Only people who have known me a long time know this story: One day when I was in 6th grade we had a someone come in to give a special lesson whose purpose we didn’t exactly know (I’m still not sure really what the point of it was), but two of the 6th grade classes joined together. The presenter asked for a volunteer or picked me as a volunteer I don’t remember. I participated a lot in class and wasn’t shy, so standing up in front of the group was not a biggie. It happened that I was pretty overweight. I also wore glasses, and may I just point out that in the mid-nineteen-seventies, eyeglass frames were not so well designed as they are now. Mine were typical tortoise shell with a keyhole above the bridge. I don’t have a lot of pictures of myself carefully saved from that period. Anyway, I was told that I’d be answering a few questions and then I will be sent out of the room. That’s cool, it seems like a little treat to be quizzed about oneself this way. I answer an innocuous question or two about whether I have a pet and what’s my favorite flower and then the person asks me, what is my favorite food?
I don’t have to think about it for very long. I see visions dancing in my head of steaks and prime rib – for which I am the self-designated Yorkshire Pudding maker at home when we have it – and also the spherical chuck roasts my mom would spin on the rotisserie. So I gave my one word answer, “beef.”
I was red meat myself, blushing as the class rightfully sputtered and laughed at this overweight girl saying “beef” with the reverence and directness of a sumo wrestler. The presenter looked embarrassed too, not really understanding what he had risked by choosing someone of my size to volunteer and answer questions about food. (It turns out we students were just supposed to be quizzed after I left the room on whether they’d observed details about me, like what color my shirt was, etc. as I stood answering questions.) I won’t say anything as dramatic as I never lived it down, but if anyone wanted to take me down a peg in the years to come they’d just casually interject the word “beef” under their breath in my presence and snigger. This followed me through high school for sure, though not mercilessly. I have a good friend who wasn’t even in the classroom for this episode but she will remind me of it every five, ten years.
I will say today that I am neither proud nor ashamed of the fact that I eat red meat. There have been high-living times in my life, like that spring I lived in Missoula, Montana when I was in my late twenties and ate high off the steer. They definitely know their beef up there. I also think fondly of that time when my sister and I had one of the greatest meals and the greatest sirloins of all time at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica.
Understanding that beef is not an ideal staple food for the environment or for my health, I have consciously cut back making steak or a cut of red meat a once in a while treat. We’ve moved to eating grass fed at home, which I at first considered a duty but now much prefer to the mass-produced feedlot fed version taste-wise too. I also grind my hamburger meat from Marin Sun Farms stew meat packages on those fairly rare occasions when we have burgers at home. I say with a tad of self-righteousness that I have been grinding-my-own since before the pink slime story broke. It may seem like the practice is a little over the top, but when you or a loved one has been felled by e.choli, you just don’t want to take chances. Beef is also not always the easiest thing for me to digest, and I don’t enjoy smelling like beef tallow the day after a trip to Izzy’s Steaks and Chops on Steiner for what I think is the best prime rib in town.
So perhaps I don’t love beef with the same innocent abandon that I did when I was twelve and I don’t think I would choose it as my last meal, but it does have a place close to my heart (insert 2nd DIY joke here). In honor of my inner carnivore, I am sharing a recipe for what may be the dish most able to transport me to beef heaven: braised short ribs or flanken. This is a specialty of my husband’s and we made it together as a team for dinner yesterday and I recorded the recipe as we went. Cooked for hours, then broiled before serving, this dish makes beef about as delectable as it gets. Mmm, beeeeef.
Boiled Beef Flanken
- 3-4 pounds short rib/flanken
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- 1-1/2 cups onion (2 small or 1-1/2 medium onions)
- 1 cup celery root, large dice
- 3 carrots (2 cups) sliced
- 1 cup slice shitake mushrooms
- 2 cups beef stock
- OR 2 tsps. Beef Better than Boullion with 2 cups boiled water
- 2 cups red wine – Cabernet Sauvignon
Preheat oven to 325F. Season meat with salt and pepper. Sautée the sliced garlic in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a dutch oven, remove the garlic and reserve. Prep the veggies and mix the Better than Bouillion with 2 cups boiling water to make a broth.
Brown the strips of short rib meat in the dutch oven where you sautéed the garlic, turning meat so strips will get browned on all sides – this step should not be rushed. It might take 15-20 minutes.
Add the garlic and onions and redistribute beef so onions are the bottom layer. Add the celery root, mushrooms and carrots. Add the beef broth. Give the contents of the pot a stir, then add 2 cups or roughly half a bottle of wine. (Not too pricey, of course, but the wine should be good enough to drink! ) The liquid should just cover beef.
Cover the pot and place in preheated oven. Leave it to cook there for 3 hours. Check liquid level and stir every hour, adding water if liquid seems too low.
Remove the beef from the oven. Separate meat, gravy and veggies, allowing it to cool before storing if you are not eating it right away. You can cook down the liquid and make a thicker gravy if you choose. When you are ready to serve, baste the meat with the liquid and broil it for a few minutes a side (longer, if it is taken straight out of the refrigerator. Serve with the veggies and gravy.