I used a slow-cooker for this but you don’t have to if you don’t like the idea of waking up the next morning to a mouthwateringly rich, beefy aroma.
If you can get local grass-fed organic beef, then even better. The porcini I picked and dried myself but you can buy them in any good supermarket. The red wine was half a bottle of Malbec that was lingering around the kitchen and I used a soft, mild goat cheese in the polenta, as that’s what I had in the fridge.
Given that our weather has become intermittently autumnal, what better than a hearty bowl of fork-tender beef in a rich sauce served over creamy polenta? Not much.
BEEF SHORT RIBS BRAISED in RED WINE with PORCINI, over SOFT POLENTA
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
3.75 lbs (1.7 kilo) of beef short ribs, preferably organic, grass-fed beef
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (16 tablespoons) of all-purpose/plain flour
1 large stalk of celery, cleaned and finely chopped
2 large carrots, cleaned and finely chopped
3 medium-large shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
3 tablespoons of tomato paste/puree
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of crushed chili flakes
1 bay leaf
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
a handful of dried porcini along with their soaking liquid (approx 8 fl oz/230ml)
About half a bottle of decent red wine
For the polenta, you’ll need about 2 cups to 4 cups of salted water. Follow the instructions and add the cheese of your choice. I added about 4 oz (120g) of goat cheese plus a knob of butter and lots of black pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve
Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C, unless you’re using a slow cooker, in which case you’ll need a deep saute pan to start with. Otherwise you’ll need a large, heavy ovenproof casserole dish/dutch oven with a lid, preferably cast iron.
Start by pouring boiling water over the dried porcini and allow them to soak for 20-30 minutes. You’ll need at least 8 oz / 230ml of soaking liquid.
Season the flour in a ziplok bag or plastic container with a lid then add the beef ribs one at a time, giving them a good shake to coat with flour. Set them aside.
Meanwhile, in the heavy pan or saute pan, heat the oil and soften the onion, carrot, celery and garlic over a moderately low heat. Make sure they don’t brown.
Push the veg to the side of the pan and lightly brown the ribs, one or two at a time. Take them out of the pan and put them on a large plate or straight into the slow cooker.
Tip the porcini into a paper towel-lined strainer set over a bowl to catch all the liquid, then rinse them and chop them up – add them back to the reserved liquid.
Now add the porcini and their liquid to the pan along with the chili, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil and scrape/de-glaze the pan. Pour in the wine (I’ve used up to a whole bottle with no ill effects so use as much as you want but if you think that’s overdoing it, have some beef broth on hand to make up the liquid).
Put the beef ribs back in the liquid, or of you’re using a slow cooker and they’re already in there, pour everything over them. Put the lid on, and stick in the preheated oven for 5 hours or until the meat is dropping off the bone. Check every hour and turn them over in the liquid, adding water or broth if you think it needs it.
For the slow cooker method, I got this started mid-evening on the high setting and turned the ribs over after 3 hours, checked to make sure there was enough liquid then reduced the heat to low and went to bed.
These taste even better after a day or two in the fridge and they freeze well. Reheat them gently.
For the polenta – start that about 30 minutes before your’e ready to serve as you want it to be soft, not set firm. Polenta does require vigorous stirring so if that sounds like too much work, a big pile of fluffy buttermilk mashed potatoes would be perfect.