Love you long time: an ode to short ribs

Last week Chief Big Voice swept into town on the heels of a wretched weather pattern that is stubbornly still plaguing us. As far as he’s concerned, Minneapolis and Seattle could pretty much be interchangeable based on the furrowed brow of rain clouds our city has sported on his last two visits. Alas, I can’t control the weather no matter how much I suck up to Mama Nature on this blog. What I can do, is control what we eat and I can think of no better way to welcome an old friend, to love him up, than to cook. And so I did.

I don’t normally post recipes because, frankly, there are so many stellar food blogs out there that it would seem like pure hubris, which, ironically is what ruined my grilled pork chops. Hubris in that I bragged about how delicious they are, coming from such happy pigs as they do. The final coup de grâce: a few too many glasses of wine causing a break in the chain of custody. In criminal law, in order for evidence to be admissible, you have to document every transfer from person to person and prove that no one else could have accessed the evidence. In cooking law, in order for the pork to be delicious, you have to make sure that the last person to handle it before Doctor Dash takes it out to the grill is me, because I, apparently, am the only person who knows you have to salt the meat. YOU HAVE TO SALT THE MEAT. Something distracted me and Dash pulled the pork out of the fridge where it had been luxuriating in nothing more than a little garlic, rosemary and olive oil and threw it on the grill, assuming I had salted except that you never put salt in the marinade because that will dry out the meat. You salt right before you throw it on the grill, but since I didn’t touch the meat, I totally forgot and suffice it to say I was less than happy with our happy pig that night. Frustratingly, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Were the chops over cooked? Under cooked? Too rubbery? Not enough char? What what what???? It wasn’t until I was doing the dishes that it hit me! No salt! Of course! That’s why they tasted insipid AND were missing that fabulous little salty char crust. Salt is essential, for taste and texture. Never forget the salt. And always use way more salt than you think when it comes to meat. Luckily, Chief Big Voice had slathered his chop with my roasted cherry tomatoes with chorizo, kindly claiming he hadn’t noticed. Argh. 

I did, however, manage to make up for it the next night with some seriously delicious short ribs. Seriously. I cook a lot of meat in a lot of different ways and I might have to go out on a limb and say that this was the best thing I have ever ever ever made. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen as a starting point because I seem to be constitutionally incapable of actually following a recipe to the letter. Much like Nanook, who sometimes refuses to read her book club selections, feeling it to be one of the last acts of rebellion left her, I refuse to follow recipes. I start out with every intention and then suddenly I realize I can’t find the port (infuriating because I know we have it and never drink it, so what better way to use it?) and all hell breaks loose and I’m digging around throwing whatever I want into the pot like some sort of enfant terrible chef who refuses to be boxed in.

There is something so satisfying about braising. I love the frenzy of chopping and searing and seasoning followed by the glugs of your concocted braising liquid and finally, slipping the lid on for hours of slow cooking that fills the house with the most heavenly aromas known to carnivores. It seems almost ridiculous that you can go about your day, knowing that what is in your pot is just getting better and better, richer, more tender fall-off-the-bone, more concentrated and savory. It’s the most delicious and magical form of multitasking I can think of.

 These short ribs are a two day process because you absolutely have to cool them in the fridge overnight to scrape off the inch of lard that forms on top. I’m sure if you follow the recipe, you’ll be over the moon. If you happen to be interested in my perverse culinary aberrations, then here they are: There is no need to finely chop the aromatics because they all get seived out anyway  - inch-sized chunks work fine. I think I threw half a fennel bulb in instead of the celery. I also reconstituted some dried porcini mushrooms and added them with the nasty, funky juices. Incidentally, do you know how awesome dried porcini mushrooms are? Any sauce or braise gets instant heft and depth and dark mysterious strangerness about it from their addition – just drown three or four or five or six of them in a bowl of hot water, let them hang out for a while and add the whole steamy deal to your pot, avoiding the bits of grit at the bottom of the bowl. Smells like bunk, but tastes like heaven – like fish sauce, dried shrimp, parmesan – all that soulful umami business. Ooof. Love. I know I polished off our bottle of Cholula hot sauce into the braising liquid. Why not, right? I toss a spoonful of dijon mustard into just about everything. I didn’t do the pearl onions because they bug me. I love the idea of serving the short ribs on a bed of swiss chard like Smitten Kitchen and next time I’ll try that. Instead I made mashed potatoes, spicy sauteed broccolini, and maple roasted squash. DO NOT forget the horseradish creme fraiche. I thought it seemed like gilding the lily, considering the richness of the short ribs, but the sauce brings a tang that plays beautifully with the ribs. I didn’t do the step where you quick roast the ribs because, honestly, I just wanted to serve them in their gravy – strong, dark, velvety and completely irresistible.

What came out of that pot after two days tasted like all that is good in life: long rainy afternoons of cooking, funny, woozy, gregarious meals with old friends and the knowledge that after every cooking mistake, awaits a cooking triumph.

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2 Responses to “Love you long time: an ode to short ribs”

  • Chief Big Voice Says:

    Wonderful meal…honestly one of the best I’ve ever eaten, but the experience was lessened because I should’ve been seated looking out the front window.

  • peevish mama Says:

    Why Chief Big Voice? Why? Why must you fight me on matters of seating? Poke fun all you like, but you will never know how much BETTER those short ribs could have tasted had you simply indulged me and moved your lazy ass so you could see out the window (notwithstanding the fact that it was, ahem, pitch black and raining out).

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