When Four Seasons Restaurant opened in 1959, legendary restaurateur Joe Baum ushered in the idea of seasonally changing menus well ahead of his time. His concept did not catch on until more than twenty years later, when Chef Alfred Portale was among the first to make cooking seasonally a central theme of the Gotham menu.
Making seasonal changes to cooking reflects the wider culinary inclination that has contributed to various other monikers, such as “Californian cuisine,” “New American cuisine,” and “locavore” cooking. Ultimately what these trends symbolize is a shift in thinking about how and what we eat, a trend toward quality ingredients, a focus on cooking simply and with variety. This evolution in American restaurant dining has taken hold now across the country, which has led to a demand for better quality ingredients and subsequently a greater interest in small, local farms, making seasonal cooking accessible to homes and restaurants.
“I was first introduced to cooking with seasonal ingredients in 1979 while working in San Francisco at Le Tournesol. For me it has always been an organizational tool for developing the Gotham menus, I even developed a grid of seasonal produce that I would reference. While we can get nearly any vegetable we want at any time of the year, seasonal cooking creates a meaningful reason for change, and helps to ensure quality. The produce we get from the greenmarket is at peak flavor.” —Alfred Portale
When it comes to proteins, meats, and fish, Chef Portale will often adapt the cooking techniques to reflect that season. One particularly adaptable year-round protein that all professional and home chefs should have in their repertoire is the short rib. Best known for its melt-in-your-mouth braising potential, this “off cut” of meat is a crowd-pleaser. Barely cooked or deeply braised, it is affordable and lends itself particularly well to diverse seasonal cooking techniques, as well as accompaniments.
Short Rib Year-Round
Spring: Roast slow-roasted with a lighter broth and featuring those first offerings of spring, like fava beans, asparagus, and spring onions. a great easter alternative.
Summer: The Grill Quickly grill it with a dry rub served with summer corn and peppers.
Fall: Roasted In the fall, roasted short ribs will find their way into a pasta, with butternut squash.
Winter Braised Classic, rich braised short rib with root vegetables
ROAST SHORT RIB SOUP
4 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 6 pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 quarts chicken stock
Bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 5 parsley sprigs, and 2 thyme sprigs tied with kitchen string inside green top from the leek below)
1/2 cup leeks cut into rings (white part only) (about 2 medium leeks)
9 Thumbelina or baby carrots
9 Tokyo turnips (baby turnips)
6 jumbo green asparagus, peeled
6 spring onions, tops trimmed
3/4 cup Fava beans
Cracked black pepper
Fleur de sel
Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and discard the solids. You should have approximately 4 1/2 cups of liquid. Spoon off any fat that rises to the surface. Return the liquid to the pot, set the pot over medium-high heat, and cook until the liquid is reduced by 1/4 to concentrate the flavors. While broth is reducing, bring to a boil a large pot of salted water, add leeks, and then cook until tender. With a slotted spoon, remove leeks and place in an ice bath. Repeat with asparagus, fava beans, thumbelina carrots, turnips, and finally spring onions. Drain vegetables and halve the spring onions, carrots, and turnips. Peel Fava beans and slice asparagus into 1-inch pieces. When broth has reduced, add vegetables. Return the meat to the pot and season the soup with salt and pepper. the soup can be made to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently over low heat before proceeding. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and season with some cracked black pepper or a few grinds of black pepper from the mill. Pass fleur de sel alongside in a small bowl, if desired.