A few weeks ago I took the opportunity to make a meal for someone special to me. The only budget and menu constraints I placed on myself were the limits of what I found inspiring. Bunches of peppery radishes sitting on ice, their stems coated in sand begging to be washed. Handfuls of oddly shaped shiitakes placed in a little brown paper bag. I grabbed a bundle of chives from a bucket where they sat in cool water.
I spied a loaf of my favourite local organic multi-seed sourdough bread. This bread is small but dense, filling and shockingly heavy. On sale I found a package of dried Sicilian oregano, bright and so pungently perfumed that it was nearly bitter. As well, a small square box filled with coarse flecks of sundried tomato sea salt.
These moments before making a meal are my favourite: shopping for ingredients, burdened by nearly overwhelming possibility. Considering the appetites of everyone involved in the meal. A handful of ingredients, no recipe and no restraint. Calling upon the limits of my imagination and techniques.
Once I trekked a few doors down to the butcher, I decided on a meat and a picture of the meal revealed itself in my head. Braised short ribs; their fatty and full flavour complimented by freshness, acidity and chives.
At home, I immediately placed the giant short rib in a pot to simmer. Stemming the shiitakes, chopping celeriac and leek leaves from my refrigerator, sprinkling dry rosemary, whole peppercorns and bay leaf. After 2+ hours, I removed the tender short rib from the pot and strained the broth. Next, the broth was reduced by half until it was full of flavour. I salted it and thickened it with corn starch until it was just able to stick to the meat.
The radishes were calling for a bath of white balsamic vinegar. I grabbed a cucumber from the refrigerator, sliced it thinly and placed that in the bowl too. These two mixed together with salt, water, balsamic, black pepper, oregano and chives.
My attention turned back to the ribs, placing a pan on high heat and waiting. Swirling the pan with oil. Taking joy in the sound as it seared on all sides.
Faster now, the meal moves.
The short rib removed from the pan. Deglazing the pan with jus, garlic and water. Tossing the rib into this mixture and then into the heated oven.
Searing shiitakes in another pan with plenty of salt, pepper and garlic.
Pouring generous amounts of olive oil over slices of that multi-seed sourdough. Sprinkling it with Italian seasoning and popping this in the oven too.
Spinach and baby kale grabbed with haste from the refrigerator. Topped with handfuls of the cucumber and radish mixture.
A simple vinaigrette over top of the leaves. By their side, the short rib sprinkled with the coarse salt. Fried chopped shiitakes draped over the clinging jus. Slices of warm, crisp bread jutting off the side of the plate. Warm, earthy, fatty, salty, herbs, fresh, acidic and then
tossing the plates with a fistful of chives:
All of this a prelude. Watching wine pour into my glass. Sitting down to dinner.