Beef stew in July? Counter-intuitive, maybe, and possibly insane, this meal nonetheless satisfied on a number of levels.
To begin, it was raining. Hard, out of a dark grey sky. And the air became much cooler, if no less humid than it had been (and continues to be). And the freezer held a lovely pack of short ribs, while the under-stocked fridge offered no inspiration. The respite from oppressive heat filled me with the urge to cook something. Pressure cooker to the rescue!
I browned the ribs in butter, then poured off the extra fat and added aromatics for the braise: carrot, half a turnip, half a head of garlic, a few anchovies, a spoon of tomato paste, some sake, a dry chile de arbol, a spoonful of smoked coffee beans, and a handful of herbs: parsley, thyme, green coriander seeds, lovage, fennel, and sage. To this I also added a raw chicken breastbone, which would double down on the meaty flavors and gelatin quotient in the result.
This hissed for an hour, and when opened yielded a profoundly complex aroma. I strained the liquid, saving only the beef, and returned them both to the pot after a quick rinse. The next phase involved cooking the vegetables that would be eaten: carrot, turnip, kale, and peas. These simmered gently as I adjusted the seasoning and dug some leftover brown rice out of the fridge to spoon into bowls before ladling in the steamy goodness.
Winter food, to be sure, but the availability of all these splendid vegetables right outside the door gave this a brightness that would not be possible in the dark months. And stewy braises on rainy days are always appropriate. Also, I love what fennel fronds do as a garnish with a shallow depth of field: a nimbus of little green lightning bolts, illustrating in cartoon fashion an intensity of flavors that cannot be contained by gravity. Fractalicious.