Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cherry Biscotti . . .

After the spicy, nutty, creamy, buttery, pumpkin-laden extravaganza that comprises the universe of Thanksgiving Day desserts I now find that I'm in the mood for something distinctly crunchy, slightly bittersweet, entirely absent of butter, and far from gooey.

These dark-chocolate cherry biscotti evoke all the best attributes of chocolate-covered cherries, absent the rich fat and cloying sweetness of that iconic candy. They're supremely dunkable if you're a coffee drinker, and they don't mind taking a dip in a glass of milk if you're not.

Surely I don't have to tell you that I briefly considered drizzling the biscotti with melted chocolate, (you know me) but the sense of restraint that invades a baker's psyche the week following Thanksgiving held sway. And it's a good thing it did. I figure, when you take the plunge and coat your biscotti with chocolate, you're committing to the creation of an altogether more indulgent cookie.

Today's treat provides a nice contrast to the extreme richness of last week's feast. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and we all love it, but once is enough. Thank heaven for that.

About this recipe . . . 

Adapted from pastry chef David Lebovitz's beautiful book, Ready for Dessert, I made a few minor adjustments to his biscotti formula.

I omitted the black pepper (yes, pepper), reduced the amount of solid chocolate by about half, omitted almond extract in favor of vanilla, and soaked my dried cherries in the lusciousness of Chambord, a yummy berry liqueur, versus his suggestion of kirsch/grappa/rum.

Really good biscotti, fellow bakers. I baked the pieces long enough so they'd be very hard and crunchy. Expect lots and lots of lovely little crumbs. And don't forget to dunk.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Biscotti

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Yield: Two loaves of biscotti, each loaf sliced into about 14 half-inch thick pieces

Spread parchment over two regular size baking sheets, or over one large sheet.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
(No electric mixer needed for this recipe.)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (You don't have to use Dutch, but I think it's the best for something like this; I used Penzeys brand.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (I used fine sea salt.)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate, chopped small (I used Guittard disks, 60+ percent cacao.) 
3/4 cup dried cherries, cut in half if they're large
2 tablespoons Chambord (or any similar fruity liqueur that you really like)

To brush/sprinkle on the dough before baking:
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sanding/coarse white sugar, or turbinado or Demarara sugar

In a small bowl, drizzle the Chambord over the cherries and let them sit for at least 30 minutes or so at room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, completely whisk together the three large eggs, the granulated sugar, and the vanilla extract.

Into that, gradually add the sifted ingredients. The dough will be very dry and thick. Dump the dried cherries, with all of their liquid, into the bowl. Stir that in. Add in the chocolate pieces and stir to combine as best you can. The dough will be extremely thick and pretty sticky.

Plop all of the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Lightly flour your hands.

Roll each dough-half into a long log, a few inches shorter than the length of your baking sheet(s);  the dough spreads out quite a bit in all directions when baking. Place each log onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Dampen your palms with cold water and pat the top of the loaves, gently pressing down so each log is slightly flattened.

Using a pastry brush, liberally coat each loaf with beaten egg; do this twice to each log. Sprinkle sanding/coarse sugar (or whatever kind you've chosen to use) atop the length of each loaf.

Bake the loaves for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven, reversing the pan(s) in the oven halfway through the baking time. Remove them from the oven; lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Leaving the loaves on the baking sheets, let them cool for up to 15 minutes.

Move the loaves, still on their parchment, to a cutting surface. Using a serrated knife (ideally, a very sharp bread knife), cut each loaf on the diagonal into slices that are about 1/2" thick (I think mine were actually a little thicker than that).

Lay all of the biscotti pieces, cut sides down, back onto parchment-covered baking sheets.

Continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping the pieces over halfway through, and reversing the direction of the baking sheet(s) in the oven. If you want the cookies to be really hard and crunchy, bake them for the maximum amount of time, and check to see that they're pretty firm before you take them out of the oven.

When they're done, let them cool completely on the baking sheets. Store them well covered. They'll be good for about a week. (And, of course, if you're dying to dip them in melted chocolate, well, follow your dream!)

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Potato Dumplings

Quote of the Day:  Dumplings are a memory food. Jane Aalgaard, my mom

We spent the whole Thanksgiving weekend at my parents' farm, preparing food, eating food, cleaning up the food, doing projects, and playing a few games. I made it a point to photograph the process and take some notes. My food focus today is Potato Dumplings, a favorite of folks of the Norwegian descent.

Picture me following my mom around with my camera and notebook, trying desperately to learn how to make the dumplings and record the stories that accompany them. The truth is, I don't know how to make them. Whenever I called Mom up to ask what to do, she would reply, "Oh, just come out here and have them. I was in the mood to make them, anyway." So, I did. The most I've ever done is grind the potatoes.

First, you peel the potatoes. For our Sunday dinner, "Dad stood in the utility room for three quarters of an hour, peeling," said Mom, which was approximately 10 pounds (probably more).

Then, you run them through the grinder.

Mom and Dad grinding the potatoes
Close up of the grinder. I have one just like it that I've never used.
I don't even know where it is!
Joy, dancing & grinding
Mom, preparing the dumpling mixture.
I tried to pay attention to Mom as she was mixing the dumplings. Here's her "recipe."
Start a big pot of water boiling with a hambone
Peel about 10 pounds of red potatoes
Grind the potatoes
Put in about 2 Tablespoons of salt (You need lots of salt.)
Mom puts in one cup of whole wheat flour and keeps adding white flour "until it's the right consistency."
"How much is that, Mom?" I asked.
"Enough flour to hold them together," answered Mom.
Also, if you have some leftover, cooled, mashed or boiled potatoes, it is good to add them to the freshly ground ones. They'll stick together better and be lighter. (As if a dumpling could ever be light.)
Be sure the broth is boiling hard the whole time that you're adding the dumplings. If the water stops boiling, the dumplings will fall apart and mush to the bottom.
Mom's hands forming the dumplings.
It looks pretty good to me.
I think Mom boiled them for about 45 minutes.
Serve them with ham, the juice from the boiled hambone, loads of butter, and maybe some vegetables. Some people put a piece of ham or fat in the center of the dumpling before boiling it, but Mom thinks that it makes them fall apart easier.
She said that the biggest crew she ever served potato dumplings was one New Year's Eve, back in the '70's when she invited Dad's siblings and cousins in the area and their families. Plus, all of her six kids were still at home. She couldn't remember the exact number. She served 15 of us on Sunday, more than were there on Thanksgiving. I said, "You probably couldn't even mention that you were making dumplings when you were at church today because everyone would want to come over." In fact, a couple people must have smelled the evidence because they were complaining that they hadn't had potato dumplings in a long time. We did invite Mable, our closest neighbor, but she's like family.
When they do a dumpling dinner for a church fundraiser, they peel about 300 pounds of potatoes. Mom's not sure how many they serve. It varies, I suppose, and they "give some away, throw some in the woods and scrape the rest off the bottom of the kettles." Sometimes, they stick so badly, they have to soak the kettle for a week. One year, someone had the bright idea that if they put a plate inside on the bottom of the kettle the dumplings wouldn't stick. "Sure, they didn't stick," said my Mom, "But, you couldn't get the plate out of there."  The pastor spent the whole afternoon trying to pry the thing off the bottom of the kettle.
Dumplings are the poor immigrant's food, like lefse and lutefisk. I'll have to take photos and notes at Christmas for the lutefisk post. The wonderful thing about food is that it is a memory trigger. It links us back to the old country, wherever that may be. It brings up cozy times of growing up and eating together. Many times, it is a special occasion that you're sharing with folks you love.
May your tastebuds bring joyful memories, while creating new ones.

Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt:  Write about a food tradition.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day!  This has become one of my favorite events each month.  This month I was lucky to be assigned Healthy. Delicious. as my blog to choose a recipe from.  Lauren loves to cook and has a blog full of tasty AND healthy food.  I had a lot of trouble choosing a recipe because Lauren's blog is full of amazing food, and since she has been blogging since March of 2007 there were many tasty recipes to choose from!  Finally, I narrowed my choices down to three: Pear and Raspberry Brie Puffs, Brussel Sprout Salad with Maple Vinaigrette, and Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese.  I settled on the Mac and Cheese because homemade mac and cheese is one of my all time favorite dishes, and jalapeno poppers are a favorite appetizer of mine.  Both have cheese, and in my book cheese bumps a recipe to the top of the rankings.

Secret Recipe Club

Let's get to business about this recipe.  I love that Lauren took a favorite unhealthy recipe of mine and lightened it up.  This mac and cheese is made with reduced fat cheeses and vegetable stock.  The addition of cream cheese helps create the jalapeno popper flavor, while also keeping the final product creamy--which is how mac and cheese should be!  There is a smokey flavor from the bacon, crunchy breadcrumb topping, and, the best part, diced jalapenos dotted throughout the entire dish.  Is a party in your mouth!
To make this dish kid friendly, I chopped the jalapenos very small and also reduced the overall amount to three peppers instead of eight.  If it were just the hubby and me, I could have left it as the original recipe stated.  I also increased the cream cheese to six ounces. This was an accident because I didn't pay attention, though it was a good accident.  The extra cheese only helped the dish have a creamy texture and gave it more flavor.

Overall, this is one of my favorite Secret Recipe Club recipes that I have posted. It was delicious and a HUGE hit for the entire family.  ENJOY!

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese
Recipe Source: Modified slightly from Healthy. Delicious. 

4 ounces dry small, ridged pasta (I used Shells)
1 slice bacon, diced (optional)
1/4 cup diced Red Onion
1 clove Garlic, minced
3 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and sliced (the original recipe called for 8)
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 cup Vegetable Stock
4 ounces Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
4 ounces Reduced Fat Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded
6 ounces 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese, cut into cubes (the original recipe called for 4)
1/4 cup Bread Crumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the package until al dente.  Don’t overcook the pasta!

While the pasta is cooking brown the bacon, in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Allow to get crispy then remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Leave the grease in the pot.

To the warm bacon grease, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened — about 3 minutes.
If you choose not use bacon simply soften the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the jalapenos and cook until soft. Stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, and then add the vegetable stock. Cook for about five minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.

Slowly stir in the Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses, adding a little at a time and letting it melt completely before adding more. Don’t add the cheese too quickly or the sauce will become grainy.  Stir in the cream cheese. Mix in the crumbled bacon, if using.

Combine the cooked pasta and cheese in a shallow baking dish or individual ramekins. (At this point no one will know if you sample a few bites!)  Sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs over the top. Broil 3-5 minutes, or until bread crumb topping is crispy and golden brown.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake

Every year, after the massive amounts of food at Thanksgiving dinner, we head over to my sister-in-law's house for dessert.  It has become a tradition for all of the extended family, and everyone enjoys the time together.  I try to make a new dish each year to share.  Last year it was this Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake that took two days to make, but was insanely good and worth every second of effort.  This year I needed something easy and quick to make, but with the same decadence as last year's contribution. 

After a short visit to my Pinterest page, I found a chocolate cake that I had pinned a while back.  It looked rich and moist, but best of all the recipe was easy.  Perfect to bake the morning of Thanksgiving. Now, I'm not a huge fan of mixes, but when a cake looks this good I am willing to make compromises.  I am so glad that I did.  The recipe called for two cups of sour cream which contributed to the tenderness of the final result, and I substituted coffee for the water.  The pudding added a richness that I have never achieved before with a chocolate cake recipe.  The final result was a cake that was uber moist and full of rich, chocolate flavor.  I loved that it didn't require a thick layer of frosting and it was even better the next day once all of the flavors had melded together.  I opted to include  the fudge sauce and more chocolate chips; however, they are not necessary at all.  ENJOY!

Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake
Recipe Source: modified slightly from Let's Dish 

1 (18.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 (3.4 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups sour cream
3 eggs
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup strong coffee (or water if you prefer)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Grease and flour a 10-inch fluted or bundt pan very well. Mix all ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in stand mixer or with a handheld mixer until well blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter (it will be thick) into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  If desired, top with fudge sauce and more chocolate chips (I did and it was wonderful!)

Fudge Sauce

1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, combine corn syrup and chocolate chips over medium-low heat. Stir occassionally until smooth, 4-5 minutes. Whisk in heavy cream until smooth and well blended. Serve warm, or cool to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container. Store any unused sauce in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

Quote of the Day:  We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment, but it is transient. It is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring, lightheartedness, and love, we will create abundance and joy for each other. And then this moment will have been worthwhile. - Deepak Chopra

Some moments are so big and beautiful and filled with emotion that I find myself pausing and thinking, take a picture of this with your mind. Savor this moment and remember where you are, who is with you, what you're doing, and how you feel. These are the moments that fill the deep longing for love and being connected and give meaning to life. I have paused in the frenzy of raising four boys and just looked at them, listened to how they interact, and admired the bond they share. One Mother's Day, we walked to the park. They broke into a spontaneous game of baseball, minus the bat, ball, and gloves. They pantomimed the whole thing. I sat on the bench and admired their imagination, and energy.

Last week at the Guthrie, I sat in the middle of the seven of us who attend A Christmas Carol together. Three of my boys were on my left. The Biker Chef, my sister and cousin were on my right. Everyone seemed so happy to be there, and I reveled in the magic of it all and the feeling of being surrounded by people I love, and who love me, too.

We did some things that are part of our new tradition, like walk out onto the Endless Bridge and take pictures, ride the elevator to the 9th floor to look out over the city at night. We ate together and shared memories and made new ones.

I am thankful for all the blessings I've received this year. What a full and beautiful life I have, filled with new-found adventures.

May you find joy and love with family and friends around a table filled with all your favorite dishes.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Write about a moment that is like a picture, or video, in your mind.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Caramel Pear Upside Down Cake

You know those recipes that are similar to another recipe that you love?  This recipe is one of those recipes.  It is like a pineapple upside down cake, which is one of my all time favorite cakes,  in flavor and technique, but instead of pineapple the fruit layer is fresh fall pears.  YUM!

The original recipe calls for canned pears, but during this time of year in my area we have an abundance of fresh pears.  I went with the fresh pears because of price and flavor.  I was not disappointed.  This cake has rich, gooey, caramelly, flavors from the brown sugar and butter combined with  sweet pears and a moist yellow cake.  The whole thing just screams Fall, well you have to listen carefully to hear the screaming, but I promise it does.  ENJOY!

Caramel Pear Upside Down Cake
 Recipe Source: Modified slightly from Moonspice 
½ cup Dark Brown Sugar
¼ cup Unsalted Butter
2-3 Ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
A pinch of Salt
1 cup Granulated sugar
3 Medium size Eggs
½ cup Plain Yogurt or sour cream
¼ tsp Vanilla Extract
½ cup vegetable oil

Pre-heat the oven 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch cake pan, then line with a round piece of parchment paper. 

In a small pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat.  While the butter and sugar are melting, slice the pears and arrange them in the prepared pan.  When the butter and sugar are melted, carefully pour it over the top of the pears.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, yogurt, vanilla  and oil.  When the wet ingredients are well combined, gently mix it into the dry ingredients.  Don't over mix!

Pour the batter over the top of the pear topping.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Allow to cool in the pan completely.  When cool, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it over to release it from the pan.  If for some reason a pear sticks to your pan, just gently remove and place it back where it is supposed to be.  No one will know the difference.  

Top the whole thing with fresh whipped cream!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie

Quote of the Day: We are travelers together on the road to the grave. We are not on separate journeys. Fred to his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge, trying to convince him to stop being so selfish and miserly and look at other people as equals.

J.C. Cutler (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the Guthrie Theater's production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala with set design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre and lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 13 - December 29, 2012, on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photos by Michael Brosilow

The holidays are a time for traditions. We eat special food, watch favorite movies, decorate, and exchange gifts. We also attend events, church services, performances and make an effort to spend time with people we love. A Christmas Carol has been a tradition at The Guthrie Theater for 38 years. I wonder if anyone out there has attended a performance every year? Are there people who work for the Guthrie who have been part of every production? I know that some of the actors have been in several productions. This year, J.C. Cutler is again playing Ebenezer Scrooge. I think he's fantastic. He shows us the mean, miserly Scrooge at the beginning who wants to isolate himself and pushes everyone away. He narrates his life for the ghosts, and audience, as they take him through his past, present and future until we see the transformed Scrooge filled with gratitude for life, generosity of spirit, and a need to share his abundance and feel alive.

At the stroke of one, you will be visited by three ghosts.
It doesn't take long for something to become a tradition. You can start one this year, try it out, if it feels right, do it again next year, and boom, you have a new tradition. This is our second year attending A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie, and I love our new tradation. Last year, I attended it with my four boys. This year, I brought three of the boys (oldest is away at college), my sister Joy, my cousin Angie, and the Biker Chef. We all had a blast. While we were eating at the Level 5 cafe at the Guthrie, Joy asked, "What's your favorite thing about the holidays?" We got some great answers, the food, the decorations, being with family, the gifts, watching other people open gifts that you gave them. And, now, for me, one of my favorites is attending traditional holiday shows with family and friends. One of my boys just said, "I want to see that play again." Yay. We have a new tradition.

Joy said she enjoyed this newer version of A Christmas Carol by playwright Crispin Whittell. It brings out elements of the story that she hadn't seen before and offers some surprises. Last year, was the first time I'd seen the production at the Guthrie and I was mesmerized by all the theatrics. The production team pulls out all the stops for this show using trap doors, zip lines, special effects and dramatic music. Of course, the costumes and set are stunning.

This year, I focused more on the story. Scrooge is a wounded little boy. He felt abandoned and abused as a child and had no fond memories of Christmas, or any other day. The holidays became a time where he was reminded just how alone he is in this world. He represents all the people who dread the holidays, people who are grieving or experiencing any kind of loss. It becomes a day that they just have to get through. It is not a day of love and cheer and happy family togetherness. Like Scrooge, though, we can turn that thinking around. By examining our past, present and future, we can focus on what is good and what can be better if we chose to make it so. Scrooge gets the chance to walk that journey with three spiritual guides who don't hold back on the realism, showing him this is where you've come from, where you are now, and where you're heading unless you change your selfish ways. You can live in the misery of your past, or you can turn it around, make new traditions and embrace life, yours and the others who are on the the journey to the grave with you.

Scrooge, in his new-found generosity, provides the Christmas feast.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas!
The girls and I agreed that the best costume was on Mrs. Fezziwig, played with delightful energy by Suzanne Warmanen. The Fezziwig scenes are the most colorful and cheerful, but the boys noted that as the years passed, the celebration became more subdued as Scrooge became more obsessed with his business.

A Christmas Carol is being played at the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater through December 29, 2012.

Go. Create. Inspire!
And, start a new tradition.

Journaling Prompt:  Describe a family tradition that you've carried over from childhood, or started yourself.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Connecting to the Community through Art

Quote of the Day:  If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would have thus been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature. 
- Charles Darwin

This quote is used as an introduction to my favorite book, The Music Lover's Poetry Anthology. I marked my favorites with mini-post-its, and it is a colorful display of papers! I love so many of these poems. Poetry, music, art, attending plays and live performances, creating art collaboratively all help us connect to one another. It builds community and keeps us from feeling isolated.

My younger sister, Joy, is staying with me for a couple months, and she immediately started making connections. She's offering a six-week voice lesson session, and several people have already scheduled lessons with her. She makes the cutest fairy houses out of pottery and wanted to continue with that creative outlet, so she contacted Kevin Matthews at Glaze to Amaze.

Kevin Matthews and Joy
Kevin welcomed Joy right in. She showed him one of her houses, and he gave her a couple tips on making the lids (roofs) fit a little better. They're exchanging work space and materials for help in the store.  Joy jumped right in and helped with Ladies' Night last night, Thursdays from 3:00 - 8:00.
When I came back to the store, after teaching a couple piano lessons and getting my boys ready for a band concert, I saw Joy sitting next to one of my former piano students, Holly!
The Brainerd Lakes Area Women of Today chose Glaze to Amaze as their outing for the week. Look how much fun they're having, creating, and connecting!
Thanks, Kevin, for being so accommodating and welcoming my sister into the community of artists.

Glaze to Amaze is located in downtown Brainerd on Laurel Street. Kevin will be offering great specials during both Black Friday, next week, and Small Business Saturday. Shop local, support artists in your area, and help build up your community.

After the pottery fun, we were off to the 9th grade band concert. Did you ever mention how much I love band concerts? Yep. Love'em. They never last long enough for me. The band teachers in this area deserve a standing ovation!!!

Students entering for the concert. Not the greatest photo, I know.
You can see my boy's blonde halo in the trumpet section.
Today, we're off to The Guthrie Theater to view and review A Christmas Carol. I'm bringing lots of family for this wonderful show.
If you're interested in taking a few voice lessons while Joy is here, contact her at Read her post on A Successful Day where she describes how voice lessons can boost your confidence as a singer and in life.
Read my most recent Her Voice article here  starting on p. 36,on having my first-born leave the nest.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt:  Write about a time when you felt more connected to your community through the arts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Braised short Ribs with Gorgonzola Potato Pure' (Costatine di manzo Brasate con pure' di patate al Gorgonzola)

I  can still smell this dish in my house this morning.  Let me just say from the very beginning of this presentation, that some things just need to go together on a plate.  In this case, it's mashed potato's and Short ribs. 
This dish cooks in an entire bottle of red wine and an equal amount of broth.  Two tablespoons of Red Wine vinegar is added for stabilization and balance during the cooking process.   Make your broth ahead and just heat it up before you add it to the dish.  The other thing I like about this preparation, is that most of the time, it cooks covered , in the oven.  In the time it takes to have a cocktail, set the table and straighten the kitchen a bit, your dish is ready.   
 The rich sauce could only be complimented by the addition of what the Italians call Pure', or mashed potato's.  I had a small piece of Mountain Gorgonzola from Italy,  that when added to the pure',  created a delicate richness, to an otherwise boring mashed potato.  
It was just what we needed on a chilly night.
Ingredients: Beef Broth
2 large beef Oxtail or 2 pounds of beef for Broth (Chuck steak or English Roast)
You can place your meat under the broiler for 10 minutes, remove it from the pan and then add it to your boiling water.  This will create a darker stock and wonderful additional rich flavor to any dish. 
Handful of carrots (Baby or large)
3 stalks of celery
handful of parsley
1/2 red onion
10 cups of water
Bring to a boil, several hours ahead and simmer. Let sit until you a ready to use.  (If you make ahead a few days, please keep refrigerated.  Can also be frozen).  Heat before using.
Cook for approximately 2-3 hours.
Braised Beef Ribs Recipe
2 bottles of good quality Red wine.  One of the recipe, one to serve.
5 quart dutch oven with lid
About 25 ounces of good beef Broth (Home Made if you can).
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F ( you may use your stove top, but if you have convection, will cut your cooking time).
You will need: 
4 pounds of beef ribs
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 red onion
3 tablespoon of olive oil plus 2 additional for your vegetable soffritto
3 teaspoons of salt plus one additional for your vegetable soffritto
4 of pepper
One tablespoon of butter (optional, if you sauce needs thickening after coming out of the oven)
Method: place your vegetables into the food processor and dice fine. Be careful not to chop to finely.  Set aside.  
Place your oil in your Dutch oven and heat.  Brown your meat.  This should take about 5-8 minutes. Add your salt and pepper.  Do not be afraid to use salt.  If you wait to add salt, you will end up using more,  since salting after cooking is very tricky, as the salt will not absorb.   Remove from the pan and set aside.  Drain your fat and dry your Dutch oven with some paper towels.  Add 2 fresh tablespoons of olive oil and add your diced vegetables to the pan.  Add one teaspoon of salt and cook until soft and fragrant.   Add your meat back to the pan and mix for another 10 minutes on medium heat.  Add your  bottle wine, then your broth. (About 25 ounces of broth).  Your meat should be completely covered.  Add two tablespoons of Red wine vinegar and give it a mix.  Bring to a boil and cover your pan. 
I added some baby carrots from the Broth (Optional)
Turn your heat off (On your cooktop), and place in the oven for 1 hour covered (Convection).  Remove the cover from your pan, cook for 15 minutes more.  (You may add your optional tablespoon of butter, here.  This will help the sauce thicken).  If you are using a regular oven, Cook for One hour 15 minutes then remove your cover for 30 minutes.  Regular ovens require longer cooking times.  Be sure and check your oven from time to time that your liquid is still simmering away. 
Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving. 
Pure' di Patate con Gorgonzola
6 med large russet potato's, wrapped, baked.  Interiors removed and place in a hot deep pan.
2 cups of milk
4 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of salt.
1/3 cups diced parsley
1/3 cup diced Gorgonzola (more if you like)
1 teaspoon of pepper
Heat your milk to warm and set aside.
Add your butter (a Tablespoon at a time), and mash your potato's in a your pan.  Get your electric hand mixer and begin to mix adding alternate butter to milk until your Puree is soft and creamy.  You will probably not use all your milk.   Taste and correct for salt.  Add your parsley and cheese and mix.   Serve immediately.  Should take about 5 minutes to prepare  in the way and so worth it.  Buon Appetito!
Not easy to photograph
Don't forget the Crusty Bread!
Buon Appetito!