Braised Short Ribs with Truffle Polenta and Empire Apple Compote
The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington, Arlington, VA
"Short ribs are good in any season, but I especially love to eat and cook them in the fall. This dish has it all for me: the caramelized, slow-cooked depth of flavor from the short ribs, the foundation of corn in the polenta with the unmistakable forest floor earthiness of truffles, and the sweet-sour of the apple compote. It’s fall on a plate, and like all of the best dishes, it’s prepared without a lot of fuss." —Michael Roll
4 to 5 pounds bone-in short ribs cut across the bone into 2 1/2 to 3–inch pieces
Salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed under a knife
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 yellow onion, diced into 3/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
1 quart (4 cups) veal or beef stock
6 sprigs parsley
6 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
Empire Apple Compote:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 Empire apples or other firm-textured apples, peeled, diced small
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 whole clove
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Truffles, truffle paste, truffle butter, or truffle oil to taste
Prepare the short ribs: preheat the oven to 300°F. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. In a large high-sided pan or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Once the oil is hot, brown the short ribs, making sure to rotate them so they’re evenly browned all over, about 4 minutes per side. Work in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Remove the browned short ribs from the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and onions and sweat until the onions are translucent and are beginning to take on some color, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for a full minute. Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then add the browned short ribs, stock, and herbs. Return to a gentle simmer and skim off the foam that rises to the top for a few minutes. Cover and put the pot into the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The short ribs are done when the bones easily separate from the meat. Once cooked, remove the ribs from the braising liquid.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the braising liquid and discard the solids. Add the strained liquid to a pot set over low heat. Reduce the liquid until thickened, about 14 to 18 minutes.
Make the apple compote: in a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar and cook until the butter has foamed and the foam has subsided. Add the apples, pecans, and spices and cook for 3 minutes. Season with the vinegar (or lemon juice) to taste. Those of us who like some crunch in our apples should cook this for a very short time, about 6 to 8 minutes. Others who like more of an applesauce texture should cook the compote for 10 to 12 minutes. Likewise, if you love sour, add a little more vinegar. Or leave it out if you wish—often the apples have all of the acidity they need. Set aside until ready to serve.
Make the truffle polenta: in a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups water and the salt to a rapid boil. Whisk in the polenta in a steady stream, being careful not to allow clumps to form. Reduce the heat to low. As soon as the polenta is incorporated, use a wooden spoon to stir until the polenta is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese and the truffle to taste. (Note: this is a personal choice, but I prefer to use a very small amount of truffle, so it’s just a hint of flavor. It’s an ingredient that can end up hitting you over the head and should be used judiciously. Remember, you can always add more.)
To serve, cut the short ribs to your liking (trimmed of all but the rib meat, left as individual ribs, bone-in, boneless in large single pieces, or whatever you prefer). On each serving plate, place a healthy spoonful of the polenta in the center. Rest 4 short ribs on top and sauce them with a healthy spoonful of the reduced braising liquid. Top the ribs with a small dollop of the apple compote.
Note: this dish pairs nicely with roasted Brussels sprouts or a light salad and your favorite red wine. Enjoy!
4 to 6 servings