Oh man, I'm sorry. It has been so long.
However long it has felt to you, it has felt even longer to ECG and me. These past few weeks have been some of the longest in our lives, extended by the powers-that-be every couple days to be even longer. We've been waiting. And waiting. And each time we thought we'd be done waiting, the bank would return to us with more questions, more conditions, and more stress-inducing paperwork, sending us both in another tizzy that we'd have to survive again. We'd meet every condition that was in our control, and we'd wait out every condition over which we had no control. We packed everything and lived in a condo full of boxes while we waited. I've cried. ECG has sworn. Our mothers and friends have talked us down, thankfully, because almost a month later than the planned escrow period was to close, we signed our papers, and Monday we get our keys. We've ended up with something wonderful.
Our own quarter acre, with a house, and a garage, and views, and oh, did I mention the quarter acre?
(I took this picture at our inspection, so please excuse the man on the roof. That is our very talented inspector, doing his job.)
Here in Southern California, that is a sizable lot, large enough to have a real garden, and zoned so that we can have chickens. Chickens! Maybe even goats someday. ECG can build the workshop of his dreams and I can start getting rid of the expanse of lawn and begin the steady evolution of a healthy, huge garden. These are aspects of our very well-developed dreamland, but what else we get is even more than we knew to hope for.
We have remarkable views of a valley and sunset on one side and the mountains on another. And, we're across the street from the trail head of one of my favorite hikes into the San Gabriel mountains, a hike that offers laurel-strewn shade, the constant sound of water and even a waterfall, and occasionally, if one is lucky, a mountain-lion sighting. I'm looking forward to hiking that trail so often that I intimately know the smells and sights of each season. After we move completely into the house next weekend, we will live with both the wild and city at our finger tips, not quite standard suburbia (not a mall in sight and no McMansions, just lots and lots of old houses on big lots against the mountains, with horses passing our house to the trailhead, and yet, if I'm feeling energetic, the center of Pasadena is just a rollerblade or bike ride away), and certainly the perfect location for ECG and me. Truthfully, it is a house designed just for us, and we both feel so lucky to have found it.
In the stress of the anal-probing required when buying a house, amplified by the beginning of the school year, the desire to cook anything has completely eluded me.
That was, until now.
Lots-to-be-Happy-About Braised Bison Short Ribs
My recipe, with great suggestions from HB.
4 pounds bison short ribs, cut flanken style
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
6 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, each cut into 2-3 pieces
3 leafy stems of parsley
1 dried chili arbol (this will not make your sauce spicy, but instead, will brighten the flavors)
2 very full, leafy branches of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of dried cherry tomatoes (or roughly chopped dried tomatoes)
1 bottle of Zinfandel
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sprinkle salt lightly all over the surfaces of the short ribs. Pour a healthy glug of olive oil in your Dutch oven, and place the pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is slick and hot, brown the short ribs in batches, making sure to brown all sides. This will take some time, so you may want to start this before chopping your veggies, so you can turn the meat occasionally as you chop.
Once all of the meat has browned on all sides, remove it from the pot and place the it all on a deep plate to catch the juices. Add the onions, shallot, carrots, and garlic to the hot pot, and stir them frequently as they soften. After 4-5 minutes, the vegetables should have softened and browned around some of the edges. Pour in a splash of the wine, loosening whatever brown bits are on the bottom of the pan and stirring them into the vegetables.
Using kitchen twine, tie the herbs and chili into a tight bundle. Place the herb bundle on top of the layer of vegetables. Carefully set the ribs over the vegetables and herbs, positioning them like puzzle pieces to fit in the pot, and pour over the juices that have collected in the dish. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the meat, then pour three-quarters of the bottle of wine over all. This should not completely cover the meat, but instead the bottoms of each strip of ribs should be sitting in the wine. Bring the whole mess to a boil on the stove, then lid the pot and place it in the oven. There it will stay for at least 4 hours. Halfway through, remove the pot, flip the ribs so the other edge of them sits in the wine mixture, and return the pot to the oven.
After 4 hours, test the meat. It should fall off the bone in heavenly goodness. If it does not do so yet, place the pot back into the oven and cook for another half an hour.
Once the meat is cooked to your satisfaction, remove the pot from the oven. Carefully remove the ribs from the pot and place them on a heat-proof plate or small casserole; wrap in tinfoil. If you have turned your oven off, you may place the tightly-tinfoiled dish in the oven to stay warm. Very, very carefully strain the cooking fluids into a large bowl, pressing on the vegetables to get all the juices. Discard the vegetables from your strainer.
Pour the remaining quarter bottle of wine into your now-empty pot and place over medium-high heat. Reduce the mixture by two-thirds, until it is nearly syrupy. Add the braising juices from the bowl back into the pot, stir together with the reduced wine, and reduce the mixture by half. You should end up with a powerfully flavored, rich sauce. Season with salt and pepper as necessary, and remove the ribs from the oven. You are now ready to serve them.
Serve the ribs, blanketed in the reduced sauce, on a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes with sauteed mushrooms as a garnish and broccoli as your veg. Drink something good. Toast the person you love. Dream together about your new home.