Comforting Dinner: Braised Short Ribs and Blue Cheese Polenta

I love to host dinner parties where the star of the show is comfort food. There’s something even more warming about time with friends and family when the food is earthy and fills both the stomach and the soul. I made such a dinner for friends a couple of weeks ago and it was all that I needed it to be and I think they felt the same way. Our menu included:

Nibbles before Dinner

Cheese plate
with fruit, nuts, olives and rustic bread

Main Course

Braised Short Ribs

Blue Cheese Polenta

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes


Dark Chocolate and Cherry Brownies
with Cabernet Chocolate Sauce

To Drink

Appetizers and Dessert: Fleuraison Blanc de Blancs

Main Course: Block 13 Cabernet Sauvignon

This menu was inspired by recipe from a recent cooking class I took with Paul Petersen from the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Tx. His original menu called for beef shanks in an Osso Bucco style braise, but I chose short ribs because they are smaller so each person can better control their protein destiny. Both cuts of meat are great for dinner parties because they are less than $6 per pound typically and lend themselves well to the long-cooking braise. I also created my own version of Paul’s blue cheese polenta that is a little lighter but still delivers on a great blue cheese taste. Unfortunately there are those in my world who don’t like polenta (I’ll cure them of this one day), so I also made mashed potatoes as an alternative to the polenta. You can of course make one or the other to simplify your menu .

Although the short ribs are slow-cooking, I was still able too put the meal together in a few hours on a Saturday after I’d been traveling for business for the better part of the week. If I can make this menu after 3 days on the road then anyone can. If I’d been home the night before the party, I would have done some of the work ahead of time so I’d have less to do on the day of the party. Either way, you can absolutely pull this menu off without getting started before noon on the day of the party, and that includes time to grocery shop and dress the table up as well as yourself. Over the years I’ve learned that a little time spent making a plan for even an intimate party for 6 makes me feel more comfortable that I know when I need to do what and that I haven’t forgotten anything. To that end, I’ve linked by planning worksheet (Microsoft Word 2007) at the bottom of the post to give you a head start on recreating this meal at home. If you can’t open the doc, give me a holler at natanya at io dot com and I’ll work with you to get it into a format you can use. I also have an Excel version I’m happy to share.

Cheese Plate

Cheese plates are great thing to have out and ready when guests arrive because:

  • They are low maintenance. Buy some cheese and a few other goodies and you’re done.
  • You can accommodate a variety of tastes. Even if not everyone in your crowd likes brie, you can still put it on the plate because it’s not standing alone.
  • They give you a chance to test new cheese and expose your guests to new flavor profiles. Many of my friends have called after a party and asked “what was that cheese we had the other night” and proceeded to add it to their food repertoire.

For this cheese plate I chose a brie, cheddar, and morbier for a mix of textures and flavors. The start of the show was a winner from the 2008 American Cheese Society competition, the Carr Valley snow White Goat Cheddar. Even if you don’t like goat cheese, you should try this cheddar. It has a subtle tang that you can only get from goat’s milk and is truly amazing. It can be difficult to get though, so a couple of other options are a Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold or Beecher’s Flagship Reserve. These are my favorites of course, so build your cheese plate to match your and your guests’ pallets. If you’ve never put a cheese plate together, or just want to build a better plate for your next gathering, has a great guide to get you started.

Of course cheese needs some friends to bring to the party. I recommend:

  • Grapes (red, green, or both). While apples and pears are great partners for cheese, they don’t sit out very well and when you’re hosting a party, even a small dinner gathering, you want foods that will hold well for the beginning of the party. Grapes fit the bill.
  • Bread. I like a rustic bread because it’s adds to the flavors on the plate, but by all means choose your favorite.
  • Olives. The saltiness and tang of olives provide a welcome contrast to creamy cheeses and olives are just great nibbles all around.

If you look at the schedule linked at the bottom of the page you’ll notice it put the cheese plate out 30 minutes before I’m planning for guests to arrive. Cheese tastes so much better when it’s had time to shake the chill, so be sure to give it time to acclimate.

Recipe: Braised Short Ribs


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 45 min
  • Cook Time: 3 hours


  • 4 ½ – 5 lb. short ribs with bones
  • 1 -2 cups flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 medium shallot, sliced thin
  • ½ cup chopped carrot
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 2 Tbps. chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups hearty red wine
  • 4-6 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp. sliced chives for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season the ribs with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge the seasoned ribs in the flour.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and add olive oil. Continue heating until the oil just begins to smoke.
  4. Working in 2-3 batches, brown the ribs on all sides.
  5. Transfer the ribs to a plate and reserve.
  6. Add the onion, shallot, carrot, and celery to the Dutch oven and sauté until the onions begin to get soft, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the thyme and parsley and sauté for an additional 30-60 seconds.
  8. Add the red wine and deglaze the pan. Turn the heat to high and boil for 1-2 minutes so the alcohol can evaporate.
  9. Add four cups of beef broth to the pan and stir to combine.
  10. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven and add additional broth as necessary to (mostly) cover the ribs.
  11. Cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the preheated oven to braise. Flip the ribs every 30-45 minutes. They are ready when they fall off of the bone and pull apart with a fork.
  12. To serve the ribs, place a healthy dollop of mashed potatoes or polenta in a shallow bowl. Top with the 1 or 2 ribs, sans bones, and some of the braising liquid and vegetables. Garnish with the chives.

Recipe for success

  • Be sure you use a large enough pot to braise the ribs. If necessary you can split the recipe between two pots and cook the ribs in batches.
  • Do take the time at the beginning to thoroughly brown the ribs. This adds depth of flavor to the ribs and gives you the crusty fond you are looking for when you deglaze the pan with the wine.

Recipe: Blue Cheese Polenta


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min


  • 3 cups milk (whatever you have on hand; I use skim)
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 9 Tbsp. quick cooking polenta
  • 6 oz. blue cheese (Point Reyes or Shadows of Blue recommended)
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large sauce pan bring the milk and butter just to a boil. Whisk in the salt.
  2. Reduce the milk mixture to a simmer and gently pour the polenta into the pan, whisking constantly to avoid forming lumps.
  3. Cook the polenta for 5 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency.
  4. Stir in the cheese.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

Recipe for success

  • I use Colavita polenta in my recipes and have created the recipe ratios based on how it cooks. Be sure to read the instructions on your brand of polenta and adjust the recipe as needed. If your polenta is too thick after cooking, add a few splashes of milk or water to loosen it up. If it’s too thin, stir in a tablespoon or two more polenta.
  • Choose a good quality blue cheese because it is the star of the show. Point Reyes and Shadows of Blue are both creamy blue cheese which helps them melt more smoothly into the polenta. Avoid blue cheese crumbles if you can.
  • If you aren’t a big fan of blue cheese, choose another tart cheese such as goat cheese. The creaminess of the polenta and the tartness of the cheese provide a nice contrast to the ribs.

The Plan

As promised, you can download my planning worksheet and adjust the menu, grocery list, and timeline to your heart’s desire. I keep some pretty unexpected things in my pantry, including cabernet chocolate sauce and beef stock, so double check your pantry items against mine and adjust the shopping list as necessary.


  1. Great recipe…i made this easily this morning and the ribs are fall off the bone tender1

  2. I love short ribs. These sound wonderful! Thank you for linking to it!


  1. Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 3, 2011 : Fête & Feast - [...] Braised Short Ribs over Blue Cheese Polenta [...]