Eating locally in January is not as difficult as one might think. Winter vegetables such as hearty greens and root vegetables are widely available and at their peak. This is a delicious way to make use of winter’s bounty.
Recipe: Root vegetable ragout
2 each sweet carrots, washed and peeled
4 each turnips, washed and peeled
2 each parsnips, washed and peeled
12 each pearl onions, peeled
12 each red pearl onions, peeled
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cut the carrots, turnips, and parsnips into pieces of about the same size and shape, preferably a medium-sized dice. Blanch the cut carrots, turnips, parsnips, and onions together, in a pot of boiling salted water, until tender, about 5 minutes or less. Carefully remove from the blanching water with a slotted spoon and place into an ice water bath. Allow vegetables to cool; reserve in refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.
To serve, put the vegetables in a small skillet along with sherry vinegar, butter, and chopped tarragon. Place the skillet over a medium-low flame and warm just moments before serving. Season with salt and pepper.
Recipe: Creamy polenta
2 cups water
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup organic yellow polenta (can substitute plain cornmeal)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (can substitute cream cheese)
Lightly season 2 cups water with salt and bring to a boil. Quickly whisk in the polenta until it has been fully incorporated. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the butter and allow the polenta to cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone and season to taste with salt.
This may be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave just before serving.
Recipe: Zinfandel braised beef short ribs with creamy polenta and a ragout of fall vegetables
4 pounds beef short ribs, bone in, cut into single rib chops
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 cups zinfandel (red wine)
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked
3 ounces canola oil
2 cups small-diced onion
.5 cup small-diced celery
.5 cup small-diced carrots
6 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
2 ounces mushrooms, preferably porcini
2 each bay leaves
Generously season the short ribs with salt and pepper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the zinfandel, honey, garlic, fresh thyme and a pinch of salt. Marinate the short ribs in the wine mixture for 12 hours in the refrigerator.
Pour 3 ounces canola oil into a Dutch oven over high heat. Remove the short ribs from the wine and allow the beef to rest for several minutes and come to room temperature. Reserve marinade.
Once the meat has rested, place in the hot pan. Stir and turn the meat often, carefully allowing each piece to brown on each side before removing from the pan. When browned (will take several minutes per side), remove the beef from the pan and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Stir constantly and allow the onions to cook until mahogany in color, about 10 minutes; if onions are browning too quickly, reduce to medium heat. Add the short ribs back to the pot along with the reserved wine marinade. Allow the wine to come to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer, skimming foam and fat from the surface of the liquid. After simmering for several minutes, add remaining ingredients and allow to simmer uncovered until the meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, roughly 5 hours.
Once the beef has cooked, transfer short ribs to a dish and cover. Reduce the pan liquids until they coat the back of the spoon, simmering about 30 minutes. Strain the braising liquid and return the short ribs to the liquid. Season the short ribs and braising liquid with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve for later use.
This may all be done up to 3-4 days in advance. Reheat in oven or microwave until meat is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Assembly: Reheat the three components of the dish separately.
On each of 6 large plates, place a couple of spoonfuls of polenta in the center of the plate.
Carefully remove the bones from the hot ribs and place the beef short ribs over the bed of polenta.
In a pan over medium heat, bring the reserved braising liquid to a simmer. Once the sauce is hot, check for seasoning and, if needed, add a touch of salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce around the beef short ribs and polenta. Carefully place the root vegetable ragout on the beef. Serve and enjoy!