on friendships, and braised beef short ribs

I’ve been thinking a lot about friends lately.

The first friend I remember having was in preschool. It seems like her name was Cindy, but that was also the name of my imaginary friend, the one who lived in the upper branches of the tall pine tree across the dirt road from my house. One day, Cindy (the real one) and her father were riding a tractor on their farm. She fell off, was run over by the tractor and killed. I remember the sadness I felt when she didn’t return to school, sadness at her being taken from me. I couldn’t have been more than 4 when this happened, just a year younger than my son is now, but I vividly remember my parents telling me of her death. They didn’t hide the facts of what happened.

I met Carrie when I was in third grade. Her family – her mom and dad and three sisters – had moved from Ohio to our small town in north Florida, and we were instantly fast friends. Carrie’s family lived much like we did – in an old home without air conditioning, without much money, and with parents somewhere on the strong end of the hippie spectrum. Carrie and I were avid readers growing up, and we often sat in the back of the classroom, devouring books after finishing our classwork, usually well ahead of other students. We stayed best friends throughout our school years, but we began growing apart during college when we our lives and interests started diverging. Though we never spoke of it, our waning friendship felt like a break-up to me, and I felt heartache for a long time.

For many years – probably all of my 20s – I never felt entirely settled with who I was as a person. And maybe because of that insecurity, I didn’t let many people get too close to me. I had a lot of stressful things going on in my life. I was working full time and trying to get into medical school. Within one year, I was accepted to medical school, got married, then moved away to a big city to attend school. My brother was in the initial phases of getting diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia, spending time in and out of the psych ward. I spent a lot of time being angry and scared and overwhelmingly sad at what was happening to him.

I had friends during those years, but I didn’t open myself up to them in the way that they deserved. The way I deserved. I held back. I had so much going on that I didn’t want to risk getting hurt.

Something changed when I reached my 30s, and it drastically changed when I began writing and sharing my life openly, here and on the blog I had prior to this one. This act of putting my words to screen, giving them life outside of my own head, has allowed me to express myself in ways that I’m often not very good at verbally. On this screen, I can be completely honest and open and let people in. And I’ve come to realize that I don’t care if I’m being judged for my words, for my personal stories. They’re my stories, my life. This is who I am.

Last weekend in New York, I spent a glorious three days with my friend Julia. Over those days, we shared some pretty amazing meals – and conversation – with several women whom I’ve come to know and love, and one that I’m thrilled to have met during this trip. Since we returned, I’ve been reflecting on the people that this blog — that my writing — has brought into my life, and I feel blessed to have these friends by my side.

Friendship is such a beautiful, precious thing. I am so grateful for it.

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Several weeks ago, for New Year’s Eve, a group of our friends gathered around our table to share a meal. Among other things, I served these braised beef short ribs. The meal was wonderful, but the company was even better.

Braised short ribs are best if they’re allowed to rest overnight after cooking. When preparing for the New Year’s Eve dinner, I started these ribs the day before. The aromas coming out of my oven as the ribs simmered gently in the heavy dutch oven for more than two hours were enchanting. It was hard not to dig in immediately, but I knew that I would be rewarded for my patience when I finally served them the following day.

A couple of hours before dinner was to be served, I brought the ribs back up to a simmer and finished them off, adding carrots toward the end of cooking. The meat was perfect – tender and moist, and the overnight rest allowed the savory flavors to richen and deepen. The beef threatened to fall off the bone when I reached in with tongs to serve it, and in many cases, it did.

Now, it’s hard for me to think of braised beef short ribs without thinking of my good friends gathered around the table to enjoy them. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Yield: 6 servings.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braised short ribs taste best the following day. I recommend braising these the day before you want to serve them. It's a breeze to warm them up in the oven. Creamy grits, polenta, or mashed potatoes make a great base for these hearty ribs.


2 tablespoons olive oil
6 pounds meaty beef short ribs
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon tomato paste
12 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence
2 cups red wine (such as Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec)
2-1/2 cups canned lower-sodium beef broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup (approx) water
24 baby carrots
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy large oven-proof pot (such as a Dutch oven) over medium high heat. Sprinkle ribs with Kosher salt and pepper. Working in batches, add ribs to pot, taking care not to overcrowd, and brown well, turning often, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer ribs to a large bowl with tongs.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of drippings (or add oil as necessary to measure 2 tablespoons). Add onion, chopped carrot, celery, and shallot, and cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add garlic, flour, and herbes de Provence; stir 1 minute. Add wine and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add tomatoes with juices and bay leaves. Return ribs and any accumulated juices to pot. If necessary, add 1/2 cup water (or more) to pot to barely cover ribs. Bring to a boil.

Cover pot tightly and transfer to oven. Bake until ribs are very tender, about 2 hours 15 minutes. (Note: If making ahead, stop at this point and refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to a simmer on the stove top or in a 300 degree oven before continuing.)

Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and baby carrots; press carrots gently to submerge. Cover, return to oven, and continue cooking at 350 degrees until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Transfer short ribs and carrots to platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Boil sauce to thicken slightly and season to taste with salt and pepper.