Mr. B has a thing for cipollini onions. They are the holy grail of sweet onion flavor- causing him to wax poetic and look rather dreamy eyed whenever they appear. Hard to find locally, their rarity only enhances the allure for both of us. Whenever we get the opportunity to purchase a few they go into the cart, no questions asked.

This time, when contemplating what to do with our special stash of cipollinis, I remembered four fat short-ribs sitting in the freezer. The suggestion of braised short ribs with cipollini onions won quick approval from Mr. B. and even got me excited at the thought of classic mid-winter comfort food.

Finding inspiration from a cooking segment on the Today Show, I brined the ribs overnight in a solution of spice, sugar, and salt. The next day, they were patted dry and seared until a deep brown crust appeared. The cipollini onions simmered with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs in a pinot noir broth, forming the liquid base of the braise. Then all the ingredients went into the pan and under the slow heat of my oven.

Braising magic ensued. Tender hunks of beef fell off the ribs at the mere touch of a fork. Sweet caramelized cipollinis and carrots gave each bite an earthy background while the dark wine sauce coated the entire dish with a savory richness. Sub-zero temperatures aside, with comfort food like this, winter can stay for awhile!

Pinot Noir Braised Short Ribs with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Cipollini Onions (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Chef Ryan Scott
Serves 4
Note: Allow at least 4-6 hours for the ribs to brine before braising.

Ingredients:

Brine
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
3 bay leaves
4 cups ice

Short Ribs
4 each boneless short ribs, 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound
1/2 cup canola oil or grapeseed oil
2 cups cleaned cipollini onions left whole (about 4 onions)
1 cup julienned oil-packed sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup small-diced carrot
1 cup small-diced leeks, washed and drained (preferably the white part)
1 cup pinot noir
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
6 cups low-sodium beef stock
2 teaspoons of Tabasco or Hot Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups soft cooked polenta

Directions:

Brine the Ribs
Place all of the brine ingredients into a large pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the brine cool completely (you can add ice cubes to speed this up if desired). Once the brine is completely cool, place the short ribs in a gallon size Ziploc bag and pour the brine on top. Seal the bag and place the ribs in the fridge for 4-6 hours or overnight.

Brown the Ribs
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Take the short ribs out of the brine and pat dry, trying to remove as much moisture as possible. Discard the brine. Season all sides of the ribs generously with salt and pepper. Set a large dutch oven or sauté pan with lid over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add 1/4 cup of canola oil. Once the oil begins to smoke add the short ribs in a single layer, and sear until they are darkly browned on all sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Remove the ribs from the pan and set aside on a plate to collect the juices.

Assemble the Braise
With the pan still over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1/4 cup of canola oil, cipollini onions, carrots, and leeks to the pan. Sauté the vegetables until they are beginning to soften and turn a light brown color. Add the sundried tomatoes and thyme to the pot. Stir frequently, gently scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any stuck bits. Pour the pinot noir into the pan, again scraping the bottom to deglaze the pan, and maintain a steady simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

When the wine is reduced, pour in the stock and Tabasco. Bring the liquid to a boil and return the short ribs to the pan in a single layer. Cover the pan with a lid and set it in the oven. Bake for 3-4 hours, until the short ribs are fork-tender.

Serve the Short Ribs
If desired, gently transfer the cooked short ribs to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the liquid until it reaches your desired thickness. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary. To serve, set a short rib on top of warm polenta and spoon the sauce and vegetables on top.

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