Sunday, July 17, 2011

Food: Cabernet Braised Short Ribs with Yogurt & Parmesan Polenta

We've all had our moments of failure in the kitchen and, as most of us are aware, these melt-down occurances generally don't occur at the most opportune times. Prime example: One of my biggest cooking disappointments occurred when I was having 20 people over for a Christmas party dinner - obviously never the best time to poorly execute a meal (if there ever is a good time to do this anyway).

This past winter I decided I'd try this recipe on my guests. It was something that was supposed to be simple and delicious - a Wolfgang Puck, wine-braised brisket that sounded quite wonderful in the before with online reviewers offering up numerous accolades. But my execution (or following of directions, perhaps) must have been quite poor. I mean how else could you end up with a completely dried out brisket, floating in an oily mess of wine and discolored veggies? It was embarassing and disgusting to look at and I probably shouldn't have served it. But knowing the only other item I had was some homemade macaroni and cheese (that WAS pretty tasty and perfectly cooked I might add), I really didn't have any other options. Somehow people made their way through the meal (there were even some takers on seconds). But I was mortified and could just hear people thinking to themselves. "We always thought she was a good cook - what happened?" "Should we stop for pizza on the way home?"

After this incident, I could have just given up on braising meat forever. Ignored its existence as a cooking technique and stuck with my old standbys. I mean grilling a bunch of steaks would have been so much easier and more satisfying (both in flavor and presentation). But I'm not one to give up - albeit I took a six month leave from braising before feeling comfortable to give it a whirl again. OK, I'll be honest. All it took was a glimpse of boneless short ribs at my local Costco, which then gave me a craving for braised short ribs over polenta - a comforting dish I've ordered multiple times at restaurants. I loaded the package into my cart and couldn't wait to get home to dig up a recipe. I surely would be successful this time! I consulted a couple of sources online and finally found a short ribs recipe that not only had rave reviews but sounded simple enough I couldn't mess it up too much. And readers, I am happy to report I had success!

First of all, I must share that my simple, accompaning side dish turned out to be the best polenta I've made to-date…it's creamy and cheesy and slightly briney. Who knew adding a cup of yogurt to it could lend such creamy and tangy results. So if you don't have three hours to cook up the short ribs this time around, at least take 30 minutes to make the polenta.

But if you do have the time, these are some darn amazing short ribs! They're tender and flavorful with a wonderful, tomatoey wine sauce. In fact, the dish could be compared to a Bolognese-style dish and I think Jonathan and I could have served the sauce up over pasta and it would have been heavenly (I'm noting this for the next time I make the dish). One thing I appreciate about this recipe is instead of having veggies and meat floating in a liquid, you actually blend the veggies into a paste and give them a little bit of toasting in the pan prior to adding the wine. The result is quite gorgeous - a thick, bubbly wonder of a paste - and it creates something perfectly textured and flavorful.

I know a dish like this might sound wintery and be more suited to Fall weather. But I was quite satisfied to dig into a plate of warm and satisfying short rib after a long day of working in the yard in the middle of summer. And the polenta could be wonderful with fish or chicken or even refrigerated, cut-out in rounds, and pan fried - serving it as a simple starter topped with a touch of tapanade or bruschetta. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Cabernet Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from a recipe by
Anne Burrell (via the Food Network)


  • 2.5 lbs boneless short ribs (MM Tip: If you're a member, your local Costco should have a nice quality package at a great price)

  • Kosher salt

  • EVOO

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

  • Handful of baby carrots

  • 4 cloves of garlic smashed

  • 2, 6 oz cans tomato paste

  • 3+ c of bold red wine (MM Note: Preferably a Cabernet - even if it's a cheapie)

  • 2 c water

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 T dried thyme


  • Preheat oven to 375

  • Season short ribs with salt and pepper; Coat a large pot (one that can accommodate all of the ingredients) with olive oil and bring to medium high heat. Brown short ribs ~2-3 minutes per side, cooking in batches if necessary (crowding will cause the ribs to steam rather than sear). Place on a plate and set aside.

  • Puree all vegetables and garlic in the food processor to form a coarse paste. Transfer paste into the pan you cooked the short ribs in and season with salt.

  • Cook on medium to medium-high until the mixture is dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan - around 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Then scrape again and add the tomato paste. Brown for another 5 minutes, add the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan. Use a lower heat setting if things begin to burn and cook to reduce the mixture by half.

  • Return the short ribs to the pan and add enough water that it just covers the meat. Add the bay leaves and thyme and cover the pan. Place it in a preheated oven for 2-2.5 hours (check mid-way though since boneless ribs can cook more quickly). You can remove the lid for the last 15 minutes to allow the liquid to cook down more and to brown the meat if desired. Serve ribs with the braising liquid.


Yogurt & Parmesan Polenta


  • 6 c water

  • 1 T salt, plus extra for seasoning (MM Flavor Boost: Use Truffle Salt for some added Wow!)

  • 2 c course yellow cornmeal (or polenta)

  • 1 c freshly grated parmesan

  • 1 c plain greek yogurt

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch pieces


  • In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add the salt and gradually whisk in the cornmeal.

  • Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, about 15-20 minutes. The mixture should be thick and the cornmeal tender.

  • Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt, butter, and parmesan cheese.

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