Family Dinner Night – Oven Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

My husband works late most nights, so we are not fortunate enough to enjoy family dinner every night.  I eat with the kids, but Sean misses the ritual most evenings.  However, we are religious about keeping Sundays and Tuesdays as our family dinner nights.   It is even in our calendar, so that we know never to schedule anything on those nights.

For Family Dinner Night I usually try to make a nicer meal than my typical “kids’ dinner” that I often make.  Rarely do I make tacos or chicken cutlets.   In honor of the special evenings I try to whip up something more interesting.

Tonight I’m making short ribs and polenta.  It is a throw back to my days when I lived in Italy. Short ribs are so delicious and easy to make.  It took me only 30 minutes to prep and get in the oven.  It bakes all afternoon, and is then ready in time for dinner. The meat is so fork tender, it falls off the bone.  And with the creamy polenta…Yum, my mouth is watering while I type this.

OVEN BRAISED SHORT RIBS AND CREAMY POLENTA
Serves 4 to 6

8 beef short ribs
2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2/3 cup of chopped carrots
2/3 cup of chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of crumbled dried oregano
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
½ cup of red wine (optional)
6 cups of Beef Stock
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 cube of porcini mushroom bouillon or ½ cup of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water until soft, then drained and the liquid strained of sand
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325.  Heat olive oil over medium high heat in large oven proof pot, enamel covered cast iron is preferred.  Salt and pepper each rib.  When oil is very hot, add ribs, browning on all sides.  Be sure to brown until the ribs start to get the crusty dark brown exterior.  Turn the ribs to brown on four sides.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Finish browning all ribs and set aside.

In the same pot, over medium heat, add the onions, carrots and celery.  Add a  little salt and pepper and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add red wine and stir until it has almost completely evaporated.  Add oregano and tomato paste and cook for another minute.  Pour in stock and crushed tomatoes.  Add bay leaves.  Add either the porcini bouillon or the strained liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms.  (If you used the dried mushrooms, you can add the mushrooms from the strained liquid at the end of cooking.)  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Return the short ribs to the pot, cover and bring to a simmer.  Place the covered pot in the oven and bake for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven.  Carefully remove each short rib being careful to keep the meat on the bone, and set aside. Remove the bay leaves and discard.  Skim the fat off the top of the remaining liquid.

You have a couple of options with the remaining sauce.  If you like the chunks of vegetables, than you could merely reduce the sauce by half by simmering it on low.  If you like a smoother sauce, you can put it thru a food mill or simply put it in a blender, but if you do one of these options, you may want to let the liquid cook a bit.  I like the sauce smooth, so I usually puree in a blender in small batches so that the hot sauce doesn’t splatter and burn me.  Then you return the sauce to the pot.  It should be fairly thick, but you can reduce by simmering over low heat if you want to thicken it or make it a richer sauce.  I usually decide what to do based on how much time I have.  Just know that you can do it a simpler way, if you’re short on time.

Prior to serving, return the ribs to the sauce.  Bring to a low simmer to heat the ribs.  Serve over Creamy Polenta.

CREAMY POLENTA
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup of polenta
3 cups of water or chicken stock
¼ tsp of salt (double if using water)
¼ cup of heavy whipping cream
½ cup of grated Reggiano Parmesan

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water or chicken stock to a simmer.  Add salt.  Add the polenta slowly, stirring constantly.  Continue to stir for about a minute or until the polenta starts to thicken up and separates from the sides.  Remove from heat.  Add cream and cheese.  Mix until well incorporated.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

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