Last week I went to San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. In addition to the fresh produce, we have vendors who offer a variety of homemade products and I couldn’t resist buying a package of finely ground polenta.
On the way home I was thinking of all the different ways I could use it: creamy with a little Parmesan, grilled squares topped with Marinara Sauce, and then I thought of this succulent recipe from Michele Scicolone. The slow-cooking method keeps these ribs moist and tender, and imparts a deep, rich flavor. If you like a little spice in your dish, add a dash of red pepper flakes to crock-pot. The sauce is so good you have to serve them with something to sop it up. I decided to make a soft Parmesan polenta. Creamy and rich, it is the perfect backdrop to the ribs.
If you have never made polenta before, don’t let it scare you. It really isn’t as difficult as many people make it out to be. Just don’t walk away or answer the phone while it is cooking so you can stir it regularly. If it does stick to the bottom of the pan, don’t scrape it. Finish cooking and pour it into another container, leaving the burned part behind. No one will ever know! Start the ribs in the morning and they will cook unattended in the crock-pot on low for about 6 hours. They can be made a day ahead if you prefer, making this perfect for a dinner party or pot luck. The polenta only takes about 30 minutes, so you can make that just before you are ready to serve dinner.
- 4 lb country-style pork ribs
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup tomato purée
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 4 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add as many of the ribs as will fit in the pan without touching. Cook the meat, turning it occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides. Place the browned ribs in the slow cooker.
- Brown the remaining meat in the same way. Add the onions and garlic to the same skillet and cook 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the wine and tomato paste and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid begins to simmer. Stir in the tomato purée, oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from the heat. Scatter the peppers over the pork in the slow cooker. Pour on the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until the meat is tender and coming away from the bones. Discard any loose bones and skim off the fat. Serve hot.
- Meaty country-style pork ribs are a great choice for the slow cooker. They turn out moist and tender and never lack for flavor. Here they are cooked in spicy sauce made with red bell peppers and tomato. Serve it over polenta or mashed potatoes with zesty broccoli rabe cooked with garlic.
- 1 cup fine-grain polenta
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Ground white pepper
- Combine polenta, water, stock, and cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Be careful that it doesn’t sputter and burn you. Stir in butter and Parmesan. If you like a creamier polenta, add a little more stock or cream. Season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust as needed.
- Keep warm on low until ready to serve. Spoon into soup bowls and sprinkle additional Parmesan over the top. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired. You can also use this as a bed for roasted meats.
- Yield: about 4 servings