Comfort Cooking: This Would be My Last Meal

I’ve been asked so many times “what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?” and I always rack my brain, sifting through the thousands of amazing meals I’ve eaten, but am never able to pick THE one. Coming back to Lebanon this year, and eating quite possibly the most amazing home cooked meals that anyone could have, reminded me that no restaurant or celebrity chef in the world could ever match up.

A large lunch at home with the family is a part of my grandparents’ daily routine, and there are never less than 3 or 4 dishes on the table, each crafted with the finest culinary skills by my self-taught grandma who has been cooking for over 60 years. Not only does she still cook multiple courses every single day, but she continues to make the best homemade pickles, jam, and other delicacies whose quality could never be matched by store bought products.

Every time I go to Lebanon, my grandma knows there’s one particular dish that I absolutely love, and she goes out of her way to make sure she has the necessary ingredients ready to make it. I crave it. I dream about it. And then I talk about it and can’t wait until the next time I can eat it. If I could pick my last meal, this, my friends, is what it would be. It includes 3 of my favorite things: Pasta. Meat. Marrow.

Spaghetti with goat meat in a tomato based sauce. The spaghetti is perfectly al dente. The meat couldn’t be more tender and falls right off the bone. While it sounds like a relatively simple dish, I know that hours of preparation went into it, allowing for the flavors to develop perfectly, making each bite taste like heaven.

The bones are left in the dish and have absorbed all of the goodness from the sauce. This is definitely my favorite part of the meal – hitting the bone against a small piece of pita bread until all the creamy, extremely rich marrow comes out. Seriously orgasmic.

As if this wasn’t enough, at this particular lunch, my grandma had also made one of my all time favorite side dishes – Sambousek – pastry dough that’s been stuffed with spiced ground beef and pine nuts, and then lightly fried until crispy. I could eat these all day. Every day.

And then to top it all off, dessert includes fried plaintains topped with sugar. These aren’t just any plaintains. They’ve been flown in from Nigeria and then sliced thinly and perfectly fried until the outside has a very slight crunch, giving way to a soft – but not at all mushy – center. They just don’t taste the same anywhere else.

….A month later….

I  already desperately craved the pasta. And I had a few weekend hours on my hands. Luckily, I had sat down with my grandma and she gave me the family recipe, step by step. Since it’s pretty difficult to get goat meat here in the US, I substituted with beef short ribs. I have to say, for my first attempt, it was deeeeelicious. The fat from the meat combined with the slow cooking made the sauce super rich and hearty.

I can’t divulge this recipe quite yet, but I will give away a little trick I learned that can be applied to other saucy pasta recipes — only partially cook the pasta in boiling water and then let it simmer in the sauce the rest of the way – instead of just having the sauce coat the pasta, this allows the noodles to actually absorb the flavors from the sauce while it’s cooking – trust me, it makes the biggest difference!

One Response to “Comfort Cooking: This Would be My Last Meal”

  1. Eric F Says:

    Mmmmm…it’s before 9 AM and I’m craving this one already! What a great story…photos…and surprising use of the word “orgasmic” in proximity to “grandma.” Gotta say. Let’s try a new restaurant soon!

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