Sunday, December 4, 2011

Conquering the Wish List: #1

For those of you out there who follow my blog regularly, first of all, thank you; I am flattered you have chosen to spend some of your time reading about what I have been up to in the kitchen! But you also may remember a blog from a few posts back about a wish list of sorts that I have been keeping (and for those of you who are behind in their Peach&Kiwi reading, this list can be found here .) This blog is one of many that are to come in the future in an effort to conquer this list. Life is short, the culinary world is gigantic, and I want to taste every bit of it!

I thought it would be fun to use the upcoming holidays to scour the groceries, markets, and hopefully stocking stuffers (if Santa thinks I have been good enough to stuff my stocking with the spices I have asked for) to cross some items off this list and to try some ingredients (and cuisines) that I have never had the pleasure of try before. Call it a Christmas present to myself. First off the list: short ribs.

Over the past Thanksgiving break, not only did my family indulge in our delicious Thanksgiving feast, but they also partook in my venture into "obscure-cuts-of-meat" land. Short ribs are not the craziest cut there is, but they are hardy a mainstay on American dinner tables. Which is a shame, because with the stereotypical beautifully marblized fat paired with a low and slow braising method of cooking, short ribs could quickly become addicting. By putting a nice sear on the outsides in a screaming hot stock pot (heat the olive oil until it just starts to give off wisps of smoke, then stand back when carefully lowering the ribs into the pot) you are developing the sugars on the outside of the meat, searing in the juices from escaping during the braise, and building that crust that we all know, love, and expect from a nice piece of beef.

Lavishing the sunshine - and hoping there is an olive oil decanter in my stocking this Christmas!
Searing the short ribs to caramelize the natural sugars in the meat.

Beautifully developed sear.

Finished short ribs after braising for two hours.

Almost too pretty to eat... almost.
To accompany this meaty, rich, and indulgent main course, I thought I would stay basic and simple. Which for me usually means heading to the produce section of the grocery and picking up whatever looks the freshest. Fresh produce is so hard to beat, and the better quality (and in season) ingredients you use, the less fussing you have to so over them and the more you can simply let the ingredients speak for themselves. This week, kale was looking particularly intriguing. Greens have always been a favorite of my Dad and I have grown to love them too, but with my own twist. I don't fry them with bacon fat or wilt them down with butter, sorry grandma's everywhere. Instead, I just cook them down until crisp tender with some chicken stock, garlic, and red pepper flakes. The heat from the pepper cut through some of the richness of the beef but wasn't over powering, and the crisp greens were able to stand up to the fall-off-the-bone tender short rib and creamy polenta. A perfect accompaniment.
And now to start on the Kale - on  of my Dad's (and now my) favorite dark greens!

Looks like a lot, but this entire pan will cook down to a decent portion for three people.

Think Italian oatmeal when you think of polenta - it is just as simple, heart-warmingly hearty, and versatile. It is a blank slate that you can flavor with any number of ingredients and mix-in, and served as a great vessel for sopping up all the juices from the short ribs (and for pan searing and serving with maple syrup for breakfast the next day!)

Polenta! Made creamy (and distinctly Italian) with olive oil, sage, and a little sprinkling of Parmesan.

My favorite part of my job! Quality control.
You eat with your eyes first... doesn't this make you want to dive right in?!

Final plated short rib, nestled on a bed of Italian polenta, braised kale, and demi glas.

All of this is very fool-proof and I can't wait to hear about some of your all's ventures into uncharted territory. Try using this holiday season to cross something off your "I really want to make that" list. Short ribs, check. And every bit was delicious. And a big thanks to my sister for again taking these breathtaking photographs. 


  1. Oh wow, that looks like something you could find in an restaurant! I have also been meaning to get my hands on some kale and make some kale chips

  2. Me. Too! I have heard so much about kale chips recently but decided to make kale pesto with the left over kale I had. That was scrumptious, a perfectly good use of kale, but next time I buy some to braise, I'll be making kale chips also. Let me know if it works out for you!

  3. Lovely plating, thanks for sharing

  4. Woa, awesome meal, awesome pictures. Did you take these, what camera do you use?

  5. Thank you for all the wonderful compliments - I shall them along to the photographer. My sister used a Nikon d3000 (I had to text her and ask her, I hope that means something to you photographers out there) and obviously she does an excellent job with it. I would like to point out that she is completely self taught as well; she hasn't had any classes, mentors, instruction. More or less just lots of natural talent and trial and error. I know I feel absolutely spoiled when we indulges me with nice photos of my food.

  6. Well she's fantastic, I esp. love the picture of you from the side! So artsy and pretty!

  7. Thank you so much for your kind compliments! I have been passing along these posts (in an effort to encourage her to photograph more of my food!) to my sister and she is thrilled! Thanks for reading!

  8. That meat has my mouth watering! And I too have been dying to try out some kale recipes, it's apparently the new big thing!

    The Nikon is a great camera, kudos to Shelby. I agree what she should photograph more of your food, if only to showcase her talents. Her pictures definitely give your posts a level of professionalism. You should consider paying her for her services, lol.

  9. Mmm, this looks like such a xmas dish! Perfect for the holidays!