Saturday, September 13, 2008


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
olive oil
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.


GS said...

Congrats! How wonderful to have both land to grow wonderful food and no mall! What a bonus :) Though mountain lions sound a bit scary to someone who comes from a land where the felines are domestic!

Enjoy your new home.

Wendy said...

WONDERFUL! So very, very happy for you. It all sounds perfect. Can't wait to follow the transformation photos. :)

And a ribs recipe too? No bison here but I'll be trying this out with pork or beef next time I pick up a rack.

Anonymous said...

Oh yay! I am so happy it all ended well and happily for you guys in the end!! I've been holding my breath for you since I got your email (sorry I didn't reply to that btw, life has run away from me a bit lately). I am so, so, so, very happy for you and can't wait to start trading seeds with you now that we both have big beautiful gardens of our own. Congrats, I can't wait to hear more about it!!

Susan C said...

Congratulations on your new home. It sounds completely charming. Oh, my, what fun you'll have with all of that land. Basil, move over!

Anonymous said...

So THAT'S what you two were doing!

Well, I am pleased as punch as my grandmother would say. Chickens!!!! Goats (some day)!!!

Beautiful. Can't wait. Now that's a lot of garden to play with and plan.

You've made my day. Gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful! Congratulations to you both. I'll want to hear about taking up the lawn since that's what I want to do here. You are so going to love having space of your own to garden and a house to make truly yours. I'm so happy for you.

Anonymous said...

Never mind the ribs, CONGRATULATIONS on your new home! It sounds absolutely perfect for you (I have chicken-envy already).

Rowena said...

I'm so happy for you both Christina. Chickens! You can raise chickens!! I am so envious, it would be a dream come true if we could raise our own hens. Welcome back!

Christine said...

wow!!! congrats!!! that's so cool you finally got the space you wanted for your garden.

Christina said...

AOF: Thank you. I'm really looking forward to seeing, not only how our garden grows, but also how ECG and I grow into our garden.

Wendy: Thanks! You can count on transformation pics. ECG has created a funny little house-related program that will be making an appearance soon on my site that I think you'll have fun with. As for the ribs, I think the braising sauce would work really well with beef short ribs. Yum.

Ann: Hooray indeed! We are both very happy over here--it certainly was a long, unhappy, frustrating process. But it is over, and it is ours! We got the keys tonight and we dawdled in the house and yard, both hungry, but both too infatuated with our new place to leave it easily. BTW, watch your work mailbox.

Susan C: Thank you! Yes! I'm making room for all kinds of garlic already, as well as yummy winter veggies. I'm plotting where the fruit trees will grow. Oh, it is so exciting. Beautiful work on the LA Times piece, Susan.

Lucy: Yeah, we weren't busy making babies; instead we were finding a place where we could have baby animals! I'm so very, very excited. Thanks for the positive words.

Dea Anne: When I've taken up lawn in the past, I've used a shovel and cut out strips at a time, making sure I left no roots. This time, since areas are much larger, I think I'll rent a sod-cutter and see from there. I've got some mighty grass, and I just don't want to risk it coming through with the lasagna-method. We tried that on the campus where I work, and the grass came right through the newspaper layers, through the dirt, and up into the garden. So, sod-cutter it is.

NikkiPolani: It is fun to see ECG as excited about the chickens as I am--it is going to be such a blast. Thanks for the well-wishes.

Rowena: I know, I can hardly believe it myself. You may not be able to have your own chickens, but you've been raising awfully cute dogs. Such charmers they are!

Christine: Did you ever hike with the Environmental Club up into the Arroyo Seco along the stream? If so, you were very close to my new house. We're really excited. Next time you're back in the States, I'll show it off to you. BTW, how are you?

Anonymous said...

I just dropped by to say Congratulations on your new home. I stumble in here from foodista while I was trying to look for more easy recipes. Foodblogs are amazing :)

Chris said...

Congratulations! What a marvelous place. I can't wait to see more and see the garden-growing-process!

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

Wow, wow, wow! Wonderful news, Christina. I am absolutely thrilled for both of you.

AJK said...

Wow! Awesome! That's some large piece of land in SoCal! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

So glad the news is finally fit to print!! And thanks for the shout out, sister!

Christina said...

Alitaptap: Thanks for stopping by. Yes, food blogs certainly are amazing. I have had such fun so far with this one, and the community of people I've met through it is very special.

Chris: I can't wait to see more of the growing process either--first, however, I've got to unpack!

Terry B.: Thanks for the well-wishes. We're pretty darned thrilled to be here ourselves.

AJK: Thanks! We feel lucky to have found this space.

Christina said...

Hillery: Any time, dear one. I hope all is well.

Cafe Observer said...

Hang onto your new house for a few yrs. At least enuf 4 the housing market to recover somewhat so you can gain some equity .

Anonymous said...


It sounds wonderful, and yes I'm envious about the chickens too, not to mention the quarter acre. I'm glad you were able to work out the financing. I don't envy the work cut out for you in getting rid of that lawn!

Good luck with everything.