August 12, 2002
Short Ribs and Polenta

You know how every time the Food Network advertises the FoodTV website they show the same screen shot of "Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Polenta"? Well, Carl made precisely that dish last night, a testament to the power of advertising.

The short ribs we had gotten were not exactly on the meaty side, so we had to supplement the braise with some extra vegetable chunks, whole shallots, garlic cloves, etc ... and I would frankly say that the stew was twice as delicious as it would have been with more meat and less flavor. The whole mess was extremely flavorful (perhaps in part due to our liberal use of Better than Bullion beef broth goop), and the meat was exceedingly tender. The flavor-packed soft and stewy shallots, I would argue, were the best part. Cheddar polenta was also quite good, cooked in milk rather than the typical water, with a healthy addition of thyme and bay leaf along with the cheddar and parmesan. Definitely something worth repeating in the fall and winter months.

That said, does anyone have any suggestions for making the picking-apart-the-short-ribs-meat-from-the-fat-and-bones process a little less onerous? It sometimes seems that picking the meat off of short ribs takes nearly as long as the cooking process itself...

With a loaf of crusty bread...
posted by Nadia

... it's a meal! For the 3rd or 4th time, made baguettes from Mark Bittman's fabulously easy and perfect recipe. This batch was less than perfect (I don't think I slashed them deep enough, so the tops were uniform), but browned better than in times past. And the flavor and texture, of course, were great. Who would have imagined that such a simple recipe can bring you so close to "real" baguettes?

Mark Bittman's "Easiest and Best French Bread"

Blend 3-and-a-half cups flour in Cuisinart with 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast. Slowly add 1-and-a-half cups water and process for 30 seconds.
Put the sticky mess in a bowl and let rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
After dough rises, separate into 3 or 4 equal parts, ball them up, and let rest under a towel for 20-30 minutes.
After 20 minute rest, form dough balls into baguette shapes and let rise in a couche for 1-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450. Just before baking, slash tops of baguettes, and spray inside of oven with water to create steam. Put loaves in the oven and spray again after 5 minutes.
Let bake for 25 to 35 minutes, spray tops of loafs with water after removing for a shinier crust.