Today I want to tell you a little about how I fell in love with cooking and how it became a part of our marriage, because it was definitely a gradual journey. I have always loved food. There was never any chance that I wouldn’t love it, since both of my parents were so good at throwing down in the kitchen. But I really don’t think I ever even made anything that tasted good until I was out of high school. The times I would venture in the kitchen it was mostly to experiment, and to make something for others to eat. There are two times that stick out in my head that notoriously stick out, because they were so bad.
When I was probably 9 or 10, there was a house at the end of my street that had an apple tree. After asking the owner if I could pick some apples, I took a bag home, and started making “pies”. I literally just mixed flour and water, and dumped the unpeeled apples in and baked it until it was crispy and apples had dehydrated so much, they were more like apple chips. ALSO, it turns out that the apple tree was a crab apple tree, so the apples were SUPER sour. And dry. I took one bite, winced and tried to fake generosity to let my parents have a try. They wouldn’t touch it. I was wounded, but also I didn’t want a reminder of my culinary fail…so I walked it over to my neighbors’ house and never talked to them again.
My second failure was, again, a dessert. We had friends coming over after church and I wanted to impress them with some brownies (from the box). Unfortunately, we were out of eggs. Again, experimenting, I omitted the egg and just added more water. I think those brownies rose like 1/16th of an inch, and were ROCK HARD. Like, break your teeth, hard.
I tell you these anecdotes for a few reasons:
- because they’re hilarious, and they’re childhood memories I cherish.
- because we all have to start somewhere.
I talk to a lot of people on a regular basis who tell me that they love food, but they hate cooking. And not liking to cook is fine. However, I often find that not liking to cook comes more out of a handful of experiences where something went wrong, versus the actual process of cooking. We are often way too quick to say “I’m not good at _______” based on an experience where we feel like we failed or didn’t excel. I feel that way with any kind of sport. I was not born with any kind of natural coordination, and I’m at a height deficit so I tend to believe/say that I’m not good at team sports when in reality I haven’t played most team sports more than once (and that once was usually only to try to see if I’m out-of-the-blue good at it), before deeming that I don’t like them/am not good at them. As it turns out though, most people aren’t naturally good at things. They’re learned, and they take a little bit of time. That was definitely my journey with cooking. And although I did have a great background with having two parents who cooked when I was growing up, I also had to learn and develop my own sense of cooking along the way.
Another thing about cooking that deters folks from doing it is that cooking can be really overwhelming when you’re just getting started. It requires planning, and coordination, and reading and re-reading recipes when you’re trying to get it just right. It feels kind of unsafe to experiment when you’re just starting to see which flavors and foods go together. And that’s okay. As long as you give it a chance.
One of the things that I first started doing when I started cooking, was to give myself something fun to do alongside. Sometimes this meant turning on music and dancing while I was cooking (gotta earn those carbs, y’all). Other times it was watching something while I was cooking–this gave me something to do when I was cooking a dish that took a bit of time and concentration. Something to distract me from checking on the food every few minutes, because that old saying is true: a watched pot never boils.
Nowadays I listen to podcasts, pray, watch a movie, or just take some time in my thoughts. My life happens around cooking. It doesn’t necessarily have to interrupt my day, and I enjoy the time I get to spend doing it. The longer I do it, the more I love the different elements. I feel like cooking can be a form of storytelling. I find myself being really grateful when I cook, for the provision to buy good food. For the repetitive, calming process of chopping. For the people I get to share it with.
Even before Ben and I got married, our relationship revolved around food.
On our second date I cooked for him. I was terrified that he was going to read way more into it than I meant him to, but we were eating lunch together in the student center and I knew he was going to eat some ragged PB&J with doritos and a bruised apple. So I brought him some of my roasted chicken with risotto and a salad.
Ben asked me to be his girlfriend after we made chili together. And then he asked me to marry him after he wined and dined me with a steak dinner. It’s part of our story. And I love that.
Shortly after we got married and I started meal planning for the two of us, I tried to make it a habit to have a fancy (or at least, out of our normal food routine) meal on Fridays. Something that took a little extra planning. Something that would still be in process when he came home, so that we could spend time cooking together. In my head I called it Fancy Fridays. It was a way of having a sort of date night without going out to eat (because were babies, newlyweds, and living in an expensive city) and spending too much money. He would come home, jump right in to cleaning my messes and we would talk and catch up on the week.
Ben didn’t know Fancy Fridays was a thing until about a year ago. But now he looks forward to that part of our meal planning. Nowadays we’re flexible. Sometimes Fancy Fridays get bumped to Saturday or even Sunday depending on our calendar. But there is usually at least one time throughout the week when we take the time to cook together. To make a good, good meal. To put phones down, and away, and to make googley eye contact. To dream together and move beyond “how was work today?”
It’s a time when I get to love Ben by putting together flavors that he likes, and he loves me through doing dishes (although on the real he does them 99% of the time), being my sous chef, and drowning me in food flattery.
It’s been something that has been so good for our relationship, so I wanted to share it with you. And invite you to do a fancy food day of your own, for your own. It’s a fun partnership, and it’s a way to slow down and allow yourself some space to get to know your kitchen and your palate.
Enter these short ribs.
These short ribs are D E L I C I O U S + there is nothing that is fast-paced or stressful about this recipe. That means there is built in time to sit back and watch a few episodes of Parks and Rec with your boo, your girls, or take a bubble bath by yourself. This recipe also touches on a few cooking basics that will have you feeling like Julia Child while you cook (namely chopping, searing and slow cooking). It’s definitely a meal for a day when you have a little extra time, so you’ll want to save it for the weekend most likely. But you see that goodness up there? It equals out to about 6$ a plate.
6$ for a D E L I C I O U S meal with the perfect leftovers for beef bone broth + YOU CAN EAT IT IN YOUR JAMMIES. Because although we know dressing up is fun every once in a while, sometimes you literally just need to netflix + gourmet your life away.
A Few Notes On This Process
Salt Salt Salt
Anytime I cook red meat I use more salt than I might think is necessary. I care a lot about the salts I use in my food and how they’re processed. For the past two years or so I’ve been cooking a lot with Himalayan Pink Salt. Himalayan pink salt is from Pakistan. It is a really pure form of salt (minimally processed unlike most store-bought that loses most of its minerals) with 84 different minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Most Himalayan salt is hand-mined and doesn’t undergo the harsh processing of typical table salt, where potentially toxic metals are added and bleaching occurs. I’ve linked a good brand that you can get at Amazon if you want it delivered to your door, butttt I just went to Costco and bought 5lbs for $6, so I’ll let you take your pick.
When you’re salting your short ribs, you’ll want to make sure and salt every side of the short ribs. There will be no added salt after this, so the residual salt will season the sauce. Be generous.
Garlic, Garlic, Garlic
Mi gente. I am obsessed with garlic. I do not mind garlic breath. I think garlic gives food one of the most exquisite flavors around. And garlic is going to give your sauce alllll the best flavors. For this recipe, simple slice a whole head (yes you read that right) of garlic horizontally, and leave the skins on. They have a lot of extra antioxidants + flavor, and you’ll strain your sauce later so you won’t end up eating them.
Sear, Sear, Sear
Even though these short ribs will be slow cooked, at the beginning of the process you’ll want to sear your short ribs over high heat. This process will draw out the flavor in the fat of the meat and add all that sabor to your sauce. Generously place your short ribs in hot oil for at least 4-5 minutes on each side, or until every side has a nice crisp exterior.
Wine, Wine, Wine
Cheap wine to be exact. This is a $2.99 bottle of Merlot from Trader Joe’s. This will be the base for your sauce. The alcohol cooks out in the process, but leaves behind the rich flavor for the rest of the ingredients to marry in the process of slow cooking.
Slow, Slow, Slow
After the searing is done and the wine is added, you’ll want to cook this on low heat for at least 1.5 hours. The slower, the better. That will take this regularly rough + cheap cut of meat to the point where it falls off the bone and absorbs all the delicious flavors of the sauce.
When it’s all said and done, you’ll have tender off-the-bone short ribs with dripping sauce that is finger licking good. Once you remove the bone from the short ribs you can plate them, strain the sauce and serve them. As a last point, DO NOT THROW AWAY THE REST OF THE SAUCE. Save it to season your sides (I poured a healthy bit over our wild rice and the result was H E A V E N L Y), or freeze it with the bones to add to your bone broth.
I served this with a green salad with baby sun gold tomatoes, radish, shaved asiago, and pesto as a dressing. The wild rice you’ve now read about. This dish would be equally good with a vegetable like broccoli or green beans and potatoes (sautéed in the sauce, duhhh).
I hope this recipe inspires you to take some extra time in the kitchen with yourself, your person/people and to experiment with cooking. It’s one of my dearest loves, and I know from experience how good it is at making me slow down.
Love & Slow Living,