Praise the braise, the method of cooking foods in a wet environment (versus the dry place that an oven is).
If submerged in liquid, we generally call a braise a “stew.” Braising liquid may be as bland as water or as flavorful as broth, wine, beer, some juices — or a blend of any of these. With meats, the main plus of a braise is the chance to use less costly cuts, high in difficult-to-chew connective tissues when raw or slightly cooked. The braise breaks these down into a gelatin-rich, luxurious backdrop to all the flavorings of the finished dish.
The recipe here uses beef short ribs with the bones in. So-called boneless short ribs are usually merely trimmed chunks of chuck meat, and come from up near the animal’s shoulder. You may use them in this (and a slew of stew recipes) but try to go for bone-in short ribs.
These are butchered in various ways and sold under different names. But basically, look for well-marbled meat that’s at least an inch thick (2 inches is gravy) in between or on top of its bones. Bone-in short ribs come from one of the underplates of the beef, or from the chuck region, and are either cut across the bones so that several short bone sections remain in the short rib (particularly common in Asian preparations), or cut along the bone so that one bone rests atop its meat (more common in French and English cooking).
You’ll see both cuts or trims called “flanken-style” or “flanken ribs,” but the name doesn’t matter as much as assuring to buy well-marbled meat without an excessive amount of fat flap on it or the bone. I also prefer bone-in because it guarantees both connective tissue and membrane that break down into deliciousness with a long braise.
Braised Beef Short Ribs and Olives on Creamy Polenta
Using the olives and smoked paprika gives this dish a Spanish cast; 4-6 servings
- 4 pounds beef short ribs, bone-in
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium yellow onion(s), roughly chopped
- 1 large rib celery, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, chopped
- 1 15-ounce can tomatoes, chopped, with juice
- 2 cups red wine or tart cherry juice
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, lightly crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted, drained
- 1 package polenta, ready-made or prepared and warm, using both milk and water
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper the ribs all over and let them come to room temperature. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pot, over medium-high heat, brown the ribs all over, in batches, in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Set each batch aside as they’re browned and then brown the onions, celery and carrots, and garlic, in turn, assuring that the garlic does not burn. Set the vegetables aside with the meat.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Deglaze the pot with the tomatoes and red wine or cherry juice, then add the stock, herbs and bay leaf, and the pimentón. Mix well and add back the meat and vegetables. The liquid should come up just to the top of the solids; if not, add a bit of water. Heat everything on the stovetop over medium-high heat just to the boil, then stir, cover the pot, and place in the oven for 3 hours, stirring every hour and rotating the pot.
If possible, do all this the day before, cooling the pot overnight and letting the fat rise and congeal so that it may easily be removed. If not, do the best that you can to remove the fat from the surface when the meat is cooked through.
Then, carefully separate the large portions of the beef from the bones and remaining cartilage; set the beef aside and keep warm.
Meanwhile, using both milk and water, make or reconstitute the polenta so that it is just somewhat runny and can serve as a base for the remainder of the preparation.
With an immersion blender (or regular blender — mind if the liquid if hot — or by forcing through a sieve) blend the defatted liquids and vegetables into a rough sauce. Add some of the sauce to the olives in order to color them.
To serve: In a plate or large diameter bowl, make a ring of the sauce. Pour a serving of polenta in the middle of the ring so that it reaches the sauce and pushes it up a bit. Place a piece of beef and some olives on the polenta and garnish with the parsley.
sauce I want to build on.
In summer, there might be ripe tomatoes and herbs, or eggplant and peppers. In the fall, maybe mushrooms, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. In the cold pit of winter, where we are now, I like to use sturdy greens like broccoli raab, kale or spinach, which add vibrancy to the anchovies’ umami funk.
In that last version, I also mix in some chopped cherry tomatoes for a little sweetness and color. Although I cook the anchovies and garlic in olive oil at the beginning of the dish, I stir in some butter at the end, which mellows the inherent bitterness of broccoli raab and rounds out the sauce.
A fat dollop of ricotta gives the pasta some creaminess, which I always crave when the weather gets cold, but it’s not at all essential. And, while I love the saline tang of the capers, you can skip them if they are just one ingredient too many. With all those anchovies in the pan, you probably won’t even miss them.
About those anchovies, for a dish like this, you need to get the good ones. I think the reason so many people are anti-anchovy is that there are a lot of bad, fishy ones on the market. Look for those packed in olive oil, and sample different brands until you find one you like. Then, stock up. After all, a pantry filled with anchovies is the beginning of many amazing future meals — no matter what other ingredients you have in the house.
Pasta With Garlicky Anchovies and Broccoli Raab
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- Kosher salt
- 12 ounces short pasta, such as shells, wagon wheels or rigatoni
- 2 packed cups parsley, leaves and tender stems
- 10 anchovy fillets, preferably packed in olive oil (one 2-ounce tin)
- 1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced to a paste
- 1 (1-pound) bunch broccoli raab, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato (plum, cherry or grape work well)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Pinch of red-pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Ricotta, for serving (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until 1 minute shy of al dente. Use a coffee cup or measuring cup to save some pasta water, then drain pasta.
2. While the pasta cooks, coarsely chop the parsley, 6 anchovy fillets, scallions, capers (if using) and a pinch of salt. You can chop it all together on a cutting board, or pulse everything briefly together in the food processor; just make sure to keep it coarse.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add oil, remaining 4 anchovies and half the garlic, and let cook, stirring, until anchovies start to dissolve, about 1 minute.
4. Stir in broccoli raab, tomato, about two-thirds of the parsley mixture and a pinch of salt to the pan. Sauté until the raab is tender, 5 to 8 minutes, adding splashes of pasta water as the pan dries out. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.
5. Add pasta to pan along with butter, lemon zest, remaining garlic and red-pepper flakes. Toss until the butter melts and the pasta is combined with the vegetables, adding more pasta water if the mixture seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Divide pasta among bowls and sprinkle with remaining parsley mixture. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve with ricotta, if you like.
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