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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.

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Quick Kimchi

For years, we’ve looked sideways at foods we don’t quite understand and that we suspect will be unusual in flavor and/or texture. Particularly strong flavors of fermented fish and vegetables are not part of our mountain western taste traditions. Sure, we grew up with bold flavors like blue cheese, liver, and the occasional “fishy” tasting fish (that was a bad thing). But exotic foods like kimchi are not the sort of things we were raised on.

Ah, how things change. And thank goodness! Our time in California has dramatically broadened the range of things we prepare in our kitchen. That includes the big, stinky flavors of sardines and salted cod. Our pantry now contains Thai fish sauce, seaweed, daikon radish … you get the idea. Slowly but surely, we’ve come to our senses.

Kimchi is as Korean a thing as you will ever eat. It is traditionally present at every meal. To say that kimchi is commonly eaten is to grossly understate its importance and its ubiquity. As you might expect, a national obsession with a particular food has resulted in a wonderful variety of kimchi styles. Like so many fundamental culinary ideas, kimchi is essentially an idea or technique. Brined, fermented vegetables and added flavor in the form of sugar, spice and/or fish. The possibilities for variety are endless.

This “starter” kimchi recipe is simple and quick. The ingredients are all available in nearly any well-stocked chain grocery store in the world. How much of each ingredient is endlessly variable. Try it, see what you think, and try it again with your variations. It’s especially good with Kalbi (Korean barbequed beef short ribs) and white rice. Enjoy!

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Quick Kimchi

1 Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons fermented chili sauce (such as Mother In-law’s)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 Asian pear, grated on large hole box grater (no seeds or core)
a pinch of red pepper flakes

Quarter cabbage lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-to 3-inch pieces. Toss with 2 tablespoons salt in a large bowl and let stand, tossing occasionally, 2 hours.

Rinse cabbage well, then drain. Squeeze out excess water with your hands and transfer to a large bowl.

Purée garlic, ginger, fish sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and fermented chili sauce in a blender until smooth, then pour over cabbage. Add scallions and grated pear and toss well. Marinate at least 1 hour.

Cooks’ notes: Kimchi keeps, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month (flavor will get stronger).