Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

Welcome to Part II in our two-part series on beef short ribs. Thanks to a very happy mistake at the grocery store (who knew flanken cut style ribs could be cut thick), we’ve had the great fortune of eating short ribs two ways this summer. If you missed it, be sure to check out our take on grilled Korean style short ribs. This time around, we’re sharing Gerald Hirigoyen‘s take on English cut short ribs .

Different cuts and thicknesses of ribs require different cooking methods. A thinner cut, like the thin Korean flanken cut, will only require a few minutes on each side, especially if cooking them over a hot charcoal grill. English or the thicker-cut flanken style ribs we highlight here, require more time. And like almost all braised meats, the ribs are better when cooked, cooled, and left for a day or two in the refrigerator. The flavors grow more complex as the meat cools and reabsorbs the juices fromt he pan. The reheated braise is rich and delicious!

Braised short ribs are fork tender. They are a terrific companion to hot, creamy polenta and a glass of Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo. Served with a refereshing romaine salad, this is a dish to enjoy at any time of year!

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Beef Short Ribs in Moscatel
(from Pintxos by Gerald Hirigoyen as featured on the James Beard Foundation website)

2 pounds flanken-style beef short ribs, about 2 1/2 inchs thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground balck pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 (750-ml) bottle Moscatel wine
Bouquet garni of 5 or 6 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 6 to 8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley wrapped in a cheesecloth saceht or tied with kitchen twine
1/2 head garlic
1/2 jalepeno chile, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 teasppon corieander seed
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise pods
3 whole cloves
2 cups chicken stock, or as needed to almost cover
2 tablespoons Moscatel vinegar
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Cut the ribs between the bones so you have individual pieces. Season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil to a large casserole or Dutch oven, and heat over high heat until it ripples. Add the ribs to the casserole and to brown them on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate.

Decrease the heat to medium, add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Return the ribs to the casserole and add the wine, thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic, chile, coriander seed, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seed, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon stick. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook for about 6 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.

Transfer the ribs to a plate. Strain the liquid through a sieve into a large bowl. You should have about 4 cups. Let sit for about 20 minutes, or until the fat rises to the surface. (You can also refrigerate the liquid for a few hours so the fat congeals on the surface, making it easier to remove.) Skim off the fat and discard it. Pour the defatted liquid into a saucepan, place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook for about 12 minutes, or until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar. (The ribs can be returned to the liquid, cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing. The flavor of the dish will improve during this rest period.)

To serve, reheat the ribs in the sauce in the oven until warmed through. Taste the sauce and add another splash of vinegar and some salt and pepper if needed. Arrange the ribs on a plate and pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with parsley.

Creamy Polenta

3 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
1 cup polenta
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Bring to boil over medium heat in a medium sized pan the water and milk with the bay leaf and thyme. Gradually whisk in the polenta and salt and cook until thickened, approxiamely 15-20 minutes. More water may be added if polenta becomes too thick too soon. Once fully cooked, take the polenta off the heat and add the cheese and butter. Whisk until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Whole Hog!

Here piggy, piggy...

Confession time. Yes, we have been keeping a secret from many of you and it’s finally time to come clean. Jason was once a vegetarian and Steve, in his effort to impress Jason, was a vegan. That’s right, the two guys that cook and eat venison with passion were once PETA supporting, Birkenstock wearing, tree hugging, dirty hippies! We’re still a bit crunchy, and called dirty hippies by Steve’s co-workers, but now we have our vegetables with a side of meat. We know many of you may be shocked and dismayed and you have every right to be, but come on everything in moderation, right? Including pig.

Jason's birthday pig. It's time to BBQ!

Alas, we’ve long since abandoned the vegetarian lifestyle as we’ve embraced our inner carnivore with a bit of gusto. Now, make no mistake, we believe more than ever that a diet based on fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, beans and grains is the only means to a healthy, long life. But meat is so satisfying and so important to our nutritional well being that we can’t imagine ever forsaking it again. And nothing says carnivorous bliss quite like meaty, succulent pork.

4505 Meats at the Ferry Building's Farmers' Market. Yummy pork sausage sandwich.

We took our interest in all things porcine to a new level in April when we joined 7 other hog loving epicures at a 4505 Meats pig butchery class in San Francisco. The 9 of us, all scrubbed and in aprons, broke an entire hog down into various chops, roasts and steaks using the tools of the trade – boning knives, hacksaws, mallets, hatchets and cleavers. Indeed, this was as hands-on a butchery class as one could ever expect and it was amazing! Under the patient tutelage of 4505 Meats’ Ryan Farr, we learned to skin the pig, break it down into primal cuts, “French” chops, and de-bone hams. When we were finished with the work, we had many, many pounds of fresh pork to divide among us and virtually nothing went to waste.

Our first chop before the pan.

With our freezer full of pork we’re working our way through the different cuts. Our first meal from the pig consisted of just one  huge chop. The chops are so large that both of us are able to split one and still feel full. We grilled the chop on the stovetop and finished it in the oven seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper. The flavor was nice and fresh, but not nearly as good as the other pig parts that we later brined before grilling. The blueprint for the brine recipe comes from 4505 Meats, with the addition of a few other ingredients and a reduction in sugar.

Pork chop with polenta.

We know we’ve been saying this often, probably too often, but it’s time for us to have a party. We’re thinking of a bbq in the park. But since summers are so darned cold in San Francisco, we might need to wait until the fall when the weather is more inviting in our foggy neighborhood. Of course, if any of our friends are up for  hosting responsibilities, we’re willing to bring the party, pig and all! Leave a note and let us know.

Spicy Pork Brine (2 – 4 pork chops or 1-2 pork loins)

Adapted from 4505 meats Spicy Brine recipe card

½ cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
8 juniper berries
6 cloves
small handful of whole black peppercorns
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup red pepper flakes
4 cups water
4 cups ice

Mix all the ingredients except the ice in a sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the ice and refrigerate until very cold, around 40 degrees. Transfer the brine to a large bowl with a lid or a large zip lock bag.

For brining a pork loin leave in the solution at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

For pork chops leave in the brine for 4 – 8 hours.

Rinse the pork after brining and pat dry with paper towels before cooking. Grilling the meat and then finishing in the oven is the best way to eat the meat once it’s been brine, in our opinion. Be careful that the meat does not burn. The added sugar from the brine can cause a quick char to occur.