Snow Day Dinner

February 11th, 2013 · 18 Comments · Pork and Beef

It’s been so long since it snowed in our neck of the woods — and by “snowed” I don’t mean the one-inch dusting that disappears as soon as the sun rises, or the icy kind of snow that lands in October on trees with autumn leaves still clinging to them. (What was that?) The snow I’ve missed so much these past few weird winters is snowman snow, snowball fight snow, sledding snow, snow so bright, you see blue when you walk inside after being outside for too long. Snow that gets everyone talking about the snow. Snow that gets everyone talking about what kind of dinner they’re going home to after a day in the snow. My friend Tom swore by his 2-ingredient slow-cooker pork  (“a bottle of root beer and a pork loin, and that’s it!”); my friend Bonnie had a big ole pot of minestrone simmering on the stovetop. There was chatter about a stromboli and at least a bolognese or two. Me? I had only one vision: short ribs and creamy polenta — which should go down with Cake and Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Bagel and Cream Cheese as one of the great romances in culinary history. Unless you are 9 or 10 years old, in which case, just the beef, no polenta please. But when it came to warming up snow-chapped faces, the shredded melty beef on its own still seemed to do the job just fine.

P.S. Valentine’s Day giveaway on my facebook page today.

Beer-braised Short Ribs with Harissa
Adam, the editor of Bon Appetit, was the first to give me the idea for serving short ribs with freshly grated horseradish. Just a light dusting cuts the richness a bit and gives the dish a subtle kick. It’s purely optional though. Especially if you are the type who wouldn’t know what to do with a leftover knob of fresh horseradish.

3 lbs short ribs, salted and peppered (we used boneless for this recipe, and they were great, but we both agreed that bone-in tastes better)
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chunked
1 pint dark beer
2 heaping tablespoons harissa
half of a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (about 3/4 cup), reserve the remaining tomatoes in case you need to add to the pot later
5 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly grated horseradish (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large Dutch oven, brown short ribs in olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove once brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium, and add garlic, onions and carrots. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in beer, harissa, and tomatoes to the pot, then add back ribs and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven for 4 to 5 hours. Toss every hour or so. (And add more tomatoes if liquid has boiled down too much and it looks dry.) After 4 hours, ribs should be falling apart.

Serve over Creamy Polenta with a sprinkling of freshly grated horseradish.


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School’s Closed? Pass the Butter.

February 7th, 2011 · 18 Comments · Dinner, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup

Tomato and White Bean Soup

There are some nice things about waking up to the automated phone message: Schools Closed Due to Inclement Weather. Sleeping in, for starters. (Though the novelty of this wears off at 8:01, which is usually about the time I first hear “Mom, I’m borrrrrred.”) Another nice thing: The realization that I was fired last year, so I am no longer required to report to an office, i.e. we are no longer gripped by panic about who is able to stay home with the kids and who absolutely cannot miss the status meeting at 10:00. (The novelty of this has yet to wear off.) And then, of course, there’s the warm-your-bones cooking. When I am snowed in my house with the kids, some primal instinct kicks in and demands that I make buttery cakes, cheesy pastas and fatty braised meats. Which, I think you’ll agree is pretty great, until the sixth time in fourteen days that you wake up to the automated message that School is Closed Due to Inclement Weather (not exaggerating) and realize you have gone through eight sticks of butter and feel like you can live off your fat until spring break. I think that’s why on Snow Day Six — which came exactly one day after Snow Day Five — I woke up determined to fight through my Land o’ Lakes hangover and replicate the tomato white bean soup my dad and I used to order at the Oyster Bar (minus the rock shrimp). The soup seemed to have all the hallmarks of a great snow day dinner (long cooking time, an ingredient list that is easy on the pantry, an aromatic oniony smell that could properly permeate an icicle-rimmed house) and none of the butter. Just a little tiny eensy-weensy piece of bacon. (more…)

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