Brasato al Barolo, Chopin, Stevie, Bon Iver, Nils Frahm, & “No Regrets”
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Hello, lover! Brasato al Barolo (braised short ribs in Barolo)
Like most people over the weekend, I was shocked to hear about Kobe. Larger than life, accidents aren’t supposed to happen to these super humans. We all have a primal need to believe in something bigger than ourselves- both aspirations and distractions, to help us get through the mundane. Godlike yet human, they’re relatable and unreachable but like any good superhero story, have origins similar to us.
I’m grateful for the people around me- my family, friends, coworkers, and people I admire from afar. They are some of the most interesting people you’d meet. Oftentimes unassuming, but once you scratch the surface, have the most incredible insights on life, humor, and just being. Most are successful based on different metrics: career, family, financial security, pursuing a passion. But what interests me the most, and is usually the most telling in business and in a person’s personal life, is what people do when life hands them a bag of flaming, stinky, relentless, crap.
We’ve all been there. Coming from a well meaning, conservative family, I turned down a prestigious university to go to music school, came from a culture where saying “no” was considered rude and unacceptable from a woman, was told to hide my intelligence, had mainly worn uniforms for most of my life, and hadn’t seen boys since they reached puberty at 13. It was a recipe for success. So, this is how it went.
I picked a major that was mostly men. It took me two hours to get ready because I didn’t know what to wear. (I’d intentionally wear plaid skirts and navy because sometimes, I didn’t know what to do.) I never spoke or when I did, acted like an idiot. I always said “yes” oftentimes, to my detriment, and couldn’t look at men in the eye because I was either scared (my hands would shake), freaked out, or curious. Don’t forget to factor in the institutionalized politics that happen at any higher institution (which is still a problem today). For a while, I was the poster child for social idiocy (and it’s consequences).
I can blame youth, naivety, or my upbringing, but it all boils down to self accountability. Not everyone can see archaic parameters and change course with culture and traditions, oftentimes veiling a sinister, anachronistic, authoritarian, beast. (Hey, it worked for hundreds of years, maybe it'll still work now!) The idea of self governance, hits especially close to home, because now as a mother, I constantly think of the values I’d like to impart to my daughter and hopefully, her actions and character when faced with adversity. I knew I could do other things in my life successfully, but could I live with myself? Would I be happy? Would my fears cause me to lash out at others due to inaction? We all screw up so what exactly is “character”?
Brasato al Barolo. Beautiful and comforting.
Which brings me back to Kobe, superheroes, and every person on the planet struggling with what to do next. Do you take the shortcut or do you put in the years of hard work? Every athlete, entertainer, or musician that entertains at a stadium or concert hall, has practiced thousands of hours, for passion, but also at the sacrifice of their personal relationships, home life, and potential financial stability. (Same with those trying to create, outside of the limelight.) At their rawest, they are putting themselves onstage to be judged- vulnerable, beautiful, and FEARLESS. That in itself, should merit respect. Some are well aware that their sanguine nature will be capitalized and misused by others purely for a larger chess game. Most, though, will not and are just grateful for the opportunity. Like a superhero, do you dig deep, realizing what makes you vulnerable can also be your best asset? Do you forgo the sacrifices and cave to something easier because it just isn’t worth it anymore? Do you even ask these questions or just go with the flow because it’s too difficult to understand? What makes our lives important?
Here’s some interesting articles.
Intuition, happiness, regrets over deathbed.
37 Regrets of the Dying.
The one constant in my childhood and my early adulthood was the piano. I was lucky I found something. I started at 3. When I was 5, my dad went on a business trip and brought home a mini Casio keyboard. I spent hours in my room playing with that silly mini keyboard… playing the drum loops, the “string” patches, recording my stupid piano playing and erasing it, then repeating the process over and over. The Casio keyboard was then replaced with my teacher’s Kurzweil, then the Yamaha Disklavier, (and me subsequently teaching kids' group piano classes). I always was pretty disciplined so slacking off wasn’t an issue. The piano was my North Star (although I wasn't fully aware of it at the time) and I am eternally grateful.
I’d like to think everyone has a North Star, whether it be a thing, feeling, a person, a circumstance, or goal. (It's my daughter now.) It breaks my heart to see when people don’t think they have one until it’s too late. Life is chaotic and while others try to manipulate each circumstance to a trajectory of their choosing, the most successful and inspiring embrace the uncertainty, rely on their self accountability, realize the parameters are changing, and change course while following their North Star. Here’s a great Forbes article on “No Regrets” from a business perspective. This is my favorite on the topic.
Forbes: Die with no regrets (from a business sense).
I really like to surf. It’s chaotic, unpredictable, you have to be smart about the currents, you’re self reliant, and it takes so much effort to paddle out to a wave, that if you’re not careful, you’ll wipe out even before you get to ride in. (Does that make me a masochist?) The sheer intensity and payoff to be able to turn around and look at the shoreline, bob on the waves, and take in the calm, is very similar to being in the zone. It’s unconscious, creative, electric, and balanced. Each ride, wave, current, day is different. The parameters change but the goal is always the same… stay on your board so you can ride in. If you wipe out, the more you struggle against the wave, the more you’ll panic. If you ride the fall, it’s effortless. I feel like the most successful people realize this and can spot changing parameters while keeping their goal. They change with life as opposed to rigidly believing in circumstances that no longer exist. The parameters are obsolete, so rethinking is in order, or the end goal will become obsolete.
Like changing parameters, the valuation of art and music oftentimes are at odds with what constitutes “real” or “pure art.” Is the purist valuation of a piece of music better because it was technically better executed or can the emotion of someone not necessarily trained in the traditional sense be valued at the same level? (Duh. I think you know where I lean. I should be an elitist intellectual!) I played Chopin’s Etude No. 3 as part of my senior high school recital. This is comfort for me- physical, musical, unconscious nostalgia. Technically difficult (but sounds deceivingly easy), the opening interplays both the melody and accompaniment in the right hand, so the weight balance and phrasing is extremely important and requires dexterity and control. The B section, improvisatory and virtuosic, is emotionally raw, completely different from the lyrical A and it’s subsequent repeat, all the while laying the precedent for altered chords and it’s resolutions for jazz decades before. By the way, it's supposed to be a technical study (hence, boring... like scales and arpeggios boring) so, the fact that it was infused with emotion, was ahead of it's time. It’s a supreme balance of executed technique, emotion, lyricism, and revered for centuries- even relevant today based on its placements in film and tv.
Chopin Etude Op 10 No. 3- Valentina Lisitsa
That feeling of ease, comfort, and resolution is the same with the Brasato al Barolo. There’s countless recipes of beef and red wine based on culture (and I’ve gone through multiple variations over the years) but this is one of the best. (I'm sorry... the Italians do it better.) The sauce execution is actually pretty simple but the consistency achieved is restaurant quality. (Fine dining at a restaurant with a toddler is a horror comedy). The polenta is ridiculously simple, (done in a slow cooker) because after all that braising, who wants to stir polenta? Enjoy!
Based on piano music and changing paramenters, here’s some Stevie, Bon Iver, and Nils Frahm for your listening enjoyment. Whether you place more value on technical execution, raw emotion, or both, hopefully, it’ll inspire something beautiful and help forget fear. Cheers!
This is like your ears on the Brasato al Barolo. Food-eargasm!
Stevie Wonder- “Overjoyed” - Live @The 02 London
Based on the parameters of the piano, purely as atmosphere and background.
Bon Iver - Wash. (AIR Studios Jagjaguwar Session)
A study on pure emotion and intuition on piano, synths and chamber orchestra. It’s kind of freaking me out seeing all the gear on top of a Steinway. (I still freak out seeing stickers on a laptop). Thanks for reading!
Nils Frahm | A Winged Victory for the Sullen | BBC Proms 2015 | Full performance
Brasato al Barolo with Polenta & Horseradish Gremolata
(from “The Mozza Cookbook”, by Nancy Silverton, with Matt Molina & Carolynn Carreno)
6 beef short ribs (about 1 pound each)
2 Tbs kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (4 Tbs) extra- virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 medium onion, cut up into large pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into large pieces (about 2 inches)
1 celery rib, cut into roughly 2 inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tbs double concentrated tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Barolo)
1 14 oz can peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), inducing their juice
4 cups Chicken Stock
10 fresh thyme sprigs
10 fresh oregano sprigs
1 long rosemary sprig
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
For the Gremolata
3/4 cup whole fresh Italian parsley leaves
3/4 cup whole fresh celery leaves (only pale green leaves from the hearts); (I didn’t have celery leaves so I just substituted more Italian parsley)
zested strips of 3 lemons (I didn’t have 3 so I used an orange for one of the lemons)
1 Tbs finishing- quality extra- virgin olive oil
Maldon sea sat or another flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sea
Fresh peeled horseradish
Polenta (I’ll give you a slow cooker version so it’s super easy)
Place the short ribs in a non- reactive baking dish or a large bowl and season them with salt and pepper on all sides, using approximately 1 tsp of salt per pound of meat. Cover the dish or bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large high-sided saute pan over medium- high heat until the oil is smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the short ribs in the pan to sear on all three sides (it’s not necessary to sear the bone side), until the meat is deep brown, about 5 minutes per side. If you can’t squeeze all of the short ribs in the skillet at one time, sear them in two batches, adding more oil to the pan to sear the second batch if it’s dry. Remove the short ribs to a plate.
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and heat it until almost smoking. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and the onion is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent it from browning. Move the vegetables to create a bare spot in the pan, add the tomato paste to that spot, and cook for 1 minute, stirring, to caramelize the tomato paste slightly. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and boil the wine for about 20 minutes, until it is thick and jammy. Add the tomatoes and their juice and saute for about 2 minutes to meld the flavors.
Return the short ribs bone side down to the pan. Add any juices that may have collected on the plate they were resting on and enough stock to come just to the top edge of the short ribs. Nestle the thyme, oregano, and rosemary sprigs in the liquid around the meat. Wrap the porcini in a doubled piece of the cheesecloth, pull the corners toward the center, and tie it into a bouquet with a piece of cooking twine. Tuck the bouquet between the ribs, making sure the mushrooms submerged in the liquid. If you have commercial- grade plastic wrap, which won’t melt in the oven, cover the pan with plastic wrap. In either case, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and place the lid on it if it has one. Place the short ribs in the oven and cook until the meat is fork-tender and falling off the bones, about 3 hours. Remove the short ribs from the oven and remove the foil and plastic from the pan if you used it, being careful not to burn yourself with the steam that will rise from the pan. Set aside to allow the short ribs to cool in the braising liquid for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the short ribs from the braising liquid to a plate. Pour the contents of the pan, including the vegetables and the bouquet, through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan (or bowl if you are not serving the short ribs now). Press down on the vegetables and the bouquet to extract as much juice as you can from them. Discard the contents of the strainer. Remove the porcini from the cheesecloth, discard the cheesecloth, and add the mushrooms to the braising liquid. Gently pull each short rib off the bone and remove the sinewy tissue that connects the meat to the bone. You can prepare the short ribs to this point up to five days in advance. Cover the pot with plastic wrap or transfer the meat with the braising liquid to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it. (You will proceed slightly differently).
If the short ribs are still warm from the braising liquid, bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer until the liquid is the consistency of a thick glaze or thin gravy, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the pan; it will be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
If you have prepared the short ribs in advance and are rewarming them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If the short ribs have been in the refrigerator, remove and discard the fat from the liquid. Pour the liquid into a Dutch oven or stovetop-safe baking dish and warm it over medium heat, then place the short ribs bone side down in the dish. Place the dish in the oven for about 30 minutes, basting the meat with the sauce occasionally, until the meat is warmed through. Put the dish on the stovetop, and cook as directed to thicken.
To make the gremolata, combine the parsley leaves, celery leaves, and lemon zest (or in my case lemon and orange) in a medium bowl. Drizzle the leaves with the finishing- quality olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and toss gently to coat the leaves with the seasonings. Use a microplane or another fine grater toe grate about 60 strokes of horseradish over the salad and toss gently.
Spoon 1/2 cup of the polenta in the center of each of the six plates. Place one short rib on top of the polenta and ladle a generous 1/2 cup of the sauce over each short rib. Divide the porcini evenly among the servings and serve any remaining sauce on the side. Pile the garnish on top of the short ribs, dividing it evenly, and grate a few additional strokes of horseradish over each serving, and serve.
(from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann)
This polenta is so simple, it frees up your time to do other things. You’re welcome!
7 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups coarse- ground yellow polenta
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taster
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup grated or shredded Parmesan or Italian fontina cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1. Whisk the water, polenta, and salt together in the slow cooker for a few seconds. Cover and cook on HIGH for 30 minutes to 1 hour to heat the water.
2. Stir again, cover, turn the cooker to LOW, and cook for about 5 hours, stirring occasionally with the wooden spoon. The polenta will thicken quite quickly after 2 hours, sort of expand magically in the cooker, and look done, but it will need the extra time to cook all the grains evenly. At 5 hours, taste and make sure the desired consistency has been reached and all the grains are tender. The longer the polenta cooks, the creamier it will become. When done, it will be smooth, very thick (yet pourable), and a wooden spoon will stand up by itself without falling over (the true test). The polenta will be fine on LOW for an additional hour, if necessary. Add a bit more hot water if it gets too stiff. Stir before serving.
3. To serve as a mound of soft polenta, portion out with an oversized spoon onto plates or into shallow soup bowls. Top each serving with a pat of the butter and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Serve immediately.
Thanks for reading!