red wine-braised short ribs

Monday, April 30, 2012

Traditionally, audition-wise, April and May are as slow as molasses in January. Pilot season is finished, most TV shows are taking a hiatus. There might be a random independent movie or commercial casting but overall? Slow. I usually spend the first three weeks of April feeling itchy and incomplete. But it never fails, just as I settle into the slowness and upend my office files or bathroom drawers or coat closet for a super thorough organizational session, I get a 16-page audition for one of the few random things that's actually shooting during the Slowest Time of Year. And not just 16 pages, 16 pages for tomorrow. I spent a couple days this week jumping through hoops for one of these 16-pagers: a comedic TV-guest-star role. There was an initial audition, notes, late night calls about script revisions, more notes, and an early morning callback (BTW, what could possibly be funny before 10am?). 

A few things one must know about auditions to fully appreciate this story:

Every audition is different but for the most part, you go into a room that has a single chair (some particularly evil auditioners forgo this courtesy entirely and force you to stand. I might choose to stand anyway but can I at least have a choice?) There's a couch opposite you where the producers judge sit, and casting directors and assistants are peppered around, one manning the camera and one reading the scene with you. (Let's hope they've read it at least once and have a basic understanding of the English language. Oddly, this doesn't always seem to be top priority.)

Auditions pose dilemmas. Since you only have the chair and a small area around it, your movement is limited. You're almost always being filmed so that poses yet more restrictions on how and where you can maneuver. (Not to mention the reminder that your audition lives forever. No pressure!) If it's a restaurant scene, you're golden. Sit in your chair (if you're lucky enough to get one) and look across at your reader (if she's considerate enough to make eye contact) and have at it. But certain activities can be more awkward to navigate: crawling into bed, karate kicking an assailant, being chased, talking with a mouthful of (imaginary) food, making a phone call--and these things have to be considered and worked out. Events that involve physical interactions with others in the scene prove even trickier--getting slapped, say, or having sex. Or having to pick up a small child. Remember--you're in there alone. With a single chair. You need to figure out how to convey these things without miming because miming is not an option. If you mime in an audition you might as well have a giant, flashing neon arrow pointing at you that says, "HEY THERE! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING EXCEPT MAKING YOU UNCOMFORTABLE!"

How does one work it out? Leaning forward a bit with closed eyes and a smile stands in for a kiss.
Sliding down in the chair turns it into a bed. Most of these scenarios can be conveyed by just imagining what's happening but sometimes you need to do a little bit more. Years ago I had to audition a scene wherein my character was mugged, robbed at knifepoint and then stabbed. It specified in the script that she slid down the wall to her death. The chair wasn't gonna cut it. A quick scan when I entered the audition room revealed there was no free wall space behind me where I planned to get mugged. I wound up shoving myself against a knotty pine armoire (I said it was years ago), imagined getting knifed in the gut and slid down to the carpet. I had a nasty bruise on my back from the wardrobe's moulding but I got the job.

Back to this week and the 16-pager. In the millions of years that I've been auditioning, this particular occasion (scene) required an unprecedented feat: the under-the-table hand job. This would've been fairly easy if there were a table. But there wasn't. So what ensued was a lean-down-and-grab-my-own-shin-manuever. I was careful, though, to not fondle my shin as that could potentially fall into the miming category. Perhaps I should've made an exception this time. Perhaps fondling would've gotten me the job.

Oy. Do you see why this business is Crazypants?

After all that hoopla last week, it's back to slow late-April again. In honor of said slowness, I bring you slow-cooked short ribs:) These are wicked delicious. Make them before it gets too hot out. They'd be  perfect for one of the last chilly nights of Spring.

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
serves 4
adapted from Bon Appetit

3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
kosher salt and ground pepper
3 T coconut (or vegetable) oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 T all-purpose flour
4 t tomato paste (have you seen that Trader Joe's has it in a tube? Very cool.)
1 bottle of dry red wine (minus 1/2 glass for the chef. You're welcome.)
10 sprigs Italian parsley
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves (dry or fresh)
1 head of garlic that's been halved crosswise (it's okay to leave all the skins on there)
4 cups beef stock

Preheat oven to 350. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2T oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the meat (in batches if necessary) on all sides until golden brown and transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining oil (if necessary) along with the onions, carrots and celery. Saute 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and the onions translucent and beginning to brown. Add the flour and tomato paste and stir constantly (or it'll burn) until well combined, 2 minutes. Stir in wine and add the short ribs with their juices. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer (uncovered) until wine is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add all the herbs (no need to chop) and garlic to the pot. Stir in beef stock. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook, covered, for 3 hours, stirring every 45-60 minutes. Transfer the short ribs to a platter and cover with foil. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer or chinoise, pressing down on the solids to extract more liquid. Discard solids. If necessary, skim any fat off the top of the strained sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve the short ribs with mashed potatoes, spooning the sauce over the top. Dab a little behind your ears if you're feeling frisky. You'll want to.


P.S. Jason Mraz has a new album that is been running on a loop over here. DP is over it but I've only just begun. It's so good! I highly recommend it.

P.P.S. Joeycake now has a fancy email subscription option! Up at the top of your page there's a link if you'd like Joeycake to appear in your inbox:)


  1. You are hilarious. I am imagining you sliding down an armoire, writhing in pain. hahahahahha

    And the shin thing? Genius. I can't believe you didn't get the job! :)


  2. Linda in WaterlooMay 1, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    I just hopped the fence from Posie and found Lena's Blueberry Mystery episode (She didn't necessarily do it. There could be other explanations.) and laughed an awful lot over that. I have dogs and one is suspected of eating a whole cello wrapped poppy seed strudel. The week of pooping poppy seeds and cellophane did seem to implicate him.

    1. Linda, that's the best story ever! Too bad my Blueberry Crostata didn't include poppy seeds so I'da had proof. Thanks for visiting Joeycake:)


CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan