14 January 2011

braised short ribs on a pillow of polenta

my inspiration for this dish comes from a small restaurant in new orleans called mat and naddie's.  after living in new orleans for 6 years, my husband and i had our favorite places to go for dinner.  as you can imagine, the cuisine in that city is top notch, so the decision was always a tough one.  if i got to choose, though, i would pick mat and naddie's hands down as one of THE best restaurants in new orleans.  when my mom came to stay with us, my husband was nice enough to watch the kiddos while we went to lunch at mat and naddie's.  my mom chose the short ribs, while i chose...oddly enough i can't remember because her short ribs were the life of the lunch.  (it was probably the ahi tuna steak.  i often got that there.  i do remember my crawfish cheesecake that i got.  to.die.for)  my mom and i have talked about those for years, well, ok, it's only been a year.  but, i swear those short ribs come up in A LOT of our conversations.  and that polenta!  can't forget that.  it's an integral part of this dish.  

i finally tried my hand at them and they were delicious.  even my one-year old picky-eater devoured them.  so tender and juicy. and the best part, you ask?...cooked in the crock pot.  a lovely meal on a cold wintery day.

2 Tbsp olive oil
3.5 lbs boneless beef short ribs
kosher salt and pepper
2 sweet onions, finally sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp dried thyme or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup grape juice
1 can beef broth
8 medium carrots, washed, cut into 2" pieces
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained (i used the italian variety.  or use diced canned tomatoes or 1 Tbsp tomato paste)
1 bay leaf
splash of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1.  turn crockpot to high while preparing the meat.  heat olive oil in pan on med-high heat.  meanwhile, pat beef to dry and generously season with kosher salt and pepper.  when pan is hot, add the beef and sear, without moving it, for 5-6 minutes on each side.  remove meat and put it in crockpot.

2.  reduce heat to medium and add the onions.  cook until soft and slightly brown, about 10 minutes.  (add tomato paste at this time, if using, and cook until browned on the sides of pan.)  add garlic cloves and thyme and increase the heat to med-high.  add grape juice while scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up any browned bits on the bottom.  cook for 10 minutes.  add broth, carrots, tomatoes (if using), and bay leaf.  add a splash of vinegar, until aromatic.  transfer grape juice/onion mixture to crockpot and pour over the short ribs.

3.  cook on high for 3 hours, then reduce heat to low for another 2-3 hours.

4.  when the meat is fork tender, ladle about half of the cooking liquid into a pan.  cook on med-high burner until liquid has reduced down significantly, about 25 minutes.  this creates a wonderful reduction sauce to drizzle over the top of the short ribs and polenta. 

creamy polenta

boil 4.5 cups of water.
add 1 cup yellow corn meal slowly while whisking to avoid any lumps.
reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.  if polenta gets too thick, add another Tbsp or so of water.
add 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt.
whisk until melted, 2 Tbsp butter and 5 laughing cow swiss cheese wedges. 

swirl on plate and top with short ribs and reduction sauce.

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