There are some foods that, no matter what you do, are just not pretty. They are brown and mushy looking, lacking any vibrant colors or eye-catching patterns to reel you in like a fish on a hook. On the other hand, there are some foods that mystify with their beauty. Combine the two and you have “Beauty and the Beast”, as my husband put it.
I used my pickled lotus root from the other day as a garnish to some delicious, but not-so-pretty, short ribs. The short ribs were browned in a pan, placed in the bottom of my slow-cooker, covered with Japanese beer (Kirin), carrots, onions, 2 bay leaves and a sprinkle of herbs de provence. After nearly 10 hours of slow and low cooking, the ribs came out absolutely falling off the bone. There was nothing I could do to keep the meat fully intact as I removed it with my tongs. It just insisted on melting into beautiful shreds. And by “beautiful” I mean perfectly cooked…not visually beautiful. To make this dish appealing to the eye, I simply placed one slice of pickled lotus root on top with a few snow peas. The drastic contrast in color and texture helped make what is otherwise a pile of mush into something photo-worthy.
It’s wonderful when nature shows off a little with the creation of something as breathtaking, and imperfect, as the lotus root. Each lotus root is different- the holes are different shapes and sizes, form different patterns, and are never perfect. Before the lotus root is peeled, it looks a little rough around the edges. But as you dig deeper and find what is hidden inside, the oddities disappear. The imperfections and differences are what make them beautiful. If only we could look at everything…and everyone…with the same admiration and joy.
Japanese Beer Braised Short Ribs
Makes enough for 4-6 servings
3-4 pounds meaty short ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 12 oz. can Kirin beer, or other rich-flavored lager beer
1 cup sliced carrots
1 large onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
2 tablespoons flour
In a large, heavy pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, dry the short ribs with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Brown the short ribs on all sides in the pan, about 1 1/2-2 minutes per side.
Transfer the ribs to the slow cooker. Add the carrots, onions, bay leaves and Herbs de Provence. Pour in the beer and set the slow-cooker on low. Allow to cook for at least 8 hours and up to 10.
Gently scoop the ribs out of the slow-cooker with a slotted spoon or tongs and place on a platter. Don’t worry if they fall apart- that’s a good sign! In a heavy bottomed pan, add about 2 cups of the remaining cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer. Gradually sift in the flour and whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the ribs. Serve over brown rice and top with pickled lotus root and snow peas…or other naturally beautiful garnish.