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BRAISED SHORT RIBS WITH POLENTA & CARROTS by Millicent Souris

Let's be honest. Sometimes I pretend this kitchen, this island, is my own little Greek-French-Southern inn; one of my many inspirations is Mademoiselle Ray from L'Auberge de l'Atre Fleuri or Auberge of the Flowering Hearth. The 1973 cookbook based on this inn is a beautiful reference for country French cooking, a style of cooking that just feels right for me. Short ribs, or lamb shanks or pork shoulder, love red wine, the whole bottle of red wine, just like you do. In general I think one rib per person is plenty. If they are large, you can use fewer ribs. It is important to have the time to cook these, so the meat can be pulled off the bone. I’m talking about at least 3 hours here.

1 bottle juicy red wine

6 short ribs

3 stems fresh thyme

4 bay leaves

7 cloves garlic

kosher salt

olive oil

2 white onions

3 carrots

3 ribs of celery

1 quart beef of chicken stock

soup spoon of tomato paste

freshly ground pepper

The night or morning before, pour the wine over the short ribs and add a sprig of thyme, a few bay leaves, and a few cloves of smashed garlic. The next day pull the short ribs out of the wine. Save this marinade. Season ribs with kosher salt and brown them in a Dutch oven. Once browned set aside. Pour the fat out and heat a little olive oil. Slice the remaining garlic and dice the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté the onions and season with a little salt. Once they sweat add the carrots, celery, and garlic and give a good stir. Deglaze the pot with half the stock and scrape up any fond with a flat wooden spoon. Add a spoonful of tomato paste and stir it over medium-high heat. Add the reserved wine, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Put the meat in the Dutch oven. You want it to be covered two-thirds of the way up with liquid, so add the rest of the stock if you need to, or more wine or a beer or some water. Whatever you do, don’t submerge the meat in liquid; it messes up the protein/braising liquid harmony. Bring the braise to a boil and taste it. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, keeping in mind the liquid will reduce. Cover the Dutch oven and put it in a 325-degree oven. Check periodically during the next 3 hours, just to make sure everything is progressing as expected. The give really happens between the third and fourth hours of cooking. You want the meat to pull easily from the bone. Even if the ribs are small, it still needs time to give. If it’s on the verge, let it go a little longer.

POLENTA

The best polenta will be a little coarse and smell like corn. Here’s something a bit heretical for the Southerners and the Italians: you can use anything for polenta or grits or cornbread as long as it’s some sort of cornmeal. Choose stone-ground cornmeal or polenta for the best flavor and texture. The most important part of making polenta is the liquid-to-solid ratio, somewhere between 4 and 5 cups of liquid for each cup of ground corn. And that’s the flavor I want, corn, so I use water for the liquid and finish with some butter for creaminess, just to round out the flavor, but no cheese or milk. I don’t want the corn flavor masked by the richness of dairy. Since this polenta is served with a rich braise, I want to keep it simple and clean, as light as possible. This takes about an hour of mild attentiveness.

10 cups water

kosher salt

2 cups stone-ground polenta

freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat the water over a high flame and add salt. Whisk in the polenta and turn the heat down a bit. Make sure the polenta isn’t sticking; that’s your main concern. Once it starts bubbling, turn it down; cornmeal gives a painful burn. Keep an eye on it, stirring every once in a while. If there are lumps, whisk them out. Check the polenta: you want the grain to give and not to be gritty. Once the grain gives, check for seasoning and stir the butter in. If it’s not smooth or creamy enough, then add more liquid, be it water, stock, or cream. Or butter. Leftover polenta can be spread in a pan or sheet tray to make cakes. Cover with parchment paper.

ROASTED CARROTS

When carrots come around at the farmer’s market, they are gorgeous. I want their freshness and sweetness unadulterated by booze and meat, so I cook them by themselves. I roast them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, with enough foil overhang on each side to cover the carrots. This roasts them, but also steams them, so the carrots get tender before they dry out or get too much color on the exterior.

carrots

olive oil

kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

Aleppo pepper

fresh parsley leaves

fresh tarragon leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the carrots in half lengthwise or in quarters. Toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little Aleppo pepper. Place a single layer on the sheet tray and bring the extra foil together to close. Put in the oven and check after 10 minutes. Once the carrots give a bit, to get some color on them, open the foil and turn the oven to 425 degrees. You want the carrots to just get tender, but you don’t want them too soft. Finish with parsley and tarragon.