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These recipes come from a collaboration with Selefina Spices and my absolute adoration of the gritty kitchen drama series The Bear.
Selefina Spices is venture from the people behind Adagio Teas. They have used their experience in global sourcing and making connections to find high quality spices and seasonings. And by purchasing in bulk and using their own brand for labels, costs are kept lower for the consumer. It's a win-win and, from what I've tried, the products are amazing.
For these recipes, I used Cacao-Maple Mélange, Smoked Paprika, Cacao Powder, Sweet + Zesty Onion Mix, Vietnamese Black Peppercorn, and Dark Pink Himalayan Salt (fine grain). Stay tuned for more recipes with more products soon.
The Bear Tie-In
In case you, like I was, are late to The Bear party, it's a series that follows Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto as he navigates coming back to Chicago after earning Michelin stars at Noma in Copenhagen. His family sandwich shop lands in his lap after his brother, Michael, commits suicide and leaves the restaurant to him. This is gritty, loud, and chaotic. I have had several friends in the food world say that they just can't watch this how; it's too real and bring up some real trauma that they suffered at the hands of abusive chefs. But the story-telling is compelling and the actors riveting. It's no surprise that this cast is racking up award after award after award.
In addition to the kitchen drama, The Bear is also about the family you chose. The relationships between Carmy and everyone in his restaurant are underscored by inheritance - many are holdovers from when The Original Beef of Chicagoland was Michael's - ambition, and a history of disfunction and pain.
In Season 1, Episode 6, Sydney makes cola-braised short ribs and pairs it with risotto. Carmy tells her it's not ready and she gives a portion to a customer who ends up mentioning it in his review of the restaurant.
Smoky Chocolate Braised Short Ribs
2 beef short ribs (prefer grass-fed, organic beef)
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 organic onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
Also needed: Dutch oven or heavy lidded, oven-safe pot
risotto (recipe below)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix together the Cacao-Maple Mélange, Smoked Paprika, and Cacao Powder. Sprinkle mixed spices over the ribs and season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a Dutch oven, melt 1 Tablespoon butter in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the short ribs to the pan. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Pour in the tomato sauce, stock, and red wine. Add the onions and garlic. Bring liquid to a boil. Cover and place it in the oven to braise for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. The meat should be tender and almost falling off the bone.
Remove ribs carefully from the sauce. Serve with risotto (recipe below).
Sweet and Zesty Risotto
I make risotto all the time with whatever I have on-hand - mushrooms in the Fall, Asparagus in the Spring - but this one was inspired by Selefina's Sweet + Zesty Onion Mix, a collaboration blend between Selefina and Kelly Ryan of Butter & Thyme.
1/2 organic white onion, peeled and sliced (approximately 3/4 cup)
1/2 organic red onion, peeled and sliced (approximately 3/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons butter
splash of olive oil
4 teaspoons Sweet + Zesty Onion Mix
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups liquid (I used a mixture of beef stock and water)
4 ounces mascarpone cream
Also needed: grated Parmigiano Reggiano for serving
Bring your stock and water to a boil. Then reduce it to a simmer and keep it on a burner adjacent to your risotto pan.
Melt 2 Tablespoons butter with a splash of olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Add the white onions and onion mix. Cook until onions are beginning to soften. Stir in the red onions and cook until translucent and beginning to caramelize.
Add in the rice and stir until completely coated with oil and butter. Add one ladle of simmering broth at a time, stirring, stirring, and stirring some more till the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the rice is soft. If you need more liquid, just add more; if you don't use all of the stock, that's okay, too.
Fold in the mascarpone cheese. Let stand for five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, spoon out individual servings of risotto and place the rib to the side. Spoon some sauce over the ribs and serve immediately. Let diners sprinkle with more freshly grated cheese, if desired.
An Appropriately Named Wine
To go with The Bear-inspired dinner, I opened up a bottle of wine from one of my favorite wineries, Donkey & Goat in Berkeley. You can read about their Donkey & Goat 2022 Skinny Dip (here), Brut Nat v4Sparkling Pinot Meunier (here), 2021 Sparkling Grüner & Chardonnay Pét-Nat (here).
From the El Dorado appellation and the Fenaughty and Lightner Vineyards, this wine is a blend of multiple red grape varieties including: Counoise, Cinsault, Mourvédre, Grenache, Syrah, and Viognier. After being fermented with wild yeasts & bacteria in wood vats, it was aged in combination of once-used and neutral French oak barrels and clay.
The wine poured a clear garnet color with flecks of gold on the rim. On the nose, I jotted down the earthiness of a redwood forest along with black fruits of plum and blackberries. On the palate, this wine was complex and gorgeous. There were layers of spice and tea that I hadn't detected in the aromas. And it went deliciously with the fatty short ribs and creamy risotto.
What a pretty wine! I already added two more bottles to my Spring wine club pick-up, so you will be seeing more pairings with this wine soon...maybe I'll be inspired to make more dishes when Season 3 is released in June. Stay tuned!