Monday, December 7, 2009. Happy Birthday! Now Eat Your Short Ribs. It's Mary Ann's speed-limit birthday. I did not forget. But she was gone when I awakened, off to drive Mary Leigh to school. As soon as I was certain that she was past the point of rushing through traffic to make it on time, I called and wished her a happy one. Birthdays are big for Mary Ann. On the other hand, the gift-giving aspect of the day's rubrics are small. Every year, she says she doesn't want anything, other than for me to keep my mouth shut about her trips to see Jude. She really means it. She'd get mad if I bought her a gift.
She does like me to cook a dinner of something she loves, especially if it's something I don't much like. But she took matters into her own hands here, too. I'm glad of that. I've never thought much of short ribs, and am puzzled as to why chefs have adopted the cut as a specialty. No fewer than ten chefs wanted to serve beef short ribs at Eat Club dinners this year. I turned down most of them.
She bought the ribs at Fresh Market, where they cost five dollars a pound. That seemed high for a cut whose weight is at least one-fourth bone mass. I wasn't watching as she cooked them, nor did she ask for any assistance. I will withhold my judgment. She was disappointed with them, and with the gravy that came from them.
Much, much better was the side dish: sweet potato gnocchi. Mary Ann improvised the recipe, based on one in the Joy of Cooking for standard white potato gnocchi. They were superb! Light, with a subtle sweet potato flavor, and a pretty pale orange color. About the only thing she said she would change was that she made the individual dumplings too big--about the side of the last joint of one's thumb, instead of the little finger. But that was a minor issue. She tossed them with alfredo sauce, and that was that--and excellent by any standard.
We sat in the dark corner of the dining room, where the chandelier continued to refuse to function, in the glow of the Christmas tree. Even with what the short ribs subtracted, it was a nice birthday dinner for my best girl. It ended with Mary Leigh's spectacular, intense chocolate cake, topped with a bow made out of chocolate leather. Everything made from scratch. Her baking skills are formidable.
When Jude called with his birthday wishes, he reported on a party he'd attended last night. It was held by the owner of a film production company, and attended by other bigwigs in the biz. The connections he made got him invited to another party of even bigger shots next week. This kind of schmoozing is what Jude does best. Hearing about all this swept away what little remorse Mary Ann had left that she didn't fly up to visit Jude this weekend.