Last week was a tough one. Not only are we still in our harvest season, which always means long days of hard work and not quite enough sleep, but for some reason there also seemed to be more than the usual number of challenges to overcome. The toughest one was when I had to fight hard with someone I’ve been friends with for more than 20 years about what was right and what we would allow in our R. Stuart family.
Call me naive if you like, but I am always shocked when I come across someone who doesn’t share my philosophy that kindness and respect are always the best way to treat a person. It’s hard enough to see hate and bullying played out on the world stage (read: current GOP presidential candidate) but it’s even harder when it’s so close to home.
For all these years I’ve turned a deaf ear to this person’s racist or homophobic bullying (which of course always came in the form of a “joke”), and I couldn’t stand it any more. In the end the person backed down, but I don’t really believe I changed his point of view. I suppose the most I can hope for is to change the way he behaves around me. With luck, and maybe some help, he’ll be able to change his heart.
Life is hard enough, why can’t we just be kind to each other? When my kids were in elementary school and would grumble about a classmate they didn’t like I would say, “You don’t have to be friends, but you do have to be friendly.” If an 8 year old can learn that lesson, why can’t a 58 year old?
I visited a lovely shop called HOME here in McMinnville this weekend and saw the sign pictured above. I had to snap a photo as it sums up my philosophy so well.
While comfort food is pretty much always on the menu during harvest, never was it more welcome than last week. Somehow slow braised short ribs and creamy polenta just hit the spot when we passed them around the table on Friday. A little culinary magic to soothe the soul.
I recommend you make this dish when your soul needs soothing too. Though, like most good comfort food, it takes some time to get to it’s ultimate state of deliciousness.
The first step is to rub the short ribs with a paste of lemon, herbs, garlic and olive oil – then let them marinate in this goodness for at least a day, maybe two if you’ve got the time.
After that the ribs are browned on top of the stove until their perfectly golden and crusty on the edges. Put them in a slow cooker and let them go for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low (4 hours is good, the 8 hour route is even better). These would be good over mashed potatoes or old fashioned egg noodles, but I chose creamy polenta this time, that I embellished with rosemary, red pepper flakes and grated parmesan.
The day before a friend sent a text saying she’d bumped into a guy on the street selling fresh chanterelle mushrooms he found near the coast and did I want any? Yes please! I sautéed those in butter and garlic and then stirred them into a pile of sautéed swiss chard – heavenly.
- Grated zest of 2 large lemons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, some fat trimmed
- 1 cup hearty red wine
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- Add the lemon zest, olive oil, herbs and garlic, salt and pepper flakes to the bowl of a small food processor. Process until the garlic is minced and a loose paste has formed. Rub this paste all over the ribs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you want to cook it. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat (cast iron is perfect for this). Add the ribs, fat side down first, to the skillet and brown on all sides. You want a little crustiness on the edges. Remove the meat to the insert of a slow cooker.
- When all the ribs are browned, add the wine and broth to the skillet, bring to a boil and scrape up all the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer this all to the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8.
- When it's done, remove the meat from the slow cooker and cover with foil. Let it rest for about 15 minutes and meanwhile thicken the sauce.
- In a medium sauce pan melt 2 tablespoons butter of medium heat. When it's melted, sprinkle the flour over it and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into this pan and bring it just to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it thickens a bit. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
- Put the ribs on a big platter and spoon some the sauce over them. Pass the rest of the sauce at the table.