A certain nip in the air

Remove from oven and let rest, still wrapped while you complete the side dishes (approx 30 minutes).

Posted 9/25/20

Short Ribs

I’m not sure who enjoys that first day more — me or our very large black Akita, Crowley.

This past (you don’t know how chuffed I am to write “past”) summer was almost …

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A certain nip in the air

Remove from oven and let rest, still wrapped while you complete the side dishes (approx 30 minutes).

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Short Ribs

I’m not sure who enjoys that first day more — me or our very large black Akita, Crowley.

This past (you don’t know how chuffed I am to write “past”) summer was almost intolerable. Combine our normal ghastly N.C. summers, uncertainty about the pandemic, anger and anxiety concerning racial and social justice, and the resulting mental stress was almost too heavy to bear.

And the rotten cherry on top of this misbegotten sundae is having to wear a mask during humid weather in the 90s. I hadn’t had acne for years, but this summer my face looks like it belongs on the head of a 13-year-old.

But it’s over. Being cheerful is so much easier when you’re wearing a sweater and boots. Being friendly is practically automatic when the trees are putting on a technicolor show. Optimism is no burden when the days are shorter and the air smells of pumpkin spice.

This weekend was the first time in many months that the air has been cool and dry. Crowley and I reveled in a very long, very pleasant walk, greeting friends and neighbors like something out of a Norman Rockwell illustration.

We were both feeling a might frisky.

It was both a hope and a fervent wish of an early autumn day that I planned our Saturday dinner.

The menu was very slowly dry-roasted short ribs, glazed carrots, and Petey’s newest potato obsession: smashed baby potatoes. Everything took some time on stove or in oven and the dishes were on the heartier, rib-sticking side of things.

In the middle of August, I would have rather gone hungry and been flayed alive than cooking and eating such a meal. On Saturday? It was welcome and delicious and didn’t raise the temperature of the house one degree.

There were three ingredients in the dinner that you may not have in your pantry, but all are both delicious and versatile.

Duck Fat: Chefs call this liquid gold and there’s a reason why. It makes everything tastier. It doesn’t taste like duck, but it does bring a savory richness that can not be duplicated. You can find it in good grocers and gourmet shops. I got mine at Whole Foods.

Za’atar: A Middle-Eastern spice blend containing thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and a few other herbs. It’s lemony and light. It gives everything a depth of flavor and an herbal vegetal flavor. You can find it in Middle-Eastern and Asian markets and online.

Chinese five-spice: There are different formulations, but it usually contains some blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. If you’ve eaten much Chinese food, you’ve had it. It brings a warm, aromatic spiciness to recipes, and I wouldn’t make a ham without it. It’s found in Asian grocers and nowadays, many supermarkets. Even McCormick sells its own five-spice blend (although I prefer a more authentic mix).

So, you may not have on hand these three ingredients. But at least, put on a light jacket or cardigan, and get outside. That nip in the air is your gift for surviving this heinous, horrendous summer of 2020.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at debbie@bullcity.mom.

6 pieces boneless short ribs

2 onions, quartered with root left on

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons duck or bacon fat


2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

1 teaspoon za’atar blend

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Liberally season ribs all over with herbs and place on large piece of parchment paper in one layer. Tuck in vegetables all around meat.

Cover with a second large sheet of parchment. Starting on one side, crimp the sheets together sealing as you go.

When the paper is a nice neat packet, tightly wrap with foil, making sure there are no gaps or holes.

Place into a baking dish and put into oven. Turn oven down to 275 and bake for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, raise the temp to 300 and cook an additional 30 minutes.

Smashed Baby Potatoes

2 pounds small potatoes (sometimes called baby creamers)

2 teaspoons duck or bacon fat

1 teaspoon za’atar bland

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

salt and pepper

Boil spuds in heavily salted water until just tender — don’t overcook.

Drain, then place into large bowl along with fat, za’atar, salt, and pepper.

Toss until the potatoes are evenly covered.

Place onto a flat surface and with a metal measuring cup or another flat surface, press each potato until the tops and bottoms are flattened, but the spud is not breaking apart (approx. ½ inch thick).

Cook in center rack under broiler for 30 minutes, turning frequently until browned and crisped.

Bourbon and Spice Glazed Carrots

2 pounds baby rainbow carrots

1/4 cup Jim Beam Honey or other Bourbon

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

2 teaspoons bacon fat

2 teaspoons butter

salt and pepper to taste

Place everything into heavy skillet and cover. Cook until medium-low until just tender and uncover. Cook until the liquid has thickened to a syrup.

Take off heat and stir in the butter (this is called mounting). Check for seasoning and serve.


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