This winning entry for the Salon Kitchen Challenge -- in which we asked readers to make meals that represent who they most want to spend the holidays with -- comes to us courtesy of Beth Fortune. Check out this week's Challenge here.
Artichokes are a gimme, more metaphor than food already, so we’ll start there. For you, I will trim the thorny leaf-tips, carefully scrape out all the choking little barbs that guard the heart, then blanch them in salty, lemony water until a small knife slides in easily (just a little knife, just a little bit, just testing). Then, because you appreciate things one step past simple, I will coat the tamed thistles in olive oil, give them another little sprinkle of salt and pepper, and grill them over charcoal, because Christmas here is 70 and sunny, and you’re done with nostalgia. I’ll serve them, smoky and warm, with aioli, the sauce you like as much as a word as you do a food.
While we gnaw on the slippery leaves, and you tell me again that you’d like to name our imaginary daughter Aioli, the bison shanks will be quietly simmering in their bath of shallots and stock, patience and time gently softening resilient connective tissue into melting tenderness. In honor of these last few years, these newlywed years toughened by grief and worry, we will forgo the marbled ease of beautiful steaks for the primitive comfort of a piece of meat with bone and marrow intact. With reverence for the life we have, I’ll have added a generous splash of decent wine to the pot. Depending on the bottle I open, I’ll add something unexpected to the braise, dried sour cherries or maybe smoked chilies. I know that the sauce, reduced in the end to a luxurious density and sheen, will be delicious regardless of the variation.
Though it will only be the two of us, we will feast. There will be Brussels sprouts, self-contained and sentimental, cut-side browned in butter until nutty, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts in case you miss the hint. There will be mushroom risotto, rice to make the meal seem complete. There will be, let’s face it, too much food, farmer’s market treasures auditioning to become the next go-to dish. You will be pleased with the excess, not only because it means a week of decisions made, but because it reminds you of that rush you get when buying groceries, that feeling that anything is within your grasp. Then, after we’ve flooded all sensory inputs with data, after we’ve said that we couldn’t possibly taste another molecule, we’ll have cake.
The cake, your cake, will be chocolatey and decadent, a celebration of the creativity you encourage. A rich finale made just for you, after a year, a lifetime, of obligation and worry. A cake, because the dutiful son, the devoted husband, deserves to be a boy sometimes, to have something freely given to him that is all love, all pleasure, all his. Merry Christmas, baby. I made you a cake.