
To give my polenta more flavour, I cook it with rich beef bone broth instead of water and like with risotto, I'll 'mantecare' (beat) in a wad of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano at the end to give a glossier, more decadent texture and flavour. It marries excellently with the rich gravy and tender meat, and guarantee a longer nap afterwards. To make my life easier, I use instant polenta - trust me it's worth it. There's nothing fun about cooking regular polenta. It takes about a week to cook.
A little goes a long way with this dish. My recipe will feed 6 easily. If you have any gravy and meat left, pull apart the meat and mix into the sauce and freeze in single portions. When you're ready, stir through fresh egg pasta like papardelle or fettuccini. It's a ready made sensation.
So, lock the doors, turn off the phone and spend the day anticipating this delicious winter wonder.
How to make my Beef Short Ribs with Polenta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 beef short ribs
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 2 celery sticks (diced)
- 2 large carrots (diced)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 bouquet garni - a collection of fresh herbs tied with string or in a herb bag.
- 1 bottle of Italian dry red wine (I used a Barbera)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 3 cup beef stock/broth
- Salt & pepper
For the Polenta (serves 4)
- 2 cup Instant polenta (get the instant stuff, and save yourself a tedious job).
- 6 cup beef bone broth or stock
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter (cubed)
- 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
- salt & pepper
- Heat the oil in a large casserole pan over a medium heat until hot. Add the beef (in one or two batches - depending how big your pan is) and brown well on all sides - about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan.
- Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and stir. This will create a little moisture in the pan to allow you to scrape any of the meat that stuck - this is all flavour! Cook the vegetables for 2-3 minutes until softened a little, then return the meat to the pan.
- Pour in the wine and stock and stir. The meat should be just covered in liquid add a little water if necessary. Add the bouquet garni and fennel seeds and season generously with around 2 teaspoons salt and 1-2 teaspoons black pepper. Stir well, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan. The stew should be barely bubbling - a very gentle simmer. Cook for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
- After 4 hours, the meat will be super tender. Carefully remove from the pan and place in a bowl. Make sure there are no bones in the gravy. Using a hand blender, blend the gravy until smooth and creamy. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce for 10 minutes to intensify the flavours and thicken. Turn off the heat and return the meat to the pan.
Making the polenta
- For instant polenta I use the ratio of 1:3 - 1 cup polenta, 3 cups stock - but do read the packet instructions and replace water with stock. Instant polenta is much easier and more convenient than regular polenta. Do not even entertain the possibility of regular polenta! Varieties of instant polenta vary and some are more absorbent, so I sometimes end up adding a little more stock at the end to get it to a wet, creamy texture - so just use your judgement. Once the polenta is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Season with salt & pepper, then cover the pan until you're ready to eat.
- To serve, add a layer of polenta and then spoon over some meat and sauce. I dare say you could have some vegetables if you felt like it. I rarely do.
I had lots of sauce leftover and a little stray meat, so I mashed up the meat to make it go further and mixed with the sauce. Then froze it. A week or so later, I boiled up some spaghetti and created this delightful pasta lunch. The moral of the story is DON'T THROW AWAY THE SAUCE!
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