A Bone to Pick: “Always do right – this will gratify some and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain
When I was, I guess, about five or six, I stole a small, plastic blow-up Tweety Bird doll from a Goodwill store, sneaked it home and hid it under my play clothes in my dresser’s bottom drawer. Of course, it didn’t take my mother long to unearth my guilty secret and when she confronted me with the small, absconded toy, I thought I might die of shame. I had never, ever done anything “bad” before. Well, unless you consider almost burning down the house once while playing with matches in my bedroom. But I, in my young life, was about to experience shame at a whole new level. With Tweety in hand, she packed me in the car and drove to the scene of my juvenile crime. It felt like Dead Man Walking as she prodded me back into the store and marched me straight to the manager. My head hung low, my shoulders slunk in humiliation, fighting back crocodile tears, I handed the pilfered item to the man and barely choked out a heart-felt apology. I didn’t know the word at the time, but I was mortified. And I never wanted to feel that way again. After pleading for my mother’s restored good opinion of me, I vowed, I promised, I assured her that yes, yes, yes I had learned my lesson and that I would never take anything without permission or payment ever again.
And I never have. Well, kinda. Sorta. I’m not a klepto or anything, but I will admit to occasionally quietly ripping out an article or a recipe from a magazine at the doctor’s office (hasn’t everyone?). I may or may not have “accidentally” dropped an interesting piece of cutlery from a nice restaurant that I thought would make a good prop into my purse. And, I may or may not have returned home from an overnight stay at a posh hotel with an extra item or two in my suitcase. Well, I’m sorry, but Dear Room Service, if you’re going to charge me $10.00 for a pitcher of water, I consider that payment in full and the souvenir is coming home with me!
Other than that, I am honest to a fault. Really! And I can prove it!
A little while back, Adam wanted to surprise me with a new stand mixer but was afraid he’d screw up and get the wrong one, so he told me his plan. He rang the catalog and proceeded with the order for a Kitchen Aid Pro mixer. With his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece, he asked, “Cheryl, what color do you want?” Uh, oh. You know me and choices.
“Um…red!” I shouted.
“No! Wait. Black!” I corrected.
“No, red! Yes, red.” I finalized.
Adam shot me one of “those” looks that hinged on tiresome and irritation for my legendary indecision. A few days later, two big packages arrived. Two Kitchen Aid mixers. One red. And one black. Puzzled, Adam examined the invoice and realized that they had only charged us for one. We looked at each other, cautiously smiled and for a split second, we both thought the same thing: Whoo hoo! We just hit the loot lotto! I mean, seriously, who would it hurt if we kept the other one? They’d never find out! It’s just a drop in the bucket for those guys! Of course, that justification was short-lived because we would know and the guilt would kill us. When Adam called the customer service number to report their mistake, the representative was absolutely stunned that we fessed up, adding that she didn’t know what to do in this situation because it had never happened before, so she needed to consult her supervisor. I wondered…aren’t there other truthful people still out there?
For some unknown reason, the company couldn’t issue a UPS pick-up for the unpaid appliance and Adam, being the awesome husband he is, offered to buy the second one since we could use one in the studio kitchen as well. Our honesty was rewarded with a mildly generous discount (unheard of!) and we felt good about doing the right thing.
One day, after lugging my beloved workhorse, my Le Creuset cast iron Dutch oven (sidebar: if you don’t own one…Must! Get! Now! It will change your life, trust me, and totally worth the investment!) from my house to the studio for the umpteenth time, I asked, “Honey, can we please purchase another pot for down here? It’s just too heavy to keep moving back and forth.” This was said in the Poor Me, Batting My Eyelashes, Weak Female tone. It worked! (Yeah, right.) Adam agreed anyway and placed the order. About a week later, they arrived. Meaning two. Another phone call along the lines of “What the…?”. Apologies flying. What the heck, Adam warranted, you can always use a back-up. Sold to the handsome man with the well-used credit card.
Father’s Day was rapidly approaching this past June and we thought my dad would enjoy a new ice cream maker, so once again, we dialed up our favorite kitchen store and bought one. And paid for overnight shipping since we didn’t plan ahead. Typical. Can you guess what happened? Yep, they sent two. Two! This was beyond ridiculous, we mused. If it happens once, it’s an oversight. Twice, it’s baffling. But three times? Were they secretly doing this on purpose to drum up more business? No matter the motivation, honesty is always the best policy. So, phone call Numero Tres to the Customer Service hotline. Maybe it was Adam’s, um, tone or his quiet riot rant that had the woman on the other end at a loss. Or maybe it was just good karma coming around for our forthrightness because she simply said, “Consider it a consolation prize. Keep it. No charge.”
So, we did. And we didn’t feel an iota, the teensiest bit of guilt, either. Because, hey! It wasn’t our fault that they couldn’t get their “ship” together.
Is there anything better than meat that has been slowly coaxed into tender surrender in a voluptuous bath of red wine, aromatics and stock? And, oh! All those layers of flavor! First, you oven-roast the ribs to get them a little caramelized (pssst! extra hit of flavor!). Then, you sauté vegetables in butter and olive oil until barely soft. Next, it’s the wine – and lots of it – that’s reduced to intensify the sauce. Off to the oven for a nice, long braise. Another reduction to thicken the juices and dinner’s ready. There are a few steps to this incredible dish, but they’re all easy. Plus, the oven does the bulk of the work for you. Whatever cleanup there is will be a faint memory when your house fills with the heady promise of the best darned, practically-melting-off-your-fork, succulent short ribs you will ever eat. Would I lie to you?
Cabernet-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Rosemary
- 8 beef short ribs
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 2 cups diced mushrooms
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- one 750-ml bottle Cabernet Sauvignon (or other dry red wine)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the beef dry and trim away any excess fat. Place the short ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet; drizzle each rib with a little olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Flip each piece over and roast for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil with the butter over medium. Add the onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add all the wine, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the rosemary and bay leaves. Stir in the stock. Nestle the beef ribs into the sauce; cover the pot with its lid and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the meat starts to fall off the bone, about 2 hours.
- Gently remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside while you reduce the vegetable sauce. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat and cook until the liquid has reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes, skimming off any fat. Fish out the rosemary and bay leaves. Add in the cornstarch slurry and cook until the sauce has thickened, another 5 minutes or so. Taste for salt and pepper; add the ribs to the pot and cook until heated through.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: This braise is perfect for a do-ahead. Not only do the flavors mingle and meld, but the fat congeals, so it’s easy to skim it off the top. Gently reheat on the stove. Any leftover sauce would be brilliant tossed with some egg noodles.
Product Purity: I always say cook with a wine worthy of your glass. Any good, dry red will work here. I use Kitchen Basics all-natural beef stock. Many store brands add MSG.
Presentation: A shallow bowl (like this earthy turquoise artisan one), a puddle of buttery mashed potatoes is the perfect bed and accompaniment for the rib. Nestle one with the bone standing up and garnish with some minced parsley and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Pool some sauce around the potatoes. For a family-style presentation–on a long platter, place a row of mashed potatoes on the left and line the ribs on the other side of the plate. Spoon some sauce over the ribs and garnish with parsley and rosemary.