Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Rocky New Year and the Ultimate Comfort Food

I've had a rough start to the New Year. Needless to say, a new furnace, water heater, tires, and two birthday cakes (New York Cheesecake and Harry's First Birthday Cake) later, I am need of some serious comfort food! Nothing could be more comforting than "Beef Short Ribs with Bacon and Herb Sauce" served over my "Cheater's Polenta!" Beefy short ribs lovingly braised with bacon, onion, herbs, and a serious dose of Sherry make for a hearty American-style classic that is quite easy to put together. Although mashed potatoes make an appropriate side, I prefer cheesy polenta that takes mere minutes to put together. In addition, you can change the cheese to suit your mood, e.g., Parmesan (which I prefer with these short ribs), cotija, cheddar, etc. Serve with a simple salad, bread, and a bottle of red wine for a fabulous, cozy meal that is equally suitable for lucky company. 

Beef Short Ribs with Bacon and Herb Sauce

Serves 4

4 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (aka., lardons)
3 1/2 pounds beef short ribs
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry sherry
3 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons tomato paste
6 fresh thyme sprigs (I tie them together so it's easier to remove before serving.)
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put the bacon in a large dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the fat in the pot.

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the short ribs in batches and sear on all sides. Remove the ribs and set aside with the bacon. Add the onion and celery to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and flour to the pot and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the sherry, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the stock, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return the reserved bacon and ribs to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Using tongs, remove the ribs and cut the meat from the bone and cartilage. Skim any excess fat from the top of the braising liquid. Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Return the ribs to the pot and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve with the sauce spooned over the short ribs.

Recipe adapted from The Book of Steak, by Love Food.

Cheater's Polenta

Serves 4

1 cup white cornmeal (I use Quaker cornmeal for baking and breading.)
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (can substitute other cheese, as desired)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the stock and 1 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan (I use a 2-quart saucepan) and bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the cornmeal in a fine stream. Whisk constantly and bring to a simmer. (Don't stop whisking or you could get spattered with bubbling cornmeal! Ouch!) Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, cream, and cheese until combined. Season to taste with pepper. Serve immediately!