Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Poor Service, Really? {balsamic short ribs}

I am questioning where the media is getting their information. While I may flippantly say, " I thought we were in a recession", every time I can't get a parking space at the mall, a reservation at a restaurant, or a return call from a service provider, I am starting to wonder what the heck is going on.
Because I work from home, I am spared the issues with traffic and busy grocery stores, lunch lines and crowded banks. But alas, never spared the recession proof, poor service. So here's my beef...jobs are scarce...businesses are closing every day...wouldn't it be obvious that if someone stumbled into your business, you would at the very least provide good service?

Customer service has always been a beef of mine. I remember being young, probably 10 or 12 and in a store in Palm Desert. I was shopping with my mom and one of her friends. The clerk was a man, probably in his 20's and he was on the phone. My mother was trying to buy something and he was VERY rude. He turned his back and continued his obviously personal call. We waited about 10 minutes and then my mom put the item down and walked out the store. She was fine, I was outraged and stayed behind. When he finally hung up the phone, I gave him the what for. I was puffed up like a rooster, he was laughing. I'm happy to report that shop no longer exists.

The other night, Mike and I and two friends went to a fancy dinner at The Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles. From the moment we were seated, we knew this would be a wonderful dining experience. Our waiter came right away to offer us cocktails. We declined the cocktails but did ask for the wine list. Well, that must have been the kiss of death, as we didn't see him again for about an hour. A bus boy was kind enough to bring a wine list..then ply us with bread and water. Good bread, cold water...fancy indeed! We got our wine and more bread. Finally our waiter appeared...unapologetic and actually a bit rude. I didn't let it go. I offered explanations for him...we thought you quit, we htough you died, we thought there would be mass first...but he didn't bite. "Order please" was all I heard. Oh and the ever patronizing "excellent choice!". God, I hated him.

End of story...food was wonderful, I had a starter of seared scallops with pear and celery root puree and foie gras ravioli that satisfied my soul. I followed with a wonderful piece of fish. One of our dining companions ordered a fillet and short ribs. He was unhappy with the short rib...you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him eat fish.

I make short ribs. I created a recipe that is wonderful in the cold dark of winter. However, with the exception of the 2 days after Christmas, Los Angeles doesn't have winter. What a wonderful memory I have of those 48 hours! Point being, I hardly make them. But in the gloaming of a great meal, I was inspired to make short ribs.
Although these are not difficult to make, I do like to make them in advance so I can skim the fat.

Balsamic Short Ribs
4 Lbs short ribs (with or without bones--trimmed)
black pepper
kosher salt
1 large onion--finely chopped
2 large carrots--finely chopped
3 ribs celery--finely chopped
3 cloves garlic--thickly sliced
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 bottle cabernet (make it a decent bottle)
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar (not expensive)
1 can tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1-3 Tbs Brown Sugar---to taste really..
once you pull the ribs out of the oven, put a bit of brown sugar a bit at a time until you balance the vinegar flavor

Season short ribs with salt and pepper and place on a sheet pan. Place in a 425 oven and cook for about 15-18 minutes. This process sears the meat. If you would prefer to sear them on the stove top, you may, in a bit of olive oil. But this saves time and allows you to do other things. I stole this part of the method from Ina Garten..just recently. It's a real time saver and produces great results. What you are looking for is the meat to begin caramelizing on the outside. Don't put too many short ribs on one sheet pan. They should not touch and they should have plenty of room between them. Otherwise you are steaming the meat, rather than baking it.
Meanwhile, continue with the recipe. In a large dutch oven heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When hot, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Let cook 3-4 minutes until the vegetables start to sweat and soften, but not brown. Add tomato paste, thyme, wine, and chicken broth and give it a good stir. Put short ribs in the pot and top with balsamic vinegar. Put top on the pot and palce in 350 oven for 2 hours. Remove top and cook for additional 45 minutes. Transfer the meat to a baking dish and discard the bones as they fall off. Place the sauce in a bowl and refrigerate both overnight, separately. The next day, skim off the fat and pour sauce over meat. Reheat in hot oven.
Enjoy with freshly mashed potatoes, creamy polenta or cauliflower puree.


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