The Dry Run – Braised Short Ribs Over Polenta

We are hosting a dinner party for around ten people on April 26, and I’ve been menu-planning in my head ever since I first found out about it. The reason for the get-together is to celebrate the engagement of one of the couples in attendance, so I wanted to go a little further than your typical casual crowd food.

Last night, I did a dry run for one of the dishes that I was considering making for the dinner – braised short ribs over polenta. To make a long story short, while I can see tweaking this into a great dish, I think I’m going to continue searching for a better main course.

One of the problems that I ran into involved the translation of a recipe meant to serve several people into one that serves only one or two. I had bought about a pound of short ribs (three ribs, to be exact) and had seasoned them overnight with a mixture of salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. The next day (which was yesterday), I browned the ribs, added red wine, and then placed the covered pot into the oven to cook for the requisite two hours.

The original recipe, which I obtained from epicurious.com, calls for two bottles of wine and 8 or 9 pounds of ribs. I estimated, quite incorrectly, that two cups of wine were enough. As the evening wore on, the pleasant smell of roasted meat and red wine gradually turned harsher, and I checked on it just in time to save it from becoming a scorched mess. The wine had simmered away to nothing, but thankfully the fatty nature of the short ribs prevented them from burning. I added more wine and finished the cooking.

Following the recipe, I whipped up a quick batch of boxed polenta, and, taking a cue from a recent recipe that I saw in a magazine, added some gorgonzola and chopped almonds. As a final step, the short ribs are topped with a gremolata, which is a mixture of chopped parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. I’ve used gremolata before, as a finishing step to osso buco, so I was not hesitant to implement it here.

So, the end result is what you see here. The short ribs were very tender, with no hint of scorching at all, although you can see that simmering anything in red wine for two hours is going to turn it very dark. I was disappointed in the texture of the polenta, and vow never to make it from a box mix again. The gremolata could have benefited from being covered and cooked on top of the ribs for about five minutes, as the flavor of the raw garlic was a bit much. This is what I do with osso buco, and I should have carried the technique over to this recipe.

Ultimately, though, even though I know that these fixes would make the dish much better, I will not be making it for the dinner party for the simple fact that it is way too heavy for this time of year. Even after only one rib, I was completely stuffed, and I intend to serve about three courses at the dinner, plus dessert.

I could imagine this recipe for cold weather, but as the sun is finally up when we leave for work and when we get back home, and my tulip bulbs are blooming, it just isn’t the appropriate time of year to serve this dish.

The search continues.