Saturday, October 24, 2009

Theme and Variation

It's certainly happened to me. We'll go over to a friend's home, as once happened, and she'll serve polenta with a mushroom ragu. I make polenta. I make mushroom ragu. But I'd never put them together before. It's one of those "D'oh!" moments where I just want to slap myself. Fortunately, I'm not the only one, as contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food shares below.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t tried this combination before, but it’s going into the regular rotation.

Farro and Sugo

For the farro:

Soak a couple of cups of Bluebird Grain Farms farro overnight, then simmer in salted water for at least 45 minutes (longer seems to be better) until it’s tender (or as tender as it gets, which is a little al dente). [If using a different brand, it can become tender in as little as 30-40 minutes. You can always make it ahead of time and warm it before serving. - KAB]

Make a batch of beef sugo, either the short rib version below or the variation with chuck (what I used this weekend). Pork shoulder would also work. Dish some of the sugo over the farro.

For the short rib sugo:

In a good sized pot (I use a cast iron Dutch oven), brown about a pound and half of short ribs in a little olive oil. Add some salt, an onion, some celery, and carrot, all chopped into medium dice, and cook for a few more minutes. (Or use beef chuck, aka stew meat.)

Add about a half bottle of decent red wine, shot of espresso (or half cup of strong coffee), cover, and stick into a 200° oven for about 3 hours.

Remove the short ribs from the pot, let cool, and pick the meat off the bones. You can reduce the braising liquid if you like, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Chop the meat coarsely and return to the pot, adding a large can of ground or diced tomatoes. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so, adjusting the salt if necessary.

(For my chuck version, I cooked a chopped onion in olive oil, added 3 salt-packed anchovies after cleaning and dicing, then the shot of espresso. Let that cook a few minutes, added the tomato, then the beef.)

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