honey and beer braised short ribs


2016 brought a flood of vitality, in all of its chaos and glory. there was the feverish experience of working at a small nonprofit, the anguish of november 2016 and the ensuing dread and disbelief. and yet through it all, there persisted the constant hum and bustle of life.

perhaps part of this new perception comes from living in a real city for the first time. to have neighbors across a narrow streets whose windows are so close, i can hear their music and see them read, to be surrounded by the constant reminder that the world is full of others living their lives, the way that their – and i suppose, my – private life is in part put on display, is jarring yet exhilarating.

now a good fourth of the way into 2017, it feels right to return to fort juniper with this recipe, one of my favorites to make in cooler weather. spring has seemed tantalizingly close for months, and yet the weather predicts that this friday will be 48ºF. these braised short ribs make for a leisurely late afternoon project on the weekends. i’ve made it wheat ale, with pilsner, and even with stout. i’ve used butternut and honeynut squash before and have added shallots on occasion. each time, it turns out comfortingly delicious.

makes 4-6 servings

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lb bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 3-in pieces (or 2 lb boneless beef short ribs, cut into 3-in pieces)
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 large head garlic
3 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 large sprigs parsley + 2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup honey
1 (12-oz) bottle wheat ale (or beer of your choice)

darra goldstein. fire + ice: classic nordic cooking. new york: ten speed press, 2015.

1 preheat oven to 300ºF. heat oil in 6-qt braising pan over medium heat. rub short ribs with salt and pepper. working in batches, place in short ribs in pan and sear until brown, about 2 minutes on each side. with tongs, transfer the short ribs to a plate and pour off all the fat from the pan.
2 remove outer papery skin from head of garlic and cut ~1/2 in off top to reveal the cloves.
3 return short ribs to pan and nestle hear of garlic among them, cut side up. strew onions and carrots among the meat, and stick the thyme and parsley sprigs in any nooks. (sometimes, I tie the thyme and parsley together so that I can easily remove them before serving.)
4 whisk together honey and beer in a bowl and pour mixture over meat and vegetables (it won’t cover them). cover the pan tightly with lid and bake for 2 hours.
5 raise oven temperature to 400ºF and continue to bake meat until it is very tender and liquid has turned slightly syrupy, about 45-55 minutes more.
6 skim off as much fat as you can. you can serve the ribs right out of the pan or transfer to a deep serving bowl. garnish with minced parsley and serve hot. (to reheat, place stew in oven at 300ºF for about an hour.)

pumpkin cheesecake brownies

pumpkin cheesecake brownie 2

before I moved out of the dorms my junior year, I fancied myself to be a fairly good baker. time has since taught me that I gratuitously overestimated my abilities. case in point: twice I experimented with pumpkin desserts, and twice I failed.

senior year of high school, I was gifted a terrible compilation of “essential baking recipes”. with characteristic stubbornness, I kept trying failed recipe after failed recipe until, after the worst banana bread ever created (seriously, how did the book author mess up banana bread?!), I threw the book away. but alas, before I did so, I tried a cinnamon sweet potato muffin recipe, and gifted the muffins to teachers who I hoped would write my college recommendations.

sometimes people ask me if I wish I’d done anything differently in high school. pretty high on my list: don’t give tasteless, mildly mushy baked goods to people who could decide your future.

my second attempt was a brownie swirled with pumpkin purée – basically a sadder, blander version of these amazing pumpkin cheesecake brownies from baked occasions. my friend had invited me to hang out with his beautiful actor-dancer friends. these kids were a few weeks out from winter showcases and what did I bring them? some calorie-loaded gifts. suffice to say they were not a hit. as one girl muttered under her breath, “I’m not wasting my calories on this.” (rude, but accurate.)

since then, I’ve learned quite a bit: first, pumpkin purée can be quite bland, and as the starbucks pumpkin spice latte has taught me, much of the so-called “pumpkin” flavor comes instead from the spices. second, when pumpkin is involved, you can never have too much cinnamon. third, not everything has to be a success – learning to cook and bake has at times been incredibly humbling.

after all the wonderfully awkward social situations I’ve caused with fire alarms and hours-late birthday cakes and bad baked goods, I have learned much from my failures and have come to appreciate the successes that much more. fudgey and moist with creamy swirls of spiced pumpkin cheesecake throughout, these pumpkin cheesecake brownies are a real deal.

pumpkin cheesecake brownie 1
makes one 9•13in pan

pumpkin cheesecake
1 package (8oz/226g) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (75g) sugar
3/4 cup (178g) pumpkin purée
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
brownie
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (105g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 oz (225g) dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), chopped
1 1/2 sticks (170g) unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (85g) light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

matt lewis, renato poliafito. baked occasions.new york: stewart, tabori, and chang, 2014.

cheesecake|1 using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. add pumpkin, egg yolk, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, and mix again until well-blended. cover and refrigerate while you make the brownie layer.
brownie|1 butter sides and bottom of 9x13in pan. if pan is light-colored/glass, preheat oven to 350ºF (I used a dark-colored pan at 330ºF.) line the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
2 in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt.
3 place chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips) and butter in a large, heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water (double-boiler method), stirring occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted smooth, and combined. turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add both sugars. whisk until completely combined, then remove bowl from pan. add two eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. add the remaining egg and vanilla extract and whisk until just combined.
4 sprinkle flour mixture over chocolate mixture. using a spatula, fold them gently together until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
5 pour 2/3 brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth on top. pour the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over the brownies and smooth into an even layer. drop the remaining 1/3 brownie batter in heaping tablespoons on top of pumpkin layer. use a knife to gently pull through batters to create a swirl.
6 bake, rotating the pan halfway through baking time, for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs. let cool completely in the pan.
7 brownies can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
 

pumpkin snickerdoodles

pumpkin snickerdoodle 2

my first memory of baking was as a child, standing on a new purple rubbermaid stool and feeling important as my sister and I measured out ingredients for snickerdoodles and mixed them together under the watchful gaze of my college-aged aunt.

my aunt had seemed confident and in control at the time, but when the cookies came out of the oven and we tried them, she had this look on her face that I didn’t understand at the time. however, after years of baking, I have finally come to recognize as the expression I wear every time someone first tries my baked goods, or reads something I’ve written for the first time – that desire for approval.

when I was a child, I baked for myself. even if everyone else thought gummy worms in muffins was weird, if I liked it, I was happy. but as I grew older and fell into the routine of endlessly seeking approval for papers, for piano, for most of my decisions, I began to develop worries that even if I loved something, others would not. and when others expressed disappointment or concerns, I took in their comments as a reflection of my personal flaws.

it’s strange to look back on that moment when my aunt watched my sister and I take the first bite of her cookie recipe and recognize that in that moment, my aunt, a fiercely independent world traveler and one of the smartest people I know, was vulnerable to the opinions of two kids.

as I navigate 23 (apparently the age when nobody likes you), I am still trying to figure out my next move. but there’s something I realized – not everyone has the same tastes, and not every decision can be met with unanimous approval, and ultimately, my image of adulthood was not truth, but (mis)perception.

we’ve been told that growing up means letting childhood become memories, but I don’t want to just remember the girl who tried to bake bread in a car parked outside on a hot summer day (and then tried to eat it, to her mother’s dismay). I want to take a lesson from her that life has no recipe, that really, no one has it all together and it’s okay to do things (and even totally mess them up) because you want to, not because it is the formulaically “right” thing to do.

my sister has started her final year of dorm living; it is a bit shocking to think that we are now both older than my aunt was back then (and even more shocking to think that my aunt is married and about to have her first child!). I sent my sister some pumpkin snickerdoodles, a combination of her favorite cookie and favorite fall ingredient. fluffy, tangy, and with warm spiced pumpkin flavor, these snickerdoodles are as delicious as those of my childhood memories.

pumpkin snickerdoodle 1
makes 30-36 snickerdoodles

3 1/4 cup (406g) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
scant 1 cup (185g) sugar
3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (187.5g) canned pumpkin purée
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

jaclyn bell. pumpkin snickerdoodles. cooking classy. 24 oct 2014. accessed 17 sept 2015.

1 in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice for 20 seconds; set aside.
2 in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar (until combined; not pale and fluffy). occasionally scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout mixing. mix in egg yolk, then mix in pumpkin and vanilla extract. with mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients, then mix until just combined.
3 divide dough in half and cover each half in plastic wrap, then chill for 45 min to 1 hour.
4 preheat oven to 350ºF. in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. scoop dough out, ~2 tbsp per ball, then roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture until evenly coated and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. space cookies ~2 in apart and using your palm, flatten cookies slightly.
5 bake 12-14 minutes (slightly under-baked, as they’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet after being removed from the oven.) cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.