Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Livin' the Lush Life


No, not you.

The wine a few nights ago- it could simply and comfortably be described by that one word: lush.

A friend stopped by the house bearing a half-full bottle of wine. "You two have just got to try this!" he said to DucCat and I, pulling and pouring our glasses.

Intrigued, I swirled the Robert Biale Vineyards Zinfandel 'Black Chicken' 2004 around, catching potent whiffs of dark fruit, vanilla, and secret meeting places.

Sipping it was just as smooth, filled with brazen fruits, furiously flavourful, yet riding a velvet edge. The truly amazing thing? This wine came plundering in at 16.5%, easily a couple more points than I typically care to go.

Yet had I not been told, I never would have known. This hedonistic wine was surprisingly suave- and gorgeously lush.

Since dinner was almost ready, I invited our wine-sharing friend to pull out a plate and have a seat at the table.

I'd fallen under the spell of short ribs several years ago, and they seem to keep tripping me up again and again. Their newest incarnation unfolded itself from the pages of Scott Peacock and the Grand Dame Lewis Edna's "The Gift of Southern Cooking".

These are two cooks who couldn't have hailed from more different walks of life, yet managed to find common ground 'round the kitchen hearth. Exchanging recipes, wisdom, and camaraderie, their crossing paths eventually fused into an unlikely friendship. More than that, really, this was two kindred souls finding resonance in the other, and proclaiming that pairing in wonderfully detailed, carefully-wrought recipes.

Most of the cooking had been done the day before, as much to aid in fat removal, as to intensify the flavours. After two days of smelling that rich, thick scent- and admittedly, taste testing for seasoning correction- it was finally time to dig in. The wait was, without a doubt, entirely worthwhile. The short ribs practically slid off the bone, redolent with long-simmered goodness. All in all, it turned out to be the perfect dish to bid farewell to winter's chilly nights.

Braised Beef Short Ribs
adapted from 'The Gift of Southern Cooking', by Scott Peacock & Edna Lewis

8 meaty beef short ribs
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 cup duck fat, lard, or peanut oil
3 large onions, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges (about 4 cups)
3 bay leaves
12 whole cloves garlic, peeled
28-ounces canned whole tomatoes, or 8 very ripe garden tomatoes, cored and peeled
1 cup veal or roasted chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine

Preheat the oven to 325-degrees.
Mix together the salt, black pepper, and thyme: coat the short ribs generously in this mixture.
Heat the fat in a large Dutch oven until hot, then add the ribs in batches to avoid crowding. Cook, turning as needed, until deeply browned on all sides. Set aside.
Immediately add onions to the pan, and stir well. Cook over medium heat, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any caramelized bits of meat.
Add the bay leaves and a few grindings of black pepper, stirring well to distribute evenly. Add the whole garlic cloves, and cook 3 minutes longer.
Pour in the tomatoes, stock, and red wine, and bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Taste carefully for seasoning- the braising vegetables and liquid should be highly seasoned.
Pour the vegetables and liquid over the browned ribs, and spread the vegetables around so they are in an even layer. Place cover on Dutch oven, and put into the centre of the preheated oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours, or until a paring knife pierces the meat easily.
Remove from the oven, and spoon off any visible fat.
[Alternatively, remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and refrigerate overnight. Remove the solidified fat from the dish, and continue.)
Place pot on stove over medium-high heat, until liquid is bubbling. Allow to cook down for about 30 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning once more, correcting if necessary.
Serve hot, with the vegetables and braising juices spooned over as a sauce.


Anonymous SallyBR said...

S'kat... So nice to find your blog (by total accident, I should add)

I love it!

It's bookmarked and I'll visit often...

April 24, 2006 4:54 PM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Sally! Man, I think I knew you from those heady Fine Cooking days. :)

I am so glad to see you here, and hope you stick around.

April 24, 2006 8:30 PM  
Blogger Nerissa said...

Wow... looks like it was a luscious dinner. I will have to look into that wine.

April 24, 2006 10:32 PM  
Blogger vlb5757 said...

I met Edna Lewis and Scott Peacook at Johnson and Wales in 1996. It was an experience of a lifetime. Then I got to hear Scott speak at a conference I attended in Atlanta last summer. He is a hoot. Very soft spoken but can really get you to laugh at his delivery. A group of us went to eat at Watershed (Scott's restaurant) and it was very Southern down home style cooking. It's a cute place and we really liked it.

April 25, 2006 6:03 AM  
Blogger iamchanelle said...

love it love it love it - "secret meeting places" - excellent writing, s'kat!

i will look for this wine, for sure! also, have you ever tried Outback Chase Cabernet Sauvignon from SE Austrailia? wowee, THAT is a "secret meeting place" kind of wine if i ever had one...


April 26, 2006 11:13 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Nerissa, it's potent, but amazing stuff.

Vicky, I can't believe you actually met them! What a treat to eat at his restaurant.

iac- I'm not so good with the classic wine descriptors, but I try to use things that make the wine click in my head. I'm glad you get it! I've not heard of Outback Chase, but will be on the lookout. Thanks!

April 27, 2006 7:30 AM  

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