When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: A deeply restorative meal, born entirely of the freezer.
After a weekend away and some heavy-duty denial about the fact that it’s officially June, I wake up early Monday morning to find the rest of my life sitting on my chest. This unfamiliar weight scares me.
I make my coffee, paw around in the freezer, pray that there is something I can MacGyver into two school lunches. Frozen peas land on my jet-lagged son's head. Lamb bones fall onto my bare toes. And before I can stop it, an avalanche of unlabeled freeze-burned Ziplocked scraps slides down to the floor.
I shove it all back into the freezer, heave my body weight against the door, and lock the chaos back in.
And things don’t improve.
It is the kind of morning where my son cries because his daddy will miss his Ninjago-themed sleepover birthday party. It is the kind of morning where I drop my husband off at the airport, lean in for a long deep kiss, and say goodbye for the entire summer. My heart aches so much that it is hard to turn my head over my shoulder to change lanes. I find myself driving down the freeway singing along and sobbing away to John Cougar Mellencamp.
It’s only 11 AM.
Bird by bird.
I open the freezer. I face my future.
Ten years ago, if you were scrounging around in my freezer for a stick of butter, you would have run into a placenta, a dozen bags of breast milk, some very stale pot, and lots of New York Super Fudge Chunk. Period.
Now you’ll find enough tortillas to open a Mexican restaurant, fancy-ass square ice cubes (small, medium, large), lardo, bacon, bacon, bacon, two uncooked short ribs from this year’s Super Bowl party, fresh horseradish, a smorgasbord of pastries, pesto, egg whites, my neighbor’s homemade lemon curd, mini pissaladières, brown butter cupcake brownies, chocolate chip cookies, pulled pork, garlic confit, slow-cooked tomatoes, soup, pizza, pizza, pizza. And that, my friends, is just the beginning.
Starting with the short ribs, I begin cooking the next six meals that will go into my kids’ bellies. I sear off the frozen meat in bacon fat, toss in some onions, garlic, and anchovies. I deglaze with wine while the meat is still in the pan. I break all of the rules. And then I add some gooey balsamic and a large frozen block of diced tomatoes.
I throw the mess into the oven and forget about it until the smell brings me back.
I lift the lid. I shred the meat. I pick out the fatty bits. My heart rate slows down.
6 short ribs
Kosher salt (for seasoning ribs)
Pepper (for seasoning ribs)
1 teaspoon bacon fat
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced yellow onions
4 cloves garlic, grated or pressed or finely chopped
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction (or regular balsamic vinegar)
28 ounces diced San Marzano tomatoes, canned
Crème fraîche for serving
1/2 cup cilantro leaves for serving
Photos by Phyllis Grant