FALL FOODS CALL FOR HEAVIER PAIRINGS

by Aaron Walters

As we (attempt to) transition into fall, I feel it apropos to feature some heavier pairings. One that I am quite fond of is a braised short rib dish that can be prepared a variety of ways and features a variety of spirits. 

The most traditional preparation is to braise the short ribs in a stew of mirepoix, herbs and red wine. I serve mine with a variety of polentas, most notably a mascarpone polenta. When cooking with wine, it's customary to pair the meal with the wine used in the cooking process. That being said, always select a wine that you love to drink. My mainstay is Rob Murray Vineyards' Tooth & Nail. Their Petit Syrah/Syrah blend dubbed "The Stand" is probably one of my favorite wines under $30. There are just enough tannins to cut through the heaviness of the dish, but not so much as to leave you with that "cotton ball" feeling! 

One of my favorite nontraditional preparations of this dish is to braise the short ribs with spices (as opposed to herbs) and swap out the wine for a nice imperial stout beer. It gives the dish a deep, rich flavor that is unparalleled. 

Here's the breakdown:

Braised Short Ribs

  • 6 bone-in short ribs
  • Thick cut bacon (cut in lardons)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cups beef stock

WINE METHOD:

  • 1 sachet of herbs for traditional method (rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano and 3 bay leaves)
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine (I use the wine I'm pairing with the meal)

BEER METHOD:

  • 1 sachet of spices – cinnamon stick, cloves (3), star anise, Thai chili pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups stout beer

Preheat oven to 300F

Render the bacon lardons in a large Dutch oven until crispy. Remove and reserve for later. Heavily salt and pepper the short ribs and sear them for 2 minutes on each side. Remove and hold on a paper towel. Add the mirepoix to the pan and stir to deglaze. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add herbs or spices and red wine or beer and reduce by 2/3. Pour in the beef stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the short ribs and the bacon back to the pot. Bring to a boil once more; cover and put in the oven for 3.5 hours. Once they have finished cooking I like to put them on a baking sheet and keep them in a warm oven. I strain some of the braising liquid and reduce it down for a sauce for the dish.

Make the polenta (I use Bob's Red Mill Polenta) during the last half hour of cooking; prepare the polenta following the directions. Once the polenta has reached the desired texture, stir in the mascarpone and a few pats of butter and--voila--you're finished!

To plate, simply ladle a serving of polenta into a bowl or on a plate and place a short rib in the middle. Finish with a little of the reduced braising liquid. This is a dish that I am constantly asked to make. Once you try it out I'm confident you'll feel the same. Bon appetite!