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Pour célébrer la vie

Yesterday I swung by the butcher shop to pick up some bacon. I know, that sounds slightly ridiculous, but hear me out. One pound of bacon at your chain grocery can set you back a good ten bucks (that’s if you get the “quality” stuff on the shelf). Three pounds of bacon at my butcher costs me $9.00 and a lady comes from the back of the shop pushing a cart stacked with slabs while she yells at another customer in Russian. Then she grabs the huge slab and CUTS IT HOW YOU WANT IT.

So yeah, I waited in line for over an hour for bacon.

Yet, as I was waiting my turn at the counter, I couldn’t help but notice one of the guys had just set out fresh oxtail. My mouth immediately began to water. I love oxtail. I hate the cost. You’d think that such an odd part of an animal wouldn’t cost a fortune, but it does. Unless of course you know where to get it. By time I’d rounded the corner of the meat case, I was asking for two lbs of that delicious oxtail. I had to. It was just there, staring back at me. The cut so beautiful, like a flower. A bright red, tasty flower.  After paying and getting back to my car I already knew what I’d make: oxtail Bourguignonne.

I’ve been craving this for months, but hadn’t set aside time to actually make it. Now that I had oxtail in hand, there was no turning back. So after dropping MD off at school this morning, I headed over to the market to pick up a few more ingredients. If I was able to successfully grow anything, I wouldn’t have to buy fresh herbs, but I’m here to tell you I have the biggest black thumb EVER. Even when trying to grow herbs. HERBS PEOPLE! It’s like scented grass and I kill it off every damn time!

As I gathered all my bowls, whisks, ingredients and dutch oven, I turned on some jazz. The process would be long and methodical, but the end result is worth it. Food has that result, doesn’t it? While eating may bring us comfort for various emotions, cooking a meal is where my love is. When I’m stressed, I cook. Sad, I cook. Happy, I cook. It’s my thing. Think about that- hours of work, lovingly paying attention to detail, whispering to each morsel and dancing from cutting board to stove. Each step, a building block. I never rush a meal like this. Honestly, it would be a disaster if you did. And don’t let anyone try and convince you to cook something as beautiful as a bourguignonne in a crock pot. My GOD. NO.

It’s been an extremely emotional week for me and while I could sit on my ass and knit, I decided I’d be a little more proactive with my time. I believe my husband and son, whom I love dearly and who share these meals with me, have appreciated the gallant effort (seeing that there are hardly leftovers).

So with love from my stove to your plate, let me share the recipe!

Ingredients:

8 slices fatty bacon

3 large fresh thyme sprigs

2 large fresh bay leaves

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 to 4 1/4 pounds meaty oxtail (I used 2.5 lbs oxtail, 2.5 lbs beef tips)

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup diced carrot plus 6 carrots cut in chunks

4 large garlic cloves, peeled; 1 minced, 3 left whole

1 3/4 cups beef broth

1 1/2 cups red Burgundy wine (such as Beaujolais)

1 lb Portabella mushrooms (I cut some in half, others left whole. Your choice).

HOW TO:

Whisk flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl, set aside.

Salt and pepper oxtail, set aside.

In a large dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. You won’t use the bacon for the recipe, unless you want to. Also, if you have bacon fat saved already you can use that. Otherwise, EAT THE BACON WHILE YOU COOK.

Leave the bacon grease in the pot (If you’re like me, you’ve already chopped up the veggies and have everything laid out ready to go. I recommend doing this so you don’t burn shit up). Make sure the stove is set to medium high.

Drudge oxtail and beef in flour mixture to lightly coat. Sear just to enough to where the meat is browned, not grey. This is about 5 minutes for the oxtail, maybe 3 for the beef tips. Also, don’t try and shove all the meat in the pot at once, do it in batches. It’s easier and tastier that way. Transfer the meat back into a large bowl, leaving the juices in the dutch oven. Once you’ve seared all the meat and set it in another bowl, add into the pot your 1 C diced carrots, 2 C onion and minced garlic.  Saute until the onions are soft, about six minutes or so. Actually ten. You know when onions are done, right? Use that time.

Once the onions are soft, add the oxtail back into the mix (juices and all from the bowl). Add in the 1 3/4 cup broth or stock, 1 1/2 cups wine and your herb bouquet. Bring to a slow boil, cover and simmer for three hours (or until the meat is tender). Once meat is tender, add in the mushrooms, shallots, carrot chunks and whole garlic cloves. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low, covering pot and leave to simmer about 45 more minutes.

After this, you may need to tilt the pot to drain off any fat, but I suggest using a spoon. If you’re accident prone like me, you will. Plus, just the thought of losing all that yummy stew on a chance tilt gone wrong breaks my heart! Once you do that, mix together in a separate bowl the 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon butter until it forms a paste. Slowly add this paste to your delicious meal and cook an additional 6-8 minutes until thickened.

And then..

EAT IT.

If you’d like you can whip up a side dish, but pfffft. Warm up some bread, slap some butter on it and let yourself taste the brilliance of your meal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a little taste myself.

Much love to you all, always.

Always.

XO

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In the shower, at the sink, always words or maybe not.

In the shower, where words are pooled at my feet

like those greasy corner curb puddles by the driveway

not from rain,

but from whoever up the street decided it was a great idea

to run their hose.

The leaves, the dog piss, the sticks

and run off from their driveway

all just sitting there in the 90 degree angle

Just like my shower.

Okay, not quite just like my shower,

but when I looked down at the drain, I knew there was a hair clog

and I felt my throat tighten in disgust.

Standing there, looking down at my feet,

straight into the drain,

I thought:

There’s probably a poem in this,

probably a few words in that

more than likely I’ll forget all of this the moment I start to towel dry my hair and realize I cut myself shaving.

Too many adjectives

Far too many circles of comparison

What was it that he said to me-

always on the cusp of sadness? No, he didn’t use cusp. Some other S word

I sip my coffee in the bathroom

while I pencil in my eyebrows

(the left one is thinner and much to my horror, grayer).

Something something sadness.

Was it that I’d burst with sad? Drown with sad? Die sad?

I’m not really that sad.

There is a wild, numbing madness swimming about in my gut y’know.

Always nicely put away:

pressed, buttoned and folded.

Waiting to be ripped from the drawer,

shaken out vigorously

and maybe worn out on a night when we throw caution to the wind

(and by caution to the wind, maybe what I’m saying here is I drink two bottles of wine on a Tuesday night and crawl off the couch only to fall asleep upstairs fully clothed).

For a moment, I stared back at myself in the mirror

and thought absolutely nothing

I was even aware of that-

“you aren’t thinking. not right now. Nope,”

until the dryer dinged

and the game resumed.