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Short Rib Bourguignon…and stepping into a new stage of life

I know I promised to write more about all my hilarity that ensued in Beijing and in my recent Thailand vacation in May, but I wanted to pause all those thoughts this week and focus on the here and now. What do I mean? Well, several big life events happened since the beginning of June. I turned 27, internal scream of panic “Ahhhhhh!” I moved from Houston to Los Angeles 3 weeks ago by myself. And I officially started pediatric residency last Friday, which in plain language, translates to people started calling me doctor when I go to work, which sends immediate feelings of warmth and goosebumps at the same time.

Adjusting to Los Angeles has been quite the task for me, surprisingly, in the beginning. Despite all its similarities to Houston being a diverse sprawling metropolis and having the most congested traffic in the nation, LA is still a bit overwhelming to newcomers. For instance, most of my friends in Houston lived around the same 5 mile radius, and I never had to travel more than 20 minutes to meet up with anyone. LA is a different story. There are so many suburbs inland that take at least 30 minutes, and sometimes 1 hour to drive to, that it’s almost impossible to see friends who live in a different part of town. And of course my friends actually do live in very different parts of towns. Life is never easy. I’ve also had to learn how to parallel park and become an expert at finding street parking for free in LA. So many cars and so little space mean that parallel parking has to become second nature. So far, I’ve cut down the time I take to park from 10 minutes of wiggling back and forth out of the narrow space to 3 minutes of precise angling and estimation. It’s been quite the learning curve!

Of course there are positive sides to moving to LA as well. For one, the always sunny and mild 75 degree weather here has got me questioning how I survived in the Houston heat and humidity all these years. It’s also quite exhilarating to have a Trader Joe’s at every street corner, as opposed to the only one that opened in Houston. And food, of course it goes back to food, is so much more diverse and healthy and cultural here. I live within walking distance of Thai Town and Little Armenia, where I can easily access authentic duck boat noodles and steaming kebabs at my fingertips. Not to mention the 200+ Korean restaurants that are 4 miles away in K-town, the Mexican taco stands that pop up during lunch time in every corner, and the plethora of cute brunch places that have patio seating! Outdoor seating in the summer? That is utterly unheard of in Houston, but can be enjoyed year round in the City of Angels.

Beyond transitioning to life in LA, what is much more momentous is transitioning to life in residency. Truth be told, I’ve only done two shifts so far, but it already feels like I’ve worked for months at this hospital and have been stretched in numerous dimensions. With these 12-15 hour days and only 1 day off per week, my work time has never lasted as long as now.  Nor have I had to multitask as much as I have to now, admitting new patients while responding to frantic pages from nurses and getting sign-outs from the emergency room and documenting a note on the computer all at once. I’ve never carried so many items on my body all once: several pagers, a hospital phone, a cell phone, a badge, 3 pens clipped to my badge, a stethoscope and stacks of paper stuffed into my back pocket. My patience and nerves have been tested to their limits with the fast paced workflow in the morning, having to think on the spot when my patients desaturate and decompensate before my eyes, and fumbling with a foreign electronic record system.

In the midst of it all, I’m grateful to have had a few precious moments with my patients which have kept me going. That time when I took twenty minutes to answer questions for an anxious mother and aunt who want to get to the bottom of their baby’s disease process and outlook, seeing her furrowed eyebrows gradually smoothen as the mistrust on her face melts away to that of relief, that time when I comforted a boy who was having an episode of severe abdominal spasm and put my hands on the mom’s shoulder who stood anxiously by his side, that time when I sat next to a teenage boy and listened to his disjointed story of all the hardship he goes through at school and the fears welling inside him. Each time when I come away from these experiences, I am humbled by the privileges and trust endowed to me by these complete strangers, my patients who have allowed me to share in their sufferings and their healing. My tense body relaxes for a moment, my to-do list fades away, and I am reminded of why I came into this profession, the sacredness and enormity of it all.

short rib bourguignon2

Short rib Bourguignon

So today’s recipe that I am introducing is a challenging one, to mirror the challenges I’ve recently had to adjust to. But the rewards of this beef rib bourguignon is immensely satisfying. It’s one of the most tender and juicy meat I’ve ever braised, full of herbs and aromatic vegetables. Get ready to lounge around the kitchen for 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon and simmer away!

short rib bourguignon3

Short Rib Bourguignon

  • Servings: 5
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • beef short ribs, 3 lbs, bone in
  • 4 carrots cut into 1 inch rounds
  • 3 carrots diced into small pieces
  • 3 celery diced
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 500ml dry red wine (1/2 bottle)
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • a bunch of thyme sprigs
  • 3-5 bay leafs
  • 1 lb button mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch thick

Thaw the ribs and season with salt and pepper for 2 hours. Pat ribs dry. In a large cast iron skillet, sear the ribs in butter so that it’s browned on all sides, takes around 15 minutes. Place the ribs in a separate bowl for later use.

Reduce heat to medium and add diced carrots, celery and onions to the cast iron skillet and cook until softened, for 8 minutes.

Add red wine, beef stock, thyme and bay leaf, and add ribs back into skillet. Bring the skillet to a simmer and cover with lid, cook for 3.5 hours. At the end, meat should be very tender, and the mirepoix should be mostly dissolved. Alternatively, you can braise the meat in the oven for 3.5 hours to the same effect.

Strain out the liquid so you are left with ribs, discard the solid mirepoix.

Wipe out the cast iron skillet and saute mushrooms over medium heat and canola oil until golden. This takes around 5 minutes. Add mushroom to the meat in a separate bowl.

In the cast iron skillet, add carrot rounds and braising liquid and simmer over 10 minutes until carrots are somewhat softened and liquid is reduced by one third.

Add ribs and mushrooms back to skillet and simmer until liquid is reduced by another one third. Season as needed with salt and pepper.

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