Table for Six, Please Wait in the Livingroom
By Dennis Linden
Here’s a wonderful dish for the home chef who loves to throw intimate dinner parties for a small group of friends. For Tom Decanio, Melissa’s Northeast Region representative, the holiday season provides a great opportunity to prepare and enjoy an evening of good food and conversation at his own table. So, in the spirit of the holiday entertaining season, Tom submitted his very tasty Short Ribs-Polenta recipe with a full table of cherished friends in mind.
“To enjoy this dish at home is so rewarding and fun, without the hustle and bustle distractions that come with restaurant dining,” Tom explained, then continued. “I love to create the ambiance of fine dining in the comfort of my home with candle light, soft background music, linens, and of course the appropriately-filled wine glasses. I have used this recipe for New Years and other special occasion dinners with great success. The home creates a more intimate dining experience that promotes two essential ingredients at my table, great conversations and lots of laughs! With the Holidays upon us, here is a wonderful recipe for one of those special kind of evenings around your own table. Hope your group of friends enjoy it as much as my friends have.”
While there is a little bit of pre-prep necessary, Tom’s recipe is actually quick and easy to prepare. As advertised, this dish really is the perfect main course for a small group of appreciative guests. The combination of seasoned meat and creamy polenta has a warming, comfort-food deliciousness to it, yet the dish is plated with an elegant, white-tablecloth finish. Though there is only thirty-minutes of prep and 2½ hours of oven time, nevertheless Tom’s dish takes on an all-day simmer flavor. This is one of those dishes that is guaranteed to stop all table conversation in two bites; creating that quiet moment of culinary appreciation – just the sound of many forks clapping -- that all chefs strive to hear!
do have to be trimmed and peeled before Tom’s recipe is begun. However, this task goes quickly by first dropping the onions in boiling water for 3 minutes, then transferring them quickly to an ice-water bath for another few minutes to stop the cooking process. Then drain, trim the root end off and, with a gentle squeeze, just pop the outer layer of the onion off.
I used fresh shiitake mushrooms for this recipe because they were readily available. Tom also suggested that an equal amount of Melissa’s Dried Shiitake
or, even better, our Dried Mushroom Medley
could be used, reconstituted, if fresh mushrooms are not available. The texture and taste of the shiitakes gave this dish an extra rich and earthly flavor crunch. A wonderful little culinary touch that made a difference!
There’s polenta and then there’s POLENTA. Tom’s creative addition of cream and gorgonzola cheese certainly turns Melissa’s ready-made “plain” polenta into anything but [plain] and the co-star of this dish! While the tender, seasoned meat cuts easily with a fork and does literally melt on the palate; that taste sensation is kicked up a couple of notches with the tang of this cheese-polenta mixture, which adds a creamy decadence to every forkful. Just a wonderful taste experience all around!
Tom Decanio, a seasoned fresh produce industry professional of many years, has been a member of the Melissa’s team for almost 15 years, representing the company in the Northeast region of the country. Tom is also a recent newlywed and, in fact, was gracious enough to work with me on this recipe though his kitchen was in boxes as he was also in the midst of moving from his longtime home in Plymouth, Massachusetts to a new place with his new bride.
“I love the ocean. In fact, my beautiful island-girl bride, Lea, and I are moving just a block off the water,” said John. “Besides cooking for friends, which is a special passion, I also enjoy listening to music on my theater system and spending as much time as possible with my family, especially the grandkids. Our Puggle dog’s name, Otis, kinds of sums up our approach to life these days; Otis stands for Our Time Is Short.”
While Chef Tom’s rib recipe is a wonderful main course, he suggested an entire menu to complete the dining experience. Serve a side dish of asparagus prepared to taste or a slice of roasted Butternut Squash
. For the salad, use a quality Spring Mix tossed in a simple garlic vinaigrette, sprinkled with Melissa’s Dried Cranberries
and Pine Nuts
. Add a few lucky friends and enjoy the season. After all, our time is short!
Braised Short Ribs with Gorgonzola Polenta
½ cup white Flour
Salt and Pepper
6 pounds Short Ribs, boneless and cut into 1½ inch squares
2 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
8 ounces Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms
1 pound Melissa’s White Pearl Onions
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
½ cup Fresh Italian Parsley
1 packet Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix
2 Tablespoons Beef Base
1¾ cups Melissa’s Polenta (Plain)
¾ cup Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
5 cups Chicken Broth
3 ounces Whipping Cream
Short Rib Prep:
Mix flour, salt, and pepper in Ziploc bag, then add short ribs to coat. Brown ribs in large pot on stovetop with 2 Tablespoons cooking oil.
Add mushrooms, onions and wine, braise for 5 minutes.
Add 2 Tablespoons beef base, soup mix packet, mix well. Cover with Lid, and place in Oven.
Roast at 350° for 2½ hours.
In a 4 quart sauce pan bring broth to a boil. Gradually add polenta, whisking constantly, then add in gorgonzola and cream; stir until melted
Pool polenta in center of dinner plate, place short ribs on top of polenta, garnish with fresh parsley for color.