Lazy Weekend in NYC

I very rarely have a weekend with no plans.  Last weekend turned out to be an unexpected surprise.  To top it off my cousin, whose schedule consistently conflicts with mine, also had the weekend off and plan free.  She lives on the Upper West Side in New York City and suggested that we find some fun things to do around the city and just follow our noses.  And so after an early morning workout on Saturday I made the drive to Manhattan.

It was a beautiful, spring-like, January day with temperatures expected to climb into the 50s.  One place that I had always heard much about but never been to is Arthur Avenue in The Bronx.  It is often called “the real Little Italy”.  So I suggested that we check it out and grab some lunch while there.  She knows how much of a foodie I am and while she doesn’t love to cook so much, she does enjoy eating.  And so we wound our way over to the Cross Bronx Expressway and onto Arthur Avenue.  It didn’t take long to find meter parking and start exploring on foot.  The street is full of wonderful markets, shops and bakeries with heavenly scents that drew our attention.  We immediately realized that we were famished and decided that lunch had to be addressed before any shopping could be done. 

After checking out a few menus, we settled on the Arthur Avenue Trattoria where we were greeted by a very friendly and charming man with an Italian accent.  He sat us at our table and told us about their specials.  We ordered Ravioli with Bolognese for me, Penne with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe for her, and an extra side order of Broccoli Rabe to share.  And since we were in no particular rush we asked the gentleman to recommend a dry, crisp white wine.  The result was a delicious Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy.  Maybe not the best pairing for the Bolognese but it didn’t matter since I enjoyed separately.  The food was very good and fresh.  While we ate, we asked our server for recommendations in the area and he gave us some great tips including his recipe for Tiramisu.  As we were finishing up, a group of women came into the restaurant and made a grand entrance.  They were a loud, interesting bunch and immediately made us think we had happened upon a filming of a certain reality show based on housewives in Bergen County.  If nothing else, they were most definitely entertaining even if they thought themselves far more Italian than their conversation indicated.



 

After our quite filling lunch, we went to the Arthur Avenue Market and picked up some burrata cheese at Mike’s Deli and I bought some amazing looking short ribs from the butcher shop.  We then decided to pick up some fresh bread from Madonia’s bakery, add a bottle of wine and voila we had dinner!! How can you go wrong with bread, cheese & wine?  We even passed an outdoor oyster bar and debated having a few but decided to pass after remembering our full stomachs.  Since we both had been up late the night before, we decided to catch an afternoon nap before heading out for the evening.  I was loving the life of leisure!
 
And so after our respective naps, a cup of coffee, catching up on emails and our simple yet delicious dinner, we headed out around 9:30pm to meet some friends for drinks.  The rest of the evening was pretty standard except for some lousy service at the Stone Rose lounge in the Time Warner Center.  Some G & Ts and another bottle of wine (Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc) with some amazing tuna tartare later, we hailed a cab back to my cousin’s apartment and crashed for the night.
The weekend ended on Sunday with brunch at Amelia’s in Jersey City with a friend and her daughter.  I had the sausage & biscuits with gravy and she had their special French toast which looked really good.  My gravy was really good, but I found the biscuits a bit dry and the sausage a bit salty though certainly not enough to stop eating. 

My last lazy event for this weekend was to watch the two football games at my brother’s house, complete with a football pool, lots of food and good wine.  When neither the Jets nor Giants are playing we root for the 49ers and against the Pats!!  And so it was an awesome evening! Alas all such weekends must come to an end though as did this one until I realized that I didn’t have to be anywhere the next day and my son had off for MLK holiday.  The day to recuperate was most definitely needed.

In case you’re wondering what I did with the short ribs I bought at the meat market, here’s the recipe I made up for dinner the next day.  My son requested that I make them Indian style instead of the Giada DiLaurentis recipe I found, and so this is my experiment which I must say turned out quite delicious.  Notes at the end on what I might do differently next time.  Hope you try them and let me know what you think or how you might change them up.

Braised Short Ribs – Indian Style

Ingredients

2 lbs short ribs cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion diced
5 cloves garlic finely chopped
5 ribs celery peeled & diced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp  tomato paste
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp ginger/garlic paste (see note below)
1 14oz can of peeled plum tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 Cup dry red wine (something you would drink)
1 Cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the salt, black pepper, cumin and coriander to form a dry rub.  Rub all sides of the short ribs to coat.  Heat the oil in a large, over proof, Dutch oven on high heat.  When hot, add the short ribs and sear on all sides until browned and crispy.  Remove from the pot and put aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, diced garlic, and celery and stir until softened – about 2 minutes.  Add garam masala, turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine.  Add the tomato paste and stir it into the vegetables and allow to develop a dark color.  Add the ginger/garlic paste and cook for one minute.  Then add the can of tomatoes, red wine and chicken.  Bring the liquid to a boil and turn off stove.  Add the short ribs, cover and allow to marinate in the hot liquid for up to 4 hours.  When ready to finish, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove short ribs from the liquid and onto a plate.  Bring the liquid to a boil again and turn off the stove.  Add the short ribs back into the pot and place the pot, covered, into the preheated oven for 2 hours.  Remove the cover from the pot and braise for an additional 45 minutes.  The meat should be falling off the bone.  Take the meat out of the pot one more time and onto a plate.  Remove as much of the fat at the top of the liquid as possible.  Using an immersion blender or a food processor puree the braising liquid to form a thick gravy.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  You may add the meat back in at this point to serve.  I used two forks to shred the meat and remove the bones and grizzle before adding back to the gravy.  I knew my son would prefer it this way. 

Normally I would suggest serving with rice but since I try to stay away from white starches, we ate ours with some whole grain bread & a salad of arugula, apples, dried cherries, pepitas and gorgonzola cheese & a simple citrus vinaigrette (lemon juice, orange juice, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper & olive oil).  I had mine with a 1999 California Cabernet from my cellar and it paired beautifully.  An overall delicious and fancy meal for a Monday night.
 

Note 1 –Ginger/garlic paste can be purchased at Indian grocery stores or you can make your own as I do by pureeing equal parts of fresh ginger and garlic cloves with a bit of water in a blender.  My mother even adds a bit of coriander and fennel seeds in hers and uses it in most curries.

Note 2 – This recipe only serves 2 so if you are cooking for more please be sure to multiply as needed.
 
Note 3 – You can alternately cook these in a crock pot on low setting for 6 hours instead of placing in the oven to braise.  Everything prior to that step would remain the same.


What I would do differently next time……….

·         Use more garam masala – perhaps another tablespoon

·         Add a cinnamon stick, few cloves and 2-3 green cardamom pods to the hot oil before adding the vegetables
·         If cooking for people who could handle it I would up the cayenne to 1 tsp

Happy Cooking!

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