Confession No. 70 — Some things in life just are.
An unearthed vision brings new light and understanding. When you dig up the same vision for the second or third time, it can be painful.
I experienced a repeat epiphany this past week when I stepped from the warmth of my car upon reaching the office. This time though, instead of a gentle oracle-like reminder, I was slammed in the gut with crisp cool air and the ambrosial aroma of barbecue smoke.
Yes. An 8 a.m. whiff of slow-smoked brisket, sausage, chicken and boudain sometimes causes me to think deeply. This time it was about how stuff — like early morning barbecue cravings — just happens and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.
As far back as I can remember, there’s been one in every crowd — the person who has all the answers with nary a thing to back up the grandstanding declarations. Not sure who that person is in your crowd?
- The preachy know-it-all feeds off of identifying problems or shortcomings. Everyone else’s (supposed) problems, that is.
- Sometimes, but not always, the preachy know-it-all will use words like ‘we.’ It’s a ruse. This person really means ‘you’ or ‘them.’
- Almost always, the preachy know-it-all, when asked to provide evidence, will look down and smile while shaking his head. And then offer nothing.
How to rid yourself of this pesky person? Just stare him in the eyes, nod your head in a ‘yes’ motion and daydream about smoked brisket.
On a related note, you will run into people who believe it — because they saw it in print. I guess they suppose that, since someone took the time to write it down, it must be true. There’s nothing you can say or do to change their minds. So, don’t bother.
Handicap placards, Cadillacs and other listless moments
Want to arrive late to work or elsewhere? Make certain that you drive behind someone with a sky blue handicapped placard hanging from their rear-view mirror. It never fails. That person drives slowly, in all likelihood, because the placard is blocking his view. Such is why it’s illegal in most states to have the placard hanging from the rearview mirror while the vehicle is in motion.
Cadillacs, some Buicks and Lincolns are also a guarantee of driving well below the speed limit. These are the same vehicles that pack parking lots during early bird specials. No further explanation is necessary.
More causes of delay: Just get behind me in a bank drive-thru or grocery store line. No matter how hard I try, I tend to pick the lane with the guy who does all of his banking through a two-way speaker, or with the lady who is auditioning for a spot on the extreme coupon show. Don’t know which lane I’m in at the store? Just listen for the squeaky cart wheel. I always manage to get that one.
Finally, most of us have had those moments when nature was violently and painfully calling — perhaps after following the aroma of barbecue smoke to its source. If you’re on the road and such a situation arises, chances are, you’ll catch every red light.
And it’s probably because you are behind someone with a handicapped placard hanging on the rear-view.
There’s nothing wrong with the beef stew that I grew up on. Served with hot buttered biscuits and honey, it still brings me comfort about twice a year. But I occasionally want something that will similarly make me so full that I hurt — without the tomatoey Heinz 57 Sauce flavor and overabundance of celery strings. Beef Short Rib Stew definitely does the trick. And it’s good enough for company.
Beef Short Rib Stew
3 lbs. – Beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces
¼ cup – All-purpose flour
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup – Vegetable oil
3 – Bacon slices, chopped finely
4 – Large carrots, ½-inch dice
3 – Celery stalks, 1-inch dice
8 oz. (1 pkg.) – White button mushrooms, rinsed and halved
3 cloves – Garlic, minced
3 – Thyme sprigs
3 TB – Tomato paste
1 cup – Red wine
6 cups – Beef or veal stock
10-15 – Pearl onions
½ cup – English peas (frozen)
Season ribs with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven to medium high. While oil is heating, dredge ribs in flour, a few at a time. Sear ribs on all sides until browned. Set aside.
You should have a little (hot) oil and about 1-2 TB of flour remaining. Add the flour to oil. Stir to combine (will brown quickly). Add bacon, carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Combine and cook for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add tomato paste and combine. Cook for another 2 minutes, or so. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute — until wine has just about evaporated.
Place ribs and any juices back in Dutch oven. Add stock and onions. Stir to combine.
Bring to boil, uncovered, then lower heat to medium/medium-low. Cover, with lid propped so that steam can escape and the broth can reduce. Stir and skim fat occasionally for about 2 hours, until liquid has almost reduced to a gravy-like consistency. Add peas and simmer, uncovered, for anther 10-15 minutes.
Season to taste with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over smashed potatoes.
Serves 6 people.