Short's Tough

Recipe and photos by Brandon Matzek

A simple yet elegant short rib dish is one recipe all home cooks should have in their repertoires. Ubiquitous among San Diego's upscale dining establishments, braised beef short ribs are easy to prepare but guaranteed to be a showstopper at any dinner party.

In this recipe, marbled, bone-in beef short ribs are braised in a savory bath of red wine, beef broth, carrot, onion, garlic and freshly chopped rosemary. After a few hours of cooking, the fat slowly melts away, leaving a tender, succulent short rib.

This protein could stand on its own, but I'm taking it over the top with a creamy Goat Cheese Polenta and a fresh Mixed-Herb Gremolata (condiment). To make the polenta, golden cornmeal is simmered until tender, and then flavored with butter and tangy goat cheese. This forms the perfect base for braised short ribs, lending a mild richness to the dish without overpowering the flavor of the meat. To cut through the heft of the braised meat and rich polenta, the dish is finished with the gremolata, a bright mixture of parsley, lemon, garlic, rosemary and thyme that provides a much-needed contrast in flavor.

To prepare this recipe for a dinner party, try making some of the components in advance to cut down on the day-of workload. The short ribs can be made two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Gently reheat the ribs in their sauce before serving. The gremolata can be prepared 1 day in advance and kept in the refrigerator. The polenta should be prepared right before serving.

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Zinfandel Short Ribs

With Goat Cheese Polenta and Mixed-Herb Gremolata

Ingredients

To make the Zinfandel Short Ribs:
4 pounds thick, bone-in beef short ribs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 - 4 tbsp. butter, divided
2 1/2 cups chopped red onions
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes of peeled carrot
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
750 ml good quality Zinfandel
2 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

To make the Goat Cheese Polenta:
4 1/2 cups water
1 scant cup polenta (or yellow cornmeal)
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tbsp. butter
4 oz. goat cheese

To make the Mixed Herb Gremolata:
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme

Process

To make the Zinfandel Short Ribs:

Flavor foundation. Preheat oven to 325°F. Make sure short ribs are completely dry. Season ribs on both sides generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Warm large, oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, then quickly add short ribs in a single layer. Work in batches if pot is not large enough to do all at once. Sauté until brown on all sides (about 10 minutes). Transfer ribs to rimmed baking sheet, and repeat with remaining ribs if necessary. Once all ribs have been browned, discard any fat left in pot. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pot, then add onions. Sauté until onions start to brown (about 5 minutes), then add carrots. Sauté until carrots start to brown (about 5 minutes), then add garlic and rosemary. Cook just until fragrant (about 1 minute), then add wine and beef broth. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits off bottom of pan.

Low and slow. Return ribs to pot along with any accumulated juices, arranging in a single layer. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until ribs are fork tender (about 2 1/2 hours).

Get saucy. Using tongs, pull ribs from pan juices and transfer to clean, rimmed baking sheet. Try to keep bones attached to ribs for aesthetics. Pour pan juices through mesh strainer into clean bowl. Reserve solids (carrots, onions, garlic, etc.). Skim fat from pan juices, and then pour back into large pot. Add reserved vegetables. Warm over medium-high heat until boiling, and then cook for 10 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken. Using a fork, mash 1 tablespoon of butter with flour in a small bowl until well combined. Whisk butter-flour paste into juices, and then simmer until sauce coats the back of a spoon (about 5 minutes longer). Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.

To make the Goat Cheese Polenta:
Simmer down. Bring water to boil in medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add polenta to water in slow stream, whisking to avoid lumps. Once mixture returns to simmer, reduce heat to low, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and then cook until polenta is tender and creamy (20 - 25 minutes). Stir occasionally. If polenta is getting too thick, stir in extra tablespoon of water to loosen things up.

Flavor boost. Stir in butter and goat cheese. Season to taste with additional kosher salt.

To make the Mixed-Herb Gremolata:
Quick mix. Add all ingredients to a small bowl, and then stir until combined. Chill until ready to use.

To serve:
Step up to the plate. Spoon polenta onto plate. Move spoon in a swirling motion to spread polenta over middle of plate. Place 2 to 3 short ribs in middle of polenta, and then top with sauce. Finish with sprinkling of gremolata.

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