One of the downsides in traveling to celebrate the holidays is not having a reason to buy any of the special holiday-only products that are usually in one’s supermarket meat department. At Fairway this is particularly difficult when you see such fascinating things like goose or capon or the crown roasts of lamb and pork that are on special and look absolutely delicious, but are far too large for two people to reasonably consume on their own. The week before Christmas tested our resistance to not hauling home a huge hunk of meat when Fairway was sampling its standing choice rib roasts: two bites of the medium-rare beef had us both sorely tempted, but it felt a little too over-indulgent, even for us. Cut to a few days later when a gift card to my favorite store fell into my lap and it took all of five seconds for me to offer to use it to procure a couple of bones of rib roast. We purchased it the evening before we were heading to Pennsylvania for the holiday weekend, and the following morning it was in the fridge, dry-aging to perfection.
We had portioned out the meat to serve over two meals: one of the ribs would serve for Tuesday’s dinner (the night we returned) and the other would be saved for roast beef sandwiches later in the week (more on that in another post). What I struggled with, though, was what to serve with the beef on Tuesday–I wanted pasta (obviously)–but I had no idea what would pair well with such a huge slab of meat. Moreover–I wanted something that felt grown-up, sophisticated. Adult. Something that challenged me and wasn’t just my favorite foods mixed into a pan, a dish I could learn something in the process of cooking it.
Enter Tom Colicchio.
It’s funny–the week of dinners between Christmas and New Year’s was a wistful tribute to great New York chefs, or at least two: Colicchio and Chang. The theme wasn’t intentional, but I wanted to take the time that was afforded to us to challenge ourselves during the week and to take some risks, and what better way to start than by attempting to gently cook and enjoy cabbage? I’m a very, very bad Irish girl in that I loathe most cooked cabbage (and I’m a very bad German as I abhor sauerkraut, to the point that the smell of it makes me feel nauseous). But there was this dish of lightly cooked cabbage, cranberry beans and braised artichokes* that caught my attention because it fulfilled all of those qualities: it certainly was sophisticated, it was by no means a dish I would serve to a child, and it seemed like it would work as a nice pairing to a big slab of roast beef. That it would challenge my dislike of cooked cabbage was the Parmigiano-Reggiano on the proverbial plate.
I took the reigns in cooking this dish: I shelled the beans and then cooked them for the hour and a half they needed, and then I brought together the vegetable ragout. The only thing I cheated on was braising the artichokes, as the fresh ones I saw in the store didn’t look great and so I grabbed a few marinated ‘chokes from the olive bar instead. (In the future, I’d omit the artichokes entirely rather than use these again–too briny and intense for an otherwise relatively delicate dish.) The finished results of the dish that night were tasty, and the photo I Tweeted earned me a polite response from Chef Colicchio himself which made my week. But it did not keep in the fridge–the cabbage wilted and made that watery cabbage residue that reminds me too much of sauerkraut. But the cranberry bean preparation was excellent–one that I’m more than happy to make again and again whenever I want to include some beans into a soup or another pasta dish, and really, that’s the kind of thing I hope to pick up from Tom Colicchio’s cookbooks. I don’t always love his final dishes, but I love how every dish starts from preparing the ingredients properly, and from there countless possibilities burst forth. And frankly, that’s good enough for me.