Thankfulness and Nostalgia

November 23 – 29, 2020

Monday:                   Chicken Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Apple and Kale

Tuesday:                   Mushroom Ragù Pasta

Wednesday:            Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa Chili Oil

Thursday:                 Shrimp Cocktail / Fig and Brie Toasts               

                                  Roasted Turkey with PFC Gravy

                                  Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Country Bread Dressing, Candied Yams

                                  Kale Salad with Green Tahini Dressing

                                  Pumpkin Pie / Stilton Cheese with Walnuts and Raisins        


Friday:                       Turkey Shepherd’s Pie, Kale Salad – App of Salumi, Cheese, Pickle, Cucumber and Olives

Saturday:                  Leftovers

Sunday:                     Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Lemon-Caper Sauce, Salad,

                                    Last of the Candied Yams

Thankfulness and Nostalgia

Well, it’s not precisely nostalgia to look back several weeks and share a recipe we cooked way back on November 15th, the day the Steelers took the Cincinnati Bengals apart.  It is more correctly labeled ‘anachronism.’  But nostalgia is such a more commonly understood word and, hey, I already have a reputation for semantical snootiness,* so ‘nostalgia’ it shall be.  As for ‘thankfulness,’ that is the perfect word for our good fortune – no family members sick, unemployed or estranged and a great fondness among all in our immediate family.  To ask for more would be pushing it.   And I am thankful for all of you who follow this blog – you can’t imagine how happy that makes me. 

* I wish there were some way, without appearing condescending to explain to American athletes and other awardees or medalists being interviewed by news networks that ‘surreal’ is, by its nature, ‘very,’ and that all adjectival enhancement is supererogatory.  Alas, there is no way in the modern climate and ‘surreal’ is fated to be ‘very,’ ‘enormously,’ ‘quite,’ and ‘super’.  The situation itself, to a lover of language, would have been surreal fifty years ago, but is now commonplace.  So, yeah, I’m snooty that way.

My presumption here is that you will, at long last, have ploughed through your leftovers and that you live in a place like Pittsburgh (apologies, Jan and Tom) where it’s begun to chill considerably, so that you’ll be ready for something as comforting as turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy.  In truth, this dish is so good that I would eat it even in hot weather.  Indeed, at one time Beez and I were in Vienna and its was warmish and I could not resist the full boiled beef dinner they do so well (broth for starters, toast with bone marrow and then the full monty with savory slabs of beef, with potatoes and vegetables.

But, even if you’re a tad less hearty (and chubby) than I am, you will enjoy the ‘Ultimate Beef Stew’ recipe below.

Before we get to that, I must say, since no one else in my family seems inclined to blog about it, that I made the best cranberry sauce I have ever tasted, the best dressing cooked outside of a turkey (there is no competing with the deep umami of dressing cooked inside a turkey) and candied yams as good as my mom used to make.  All this, alas, for a relatively small crowd (Andrew, Beez and myself, UFR, Uncle Greg and Nephew Mike).  But such are our constrained celebrations in this year of the plague.


(adapted from Ina Garten, Modern Comfort Food)


A bit under three hours – most of the time the dish is baking and you can drink a martini, bathe the dog, or finish War and Peace.

Ingredients           Serves 6 or 7 or 8 in a pinch if you serve extra apps

3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 1 ½ – inch chunks [Whole Foods sells boneless short ribs in 1 lb. packages – if I were you, I would clean the pieces of any hard fat so that you won’t have to degrease.  Regular fat is okay.

4 ounces small-diced pancetta (Giant Eagle sells a package of diced pancetta in exactly that amount).

2 cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups chopped fennel

1 pound carrots scrubbed and cut, diagonally, into 1/2 -inch pieces

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes scrubbed, 1-inch diced (we used butterball – small round – potatoes and simply cut then in half)

10 ounces frozen peas (we had a 14 ounce package and used all of them)

2 tablespoons minced garlic (I would use at least that much – this dish cooks for so long that, if you’re careful not to burn the garlic, you won’t notice anything other than an earthy undertone to the stew)

1 can (14.5 oz. or so) of diced tomatoes with juices

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups beef broth

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1/4 cup Cognac or Brandy

1 cup hearty red wine divided (Côtes du Rhône or Chianti, etc.)

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper


Heat the oven to 300 F

Cut and clean up the short ribs (see note above in ‘Ingredients’)

Chop, clean and cut all vegetables

Measure out Cognac or brandy, red wine, beef broth, tomato paste


Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven (11-12 inch) over medium.  Add the pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes until browned – you’ll want to stir a bit to get them browned all over.  Transfer pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate.

Season the short ribs all over with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Brown half the meat in the Dutch oven over medium, turning from time to time to brown all sides.  (Add a bit more oil and/or reduce the temperature if you see the meat burning – a little burn will not matter.)  Transfer the browned meat to a bowl and sear the second half of the meat and add to the bowl.

Off the heat, add the Cognac and 1/3 cup of the wine to deglaze, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, then simmer for about one minute.

Now add the onions and fennel and sauté, stirring from time to time, for about 7 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  [Don’t rush things – you’re building the base flavor for the stew here.]  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.

Now stir the tomatoes and tomato paste into the vegetables, then add the remaining 2/3 cup of wine, the beef broth, the seared meat with their juices, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Bring this to a simmer, cover and bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  You might want to check after 20 minutes to make sure the liquid is still simmering.

Remove the pot from the oven, degrease if necessary, then stir in the carrots and potatoes, cover, and bake for one hour more – the vegetables and meat should be very tender when pierced with a knife or fork.

Just before serving, stir in the peas and the pancetta.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve hot in shallow bowls.  Try to stop eating this – no, don’t try, you’ll hurt yourself.

2 thoughts on “Thankfulness and Nostalgia

  1. Happy belated Thanksgiving, and that stew sounds yummy – but I really want the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa Chili Oil! 😉

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