I've been feeling in a bit of a food rut lately. Much as I love sesame noodles, Thai takeout, and Christmas cookies, I was getting kind of bored. Cooking has always been enjoyable for me, but recently I was feeling uninspired and sluggish, reluctant to post anything here because I didn't have anything good to post. Last weekend, however, I decided things needed to change. Freed from the flurry of holiday parties and December business, January seemed like a good opportunity to start fresh and get back into cooking -- real cooking, not just throwing on some pasta when I get home from work like I'm tempted to do most nights. While it's still cold, I want to make more hearty soups, more winter salads, more creative and inexpensive meals. I want to make pickles and take more time to read and play games, and watch less TV (even though this is the supposed Golden Age of television -- and it's easy to believe with Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Mad Men -- I could go on). I want to enjoy my beautiful new-ish neighborhood more, and make the most of these winter daylight hours. Inadvertently, this has become a bit of a resolution post, and I was never a big one for resolutions. Any resolutions to exercise more or eat healthier usually don't seem to last very long, but these I think I can do. And so, I'll begin this year with a simple (but very impressive) recipe for the perfect winter comfort food: braised short ribs that melt in your mouth, and the creamiest polenta with just the right amount of salt. We enjoyed with a cabernet sauvignon, some candles, and a kale salad (have to try to be somewhat healthy at least), and A. told me it was his favorite one yet.
Braised Short Ribs (Adapted from the Bon Appétit Cookbook, serves 2-4)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 to 3 pounds meaty short ribs 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 1 medium carrot, peeled, chopped
6 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 ounces prosciutto , finely chopped 1 cup dry red wine 2 cups chicken broth 1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs from crustless day-old French bread 1/8 cup (about) whole-grain Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 1 teaspoon thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Rub herb mixture all over short ribs. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer ribs to bowl.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot, mushrooms, garlic, and prosciutto to pot; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add wine and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add broth, bay leaf, and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme to pot. Return ribs to pot, meat side down; bring to boil. Cover pot tightly; transfer to oven and bake until ribs are very tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove from oven. (Short ribs can be braised 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm slightly over medium heat before continuing.)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Transfer ribs to large roasting pan, bone side down. Remove 1/4 cup mushrooms from pot and finely chop. Place in medium bowl. Add butter and mix with fork to blend. Mix in breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard over top of each rib. Spread breadcrumb mixture over top of each rib, pressing to adhere. Bake until topping is crisp and golden, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, spoon off any fat from top of sauce in pot and discard. Boil sauce until slightly thickened and reduced to generous 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon polenta into bowls. Top with short ribs. Spoon sauce over and serve.
Creamiest Polenta (Adapted from Tyler's Ultimate)
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring milk and chicken stock to simmer over medium heat in a saucepan. Add polenta and slowly whisk in. Reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until fully absorbed, 15-20 minutes, whisking often to prevent lumps. Remove pan from heat and stir in butter, cheese, and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.