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Monday, September 27, 2010

Horses, Hot Dogs, & Short Ribs

We spent the entire day this past Saturday at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at The Kentucky Horse Park.  It was stunning.  We arrived through a winding road  amid weeping willows until we reached the lake at the base of the Main Stage Arena.

What a beginning.

We got to the Park at noon with plenty of time to spare before our Reining Event at 2:00 that afternoon.  Our first order of business was to find a bar.  We are usually very good at that.  No bar left unturned is our combined motto.  Not Saturday.  There was so much to see and do.  We thought we would have plenty of time once we found a bar and had a drink or three before moseying around exploring until our event.

There were horses everywhere. Go figure.

We walked through the trade show surrounded by boots, saddles, blankets, belt buckles, and horse paintings in search of a cocktail.  Nope.  Fresh squeezed lemonade was the closest thing.  Onward.  We passed the Makers Mark Cabin and found the official Souvenier compound.  Still no bar.  We decided to back track and start over.  Surely our bearings were off. At that point we were lost and couldn't find a bar. We made a left at the mammoth Alltech Experience Pavillion and walked down a road to nowhere.  We saw tents and people.  Happy People.  We made a bee-line to them.  I spotted tables with drinks scattered about as if people had grown tired of their cocktails and wandered away to play.  My bloody mary radar zoned in on what appeared to be a  beautiful dark red bloody mary.  Bingo!  Not.  It was a glass of red paint left unattended for finger painting in the children's play area.  Damn.

We bought a 25 pound $15 program just for the maps to help us navigate the vastness of WEG.  It was huge. We were running out of the luxury of  time and had to find our venue, the Indoor Arena. We walked and walked and walked. It was very, very far away. West Virginia.  We walked an hour and a half to reach our venue for the Reining event.  Blissfully and thankfully, there were two bars.  Score!

Once the event ended, we went in search of food.  The concessions at the Games turned out to be less than good.  There was a food court offering pasta bowls, burritos, hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken.  We had bulbous cold hot dogs on brittle dry buns.  10 packets of ketchup, mustard, and relish couldn't even  revive the long gone juicy moisture of the hot dogs.  We ate them because we were hungry.  It wasn't as if we had $350.00 tickets to The James Beard House Celebrity Dinner Series.

The Opening Ceremonies were divine.  We snuck out during a slow moment to smoke and snack.  They were out of everything.  They had popcorn, but nothing to put it in.  We could see it.  We just couldn't eat it.

The following day I decided to cook a lot of food.  Comforting food that could simmer all day and make the house smell amazing while we recovered  from our 14 hour day at the World Equestrian Games.

No recipes invloved.  I decided to shoot from the hip.

After browning seasoned short ribs until they were intensely dark, I added garlic, celery, carrots, onions, thyme, basil, salt, and pepper to simmer until softened.  I deglazed the pan with aged balsamic vinegar, diced tomatoes, and beef stock. I brought it to a rolling boil, reduced it to a simmer, and place it in a 325 oven to slowly braise for 4 hours.

To gild the lily just a bit, I made fresh bread for sopping. I proofed yeast with 1/4 cup warm water mixed with honey, added 2 cups of flour, kneaded it until it was pliable, rolled it into a ball, plopped it into an oiled bowl, and placed it by the warm oven to double in size.

Once the dough rose, I punched it down, cut it into thirds, hand-rolled the thirds into ropes, and braided it. I covered it to rise again and double in size.

I cranked the oven to 400 and slid the braided loaf into the oven to bake side by side the braising short ribs.

The  combined aromas of fresh baking bread  and long simmering short ribs was intoxicating.

After 45 minutes, I pulled out the bread and buttered the top.  The sweet yeasty bread was comforting.  Buttered and torn, it was the perfect sopper for the deep flavored unctous sticky short ribs. The vegetables disentegrated into the sauce, the garlic roasted into sweet garlic cream, and the short ribs braised down into  utter tenderness. Familiar. Soulful. Finger sucking and lip smacking satisfying.  Fresh celery leaves scattered over the top lent freshness while steamed crisp snow peas topped with lemon zest provided brightness.

The comforts of home.

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