Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Braised Beef Ribs on a Bed of Creamy Polenta

Are you familiar with the book/movie, "Julie and Julie?" It is the true story about a woman named Julie Powell who decided to cook her way through all of Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year. After each recipe, Julie blogged about the experience.

I think I need to do this with all of the recipes of Ree Drummond, aka Pioneer Woman. Lindsay and Ree....just like Julie and Julia. Or not. Some people wake up and read the newspaper with their morning coffee. I wake up and read Pioneer Woman with my coffee. We all have to have our priorities in this world. The thing about Ree's recipes is that they all look mouth-watering. The superb photography helps. She makes recipes look easy. She uses ingredients that I have never used. These things fascinate me. I know I am easily entertained, but I can't help it. So what would happen if me, a girl who frequently gets lost in life, tried to duplicate Ree's amazing recipes? Remember this one? It pretty much rocked my world.

Yesterday I tried to tackle her recipe for braised beef short ribs and creamy polenta. Let me preface this by saying that there were many unknowns (things that I have never used while cooking) in this recipe: fresh thyme, Dutch ovens, goat cheese, shallots, and wine to name a few. When I saw that I needed a dutch oven, that one really threw me. What the heck is a Dutch Oven? I thought that was when my brother farted under a blanket and trapped me underneath. So I had to improvise on that one....more on that later. I found all of the ingredients at Super Target except for the short ribs! I drove across town to Kroger to look for the ribs in the pouring rain mind you. They only had back ribs. I decided to go with that. It was already a miracle that my children made it through two stores, so I didn't want to push it. The recipe started simple are the lovely veggies.
Now for the torturous part. For whatever reason, that onion was the most potent onion I have ever chopped in my life. That's what I get for buying onions at Super Target. I was literally dying. My eyes were tearing and I felt like someone had poured acid right down my nasal passage. My turtleneck saved me. When that wasn't enough, I had to put on sunglasses. The things I go through...

I survived the onion and shallots. Here are my lovely chopped veggies. Isn't this exciting? How are you not falling out of your seat with excitement right now?
The recipe said to salt and pepper the ribs then dredge them in flour. I have no idea what the purpose was of dredging, but I did it anyway because Ree said so. Maybe it helps the juices stick to the ribs better? I have a feeling that short ribs would have been much better then these back ribs, but that's okay. I'm a beginner and apparently short ribs don't exist in my county.

Here is some pancetta frying in a pan. Oddly enough, I have cooked with pancetta before!
After I removed the pancetta for later, I added the veggies.
Ree's recipe calls for wine. I know nothing about wine. So I called our friend, Alex. He is our personal sommelier. This is Alex making his own wine at home with his adorable daughter. He told me to go with merlot for this recipe.

Now, for the funny part about me and buying alcohol. I like NEVER buy alcohol even though I have been old enough for over nine years. I hardly ever drink alcohol. I don't have any moral thing against it, it just never really became part of my life. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I always feel like I'm breaking the law when I buy alcohol. I feel sneaky and bad. WHY??!! I have no idea. I have always been a good girl...but I am almost 31 years old! I should be over the thrills of buying liquor by now. I'm not sure how Alex, the sommelier, would feel about the merlot I picked out. It was a case of teeny tiny little plastic wine bottles. If you don't believe how tiny, look at the picture of them next to a milk jug. I felt even more creepy about buying these tiny little wine bottles with my two kids. Piper was screaming at this point when we got to checkout. The kid who rang us up looked at me like, "Ohhhh, I get it. Mommy needs a drinky drinky." They were less than $5 though! How often can you get a secret thrill of pretend breaking the law for less than $5?

This is me pouring wine into the veggies....scandalous. The smell was divine.

I altered P-Dub's recipe by not using a dutch oven. I prepared everything in a skillet up to the point where you add the meat to the sauce. At that point I transferred everything into my crockpot and prayed that you are allowed to stick crockpots in the oven. I have to show you the fresh thyme I used. It is still on the root! It is called "Living Herbs" and I have only ever seen them at Target. They are so fresh!!! The thyme smelled delicious. I tossed a couple pieces of thyme and fresh rosemary into the crockpot too. Ree introduced me to rosemary too when I made her amazing rolls that I can't stop referencing on previous posts.

Something catastrophic happened while I was frying pancetta. Are you familiar with Elf on the Shelf? Google's precious. We have this elf that Avery named Freddy. No one is allowed to touch him. He travels to Santa each night to report on Avery and Piper's behavior, then in the morning he is hiding in a new place. Yesterday morning he was hiding in the garland hanging above the cabinets that are directly above the stove. While I was cooking, Freddy fell face down into my skillet of pancetta!!! I about had a heart attack.....because NO ONE is allowed to touch him. I can write this because Avery can't read yet. I quickly removed Freddy from the pancetta and layed him on top of the microwave. No one saw me do it. Poor Freddy! I hope he didn't tell Santa that we abused him by putting his face in a frying pan of fancy bacon.

Avery was so bored waiting on me to finish my shenanigans in the kitchen. She brought pillows and a blanket and layed there like she was sleeping. That lasted two minutes.

Now I can tell you about polenta. When the ribs were almost done, I started on the polenta. I have always been curious about polenta. Rachel Ray talks about it all the time. She also annoys the crap out of me. That grating voice....I wanna like her, but it's so hard. Anyway, Ree seems to love polenta too, so I thought I should try it. I even added goat cheese like Ree suggested.
This looks like a mountain of goat cheese, but it was only 4 oz.

I hate this next picture. My photography skills are terrible. Please look at Ree's photographs of this recipe. I added a bunch of broth on top of the rib, so it looks like it is swimming in juice....well, it is.
The verdict is still out on polenta. I wanted to like it so badly. Piper liked it the most, especially chucking spoonfuls of it on my rug. The texture is perfect....very creamy. I just couldn't decide about the taste. I was secretly wishing that my rib was sitting on mashed potatoes. Maybe polenta is an acquired taste like coffee or wine.
However, the meat was AMAZING. The wine gave it a very rich flavor (thanks Alex)! I want to do this all over again with a roast instead of ribs. In conclusion, Ree's recipes are always fabulous. If I can get through them, anyone can....if you like spending time in the kitchen. Lindsay and Ree. Julie and Julia. Peanut butter and jelly. Some things just go together. Click here for Ree's recipe.
Here is her recipe for creamy polenta...if you're into that kind of thing.


Beth Terry Merchant said...

I bookmarked the pioneer woman website. I think we need to pick a day to cook together over Christmas. Is Matthew working the 28 & 29 ? We can cook dinner for him & Mom after their long days at work ! I can buy one day and you can the other ?!?!? You can teach me your day should include noodles-and Kayleigh & Amber can join us ! We'd have a blast !

Scrapgirl said...

Ran into your post on the Pioneer Womens facebook page...Very Cute. It did remind me of Julie and Julia. I loved that movie! I also loved Pioneer woman! You're right her recipes are wonderful. Since reading her blog I have perfected searing meat among many other things that I have been trying to do for years!

Lex said...

I made this last week! It was awesome! I wish I could find the cord so I can upload my photos.

If it makes you feel any better, I feel the same way when I buy alcohol.I have only been in a liquor store like four times in my life. I walk in with my head down and feel all nervous and weird. They probably think Im going to knock them off.
I also feel that way about drinking in front of certain people (my dad, mother in law, etc.) yet I dont have any issue with drinking with my mom. Weird.