Monday, December 24, 2012
This Christmas virtually all the family that lives near us is going elsewhere, so we all celebrated together a week early. I am going to save much of the holidays for the book I am working on, but for now need to share the main dish of the California Christmas dinner. First, we don’t have a firmly established traditional meal for the occasion, as it has never been the occasion for us to celebrate a week early. So we needed to create it. My wife asked for something wintery and warm, something rich and soulful. I had something in mind already. She said, “Something like braised short ribs.” I love this woman – that’s exactly what I had in mind!
You’ll have to excuse me for sharing just what we did without a real recipe. We didn’t use a recipe. To me cooking is like art…painting on a canvas, not paint by numbers. I will come up with recipes when the book is put together, but in the meantime… here’s what we created.
We seared for just a few moments nine pounds of short ribs. In a large roasting pan I mixed two brown ales, a stick of melting butter, about a quarter cup of olive oil, and the same of molasses, and a generous sprinkling of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and chocolate – and just a dash of sage. Then we placed all the short ribs in this mixture and covered them with chopped turnips, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, celery and leeks – lots of leeks. We then covered this with tin foil tucked into the edges of the roasting pan. The key here is to make sure all moisture stays inside the pan. You don’t want steam escaping. This was cooked in the oven at 325 for 5 hours.
When it came out at dinner time it filled the house with amazing smells. Dark, rich and warm, it was exactly what we were looking for. The leeks and celery virtually disintegrated while the potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips were done just right. The meat lifted off the bone and could be cut with a spoon. As we dug in the table was surrounded by “mmmm,” and “wow.” Somebody commented on the layers of flavor. Someone else said that something tasted familiar but they couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Somebody else asked if maybe I hadn’t put some chocolate in there. That was enough to get our part-time vegetarian daughter to try a bite.
Smiles and warmed souls all around, we toasted to all who came before and wish were still with us, to all elsewhere who we hoped to see soon and too all in need.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and happy eating.