Munchies with Max: Spring Supper Supplies Savory Memories
By Max Gilbert '13, Staff Writer
I take my breaks from school very seriously. After half a semester of reading, writing, stressing and hectically scrambling to meet midterm demands, the comforts of home are exactly what an overworked student needs. My spring break was filled with quality time with family and friends, sleeping, relaxing and, of course, cooking and eating.

It’s hard to say what I miss the most about being home, but having access to my kitchen is up there. My mom makes sure the refrigerator is stocked with fresh ingredients and our spacious, well-equipped kitchen allows for intense culinary creativity. After a miserably long train ride back to Philadelphia, I decided to spend my first full day of break making a big meal for company.

My mom specifically requested my Asian-style short ribs, which I’ve made many times and regard as one of my best original recipes. I first rubbed the short ribs with flour and a mixture of spices, and then seared them in a pan in sesame oil over a high heat. Removing the meat, I cooked onions, scallions and garlic in the pan. After letting the vegetables cook down and caramelize, I deglazed the pan with beef broth and then removed it from the heat. Next, I whisked in honey, soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, rice vinegar, chili paste, fresh grated ginger and some more sesame oil. I then placed the short ribs in a pan, covered them with the liquid and put them in the oven at 300F for four hours.

While the meat was cooking, I set about making the rest of the dinner. Keeping the Asian theme going, I made a pickled Asian slaw. I salted and drained red and green cabbage, tossing it with cucumber, broccoli, carrots, ginger and red, yellow and orange peppers. I poured a boiling mixture of rice wine vinegar, honey, garlic and ginger over the vegetables and allowed them to sit for one minute. I then drained the liquid and tossed the vegetables with a simple dressing of lemon, lime, soy, honey, chili paste and sesame oil.

For a starch, I made coconut curry basmati rice. Bringing a broth of chicken stock, coconut milk, curry powder and some turmeric for color to boil, I added the rice. After the rice was cooked I added the juice and zest of a lime, as well as some more coconut milk. I put the creamy rice in a baking dish, topped it with panko and a drizzle of sesame oil and put in the fridge.

For dessert, I whipped up a batch of my favorite chocolate mousse. Conveniently, the recipe is dairy-free, which accommodated my lactose-intolerant family member. I whipped a dozen egg whites into fluffy foam and folded into it a custard of egg yolks, chocolate and sugar. I usually flavor my mousse with chocolate or coffee liquor, but decided to spice it up and instead threw in a splash of amaretto and some orange liquor for a fresh flavor. After spooning the delicate mixture into a crystal dish, all that was left was to let it set up in the fridge for a few hours.

My favorite way to cook for company is to do 90 percent of the cooking and cleaning beforehand. When the meat was fork tender, I removed it and poured the bones and braising liquid into a saucepan to cook down. After letting the liquid simmer and thicken, I strained out the solids and bones and poured the gravy over the meat. All that was left was to bake the rice and the meat for about 30 minutes before we planned to eat and to garnish the meat with some green onions and sesame seeds.

The short ribs were incredible and vanished quickly from the table. The tender, succulent meat was so irresistible in the thick glaze of salty soy, sweet honey and spicy chili and ginger. It went perfectly with the rice, which was creamy from the coconut milk, and warm and spicy from the curry. The slaw was a refreshing and aesthetically pleasing side dish with its bright, acidic citrus flavors and equally bright colors from the fresh veggies. After the huge meal, I served the mousse, topped with fresh raspberries, and it, too, quickly disappeared.

Cooking a meal for loved ones brings me such great pleasure. I can’t imagine how some people consider cooking a chore; it is one of my favorite activities. I put some tunes on the stereo and have a blast making whatever smells, looks and tastes appealing. All that’s needed to complete the party is some good wine, some hungry guests and some great conversation.

Issue 19, Submitted 2011-03-23 01:33:35