In late February, sensing the end of Winter 2011-2012 was near, I decided to give the insanely mild winter a final farewell with a feast only those who cherish a good cold weather can appreciate: meaty shortribs braised in cabernet, served with gorgonzola polenta and mixed herb gremolata and paired with excessive amounts of wine. Yes, this meal will stick to your ribs but at least it will be warm enough outside for you to run it off. With a plan in mind, I e-mailed Alex and Emily to see whether they want to collaborate on the meal. Emily decided to provide the ingredients for the polenta to make at the apartment and Alex offered to help with the short ribs. To make the meal an event, we invited Alex’s friend Frances and fellow runner Pete, both of whom brought wine to pair with the dinner.
The afternoon of the dinner, Alex and I went to Safeway to pick up the ingredients for dinner and ended up buying all of the short ribs in stock for a total of 20 short ribs. Looking back, that was insanely excessive, but at the time, we were in the mood for excess. We also bought two of the cheapest bottles of cabernet sauvignon on the shelves in which the short ribs would braise. To make up for that purchase in bad wine karma, we picked up a bottle of sparkling wine to start off the evening as well. At evening’s end the bottle count for this gluttonous dinner would total five and a half: 2 for cooking, 1 for pre-dinner socializing, and 2.5 to go with dinner. Finally, to finish off the evening on an even more decadent note, I brought out three pints of ice cream (whiskey & pecans, dark milk chocolate, and goat cheese with port figs) from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio that my friend Gabby sent me for my birthday earlier that month. A carton of Whole Foods vanilla was also available as a palette cleanser. Sometimes, I wonder if I am giving myself or my guests heart disease by serving such rich dinners but it’s hard to think about that when facing the comforting trifecta of braised short ribs, polenta, and ice cream.
Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs (from Bon Appetit Magazine)
8 to 9 pounds meaty beef short ribs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (about) vegetable oil
2 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
Arrange short ribs in a single layer in a 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Mix rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl; spring all over ribs. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature one hour before continuing.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy wide ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch, adding more oil to the pot if needed. Transfer ribs to a large plate or bow. Pour off drippings from pot; discard.
Add wine to pot and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Return ribs and any accumulated juices to pot; bring to boil. Cover; transfer to oven and braise until meat is very tender and almost falling off bones, about 2 hours.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer ribs to a large bowl or plate; cover tightly to keep warm. Skim any fat from top of braising liquid. Boil liquid until reduced to 2 generous cups, about 20 minutes. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour with fork until well blended. Whisk butter mixture into reduced braising liquid. Whisk over medium-high heat until sauce thickens very slightly, about 2 minutes.
Divide gorgonzola polenta among plates. Top with ribs and sauce. Sprinkle with mixed-herb gremolata and serve.
*The short ribs can be braised 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring pot to a simmer before continuing.