Use ribs to create a hearty winter stew

November 05, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne, What can I make this weekend, freeze, reheat and bring for our potluck polenta party? The annual polenta celebration is always at my mom's because she makes the best polenta in the family (it began when my grandmother always made polenta for the hunters on Thanksgiving weekend). I am looking for a meat stew kind of recipe with good sauce for the polenta and figured you had to have one. Thanks from Elsie in Yonkers

Dear Elsie, In the mountains of central Italy, stews like this always pair with polenta, and they were usually done with game. In the Tuscan side of our family, the first polenta of winter was served with little birds stewed very much like this. Those birds came from my grandfather and uncles' hunting on the same weekend as your family did.

Those birds always upset me. To my taste it's far better to do this either with beef short ribs or with country pork ribs. If you are freezing the stew, undercook the meat slightly so it is a little firmer than you like. It will finish cooking in the heating up. Also have the stew completely chilled before freezing.



o Serves 8 to 9, and can be doubled.

Mellowing a day or two in the refrigerator makes a big difference in this recipe. The stew can be frozen up to four months.

Boiled potatoes, or rice could take the polenta's role if you wish. And although pasta is never a side dish in Italy, some cooked egg noodles are pretty swell with this sauce.

Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds hot Italian sausage (use mild if you prefer)
4 pounds meaty beef short ribs, or country-style pork spareribs, trimmed of excess fat
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion, minced
4 thin-fleshed peppers (Italian frying peppers, mild cubanelle, or sweet Hungarians), or 2 large sweet red peppers, cut into long thin strips
1/4 tight packed cup Italian parsley, chopped
4-inch branch fresh rosemary
3 large cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/3 cups dry red wine
28-ounce can whole tomatoes, with their liquid
1/2 cup black Ligurian, Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tight-packed tablespoons Italian parsley leaves, torn

Lightly film a 12-inch, straight-sided saute pan with olive oil and set over medium-high heat. Prick the sausages on all sides, sear them in the oil, then turn the heat down to medium, pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the sausages, cover the pan tightly and cook 10 minutes. Remove the sausages to a plate, pour away all the liquid in the pan. Wipe it clean with a wad of paper towels.

Film the pan again with oil, heat it over medium high and add the pieces of meat so they don't touch (do in two batches if necessary). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Leisurely brown the pieces over medium heat until they are dark brown and crusty, but not burnt. Add the meat to the sausages.

Over medium heat saute onion, peppers, and parsley to golden brown, taking care not to burn the brown glaze in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the rosemary, garlic, and spices. Pour in half the wine and boil it down to nothing, scraping up brown bits from the pan's bottom as it bubbles.

Add the meat and sausages (cut them in 1-inch pieces first) to the pan with the rest of the wine. Stir in tomatoes and olives, and bring the mixture to a very slow bubble over low heat (you can count to three between each bubble). Cover tightly and cook over low heat one hour, or until meat is tender, but not falling apart.

Taste for seasoning and deep rich flavor. If flavor is thin, remove the meat and simmer the sauce uncovered to concentrate flavors, then decide if salt is needed. Skim off any fat. Pour the sauce over the meats and sprinkle with the parsley.

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