Braised Short Ribs and Goat Cheese Mash

Back in the Game with Red Wine Braised Short Ribs & Goat Cheese Mash

Welcome, old (and new) friends! I’m sure some of you remember my old blog “A Touch of Garlic.” At the end of last summer, I dropped off the face of the Earth between balancing a new job and consulting part-time for my old one, and moving. Then at the end of December when I could actually breathe again – bye, bye old job for good – and I decided 2012 would be my year, I wanted to give this blogging thing another shot since many of my friends said they missed it, or at least missed the easy access to my recipes! But it just didn’t feel right writing on the old blog – so much has changed in my life in the two years since I started it. So, I bombed the old and it’s taken me this long to get my act together. What can I say, I’ve been busy?

I went from 100+ posts down to a mere 30-some in the transfer. I wanted a fresh start so I only brought over my favorite or most popular recipes. Unfortunately, all of your comments did not make it over, so if there’s an old recipe you go back to and have a question, feel free to ask again. Some of the posts still have their photos, some do not. My photography is just horrible, so bare with it and when I make the recipe again (since I’m sure to in the next year), I’ll post hopefully a newer and better one to fill in the gaps. As for the other content – life updates, trips (or more importantly, the food I eat on trips), link roundups, decorating ideas, cooking tips – all of that will make a reappearance over time. But you can always get some of that by following me on Pinterest, too.

Now onto what I do know how to do, unlike photography: cooking. I found this on Pinterest a while back and it made me LOL.

Drinking a lot of wine alone is not lonely, it is romantic. Damn, self, you got nice eyes.

I do an inordinate amount of my wine drinking by myself. In my kitchen. In my sweatpants. In my bed. In my bathtub, or hey, even the shower (I’ve mastered that, too). I can also easily polish off a bottle of champagne or Asti for dessert. There’s something to be said about a relaxing night of me time and a bottle of wine. Last weekend I had one such night and decided to make red wine braised short ribs, too, before a phone date with my best lady friend who lives in the far away land of Albany. What a nice romantic dinner. I even got fancy and used a cloth napkin on the sofa!

So I’m in my 20s, unmarried and somehow own a Dutch oven. Don’t ask, I know this isn’t the norm. I cooked my red wine braised short ribs in the Dutch oven – a one pot shop – which did make the cooking and clean up easier, but this could easily be transferred from a large, deep pan to a crockpot or slow cooker if you don’t have one.

Braised Short Ribs and Goat Cheese Mash

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs & Goat Cheese Mash

Adapted from Bon Appétit

5 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1- 1lb. bag baby carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 cups low-salt beef stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven, or transfer to your slow cooker if you’re using one instead of a Dutch oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard. Serve over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Goat Cheese Mash

2-1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and chunked
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
4 ounces soft goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes.

Drain potatoes and place back into pot. Allow them to sit over the heat for a minute or two, adding milk, butter, and goat cheese to allow them to slightly melt. Mix on slow speed with a with a hand mixer until mashed and combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

There’s a book called “Like Water for Chocolate.” The main character, Tita, communicates her love and emotions through the food she cooks, flavoring each dish based on her feelings–hopes, expectations and desires. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized I am, in this sense, Tita.

I’ll be honest with you all. I was supposed to have a date Saturday evening. This was the first time in a very long time I was genuinely excited about a date. Cooking for someone I have found is something I guard as very private. It is my greatest passion and I don’t want to share it with just anyone. I invested a lot of thought into what I was going to cook for my date. I knew we both had a love of Italian food, and wanted to pour all my effort into creating not only a casual and romantic meal, but a new dish that wasn’t defined by any recipe I’ve ever read.

The menu: roasted artichoke salad with arugula, fresh mozzarella and olive oil; gnocchi with brasato al barolo ragu sauce; and limoncello panna cotta with blueberries. Let’s not forget a very expensive bottle of wine to top it off.

Much to my disappointment the date was canceled… at the 11th hour. Approximately 20 hours into cooking. The best thing that came out of this was that while I had already made the tomato base of the ragu sauce, I hadn’t cut the brasato al barolo yet. I feel bad for that poor piece of beef sitting on the cutting board with my santoku knife now…

I’m very fortunate to have a great group of girl friends who canceled their own plans for the evening to come and eat my dinner by candlelight, drink wine and go out to the bar.

I will admit, I truly think this is the best dinner I have ever cooked. I felt pressured my cooking wasn’t going to live up to my guest’s expectations. I certainly had nothing to worry about. I don’t know when I’ll ever cook this again. Recipes can become both good and bad memories, just like a photograph. So enjoy this one for me and only share it with someone special (it does take two days to make after all!). In the meantime, I think my future dates are going to have to settle for Ellio’s Pizza slices out of the box (yes, the pizza you’re served in the school cafeteria) until I’m ready to share.

Note: Today’s recipe is Gnocchi with Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce. I will post the Limoncello Panna Cotta with Blueberries recipe on Tuesday, and the Roasted Artichoke Salad on Wednesday.

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2-12 oz. cans tomato paste + 2 cans water per can of paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Chopped basil

Brasato al Barolo

2-2 1/2 lb. boneless eye-of-round beef roast or other lean cut
2 cups Barolo wine
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 slices prosciutto, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, chopped with their juices

1 package gnocchi
Basil for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese

The tomato sauce for this recipe comes from my Big Nona’s (great-grandmother’s) kitchen. My mom would say it tastes best if you prepare the tomato sauce at least one day in advance, cool completely and refrigerate before serving.

In a large pot, coat the entire bottom with EVOO. Add the minced garlic, sliced onion and crushed red pepper. Cook on medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes until onions are completely softened.

Next, add the can of crushed tomatoes, stirring frequently scraping the bottom of the pot to keep the tomatoes from sticking. Cook for approximately 15 minutes until flavors can combine.

Add tomato paste and two cans of water per can of tomato paste to the tomato base. Add salt, pepper, sugar and basil. Stir and cook until contents reach a near boil. Lower temperature to low heat and cover with a tilted lid, allowing steam to escape. This will help thicken the sauce. Simmer stirring frequently to keep from burning for 90 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate.

Place the beef roast in a large glass bowl. Add wine, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt. Cover and refrigerate allowing to marinate for a minimum of 6-7 hours.

Remove beef roast from marinade and dry completely, reserving marinade. Heat EVOO and butter in a large skillet on medium heat and add prosciutto. Once prosciutto has started to sizzle, place the beef roast in the pan. Brown and sear on each side for approximately 3 minutes.

Remove beef roast from the pan and place in a crockpot or slow cooker. Pour reserved marinade into the slow cooker, plus chopped plum tomatoes and their juices, and cook for several hours until beef begins to “pull away.” Note: This took approximately 5-6 hours in my slow cooker.

Begin to reheat the tomato sauce on medium heat. Once beef roast is cooked, slice and pull away the roast into shreds. Add the beef roast, carrots and celery to the tomato sauce. Simmer on medium-low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours. The meat will become more tender and fall apart in the sauce.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook gnocchi as instructed. Pour brasato al barolo ragu sauce over gnocchi, and garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.


Sangria! Sangria!

You can drink it year-round, but what’s a better cool adult beverage to bring to any outdoor BBQ (or in my case, another bridal shower)? My recipe has been a favorite among many and been passed along too many times to count. Any dry red “roja” wine can be used. I personally used a Malbec from Chile this past weekend. I also doubled this recipe to fill a large punch bowl. Cheers!


Roja Sangria

2 bottles dry “roja” Spanish wine
1 cup Brandy
1/2 cup sugar
3- 12 ounce cans of Sprite
1 small container raspberries
1 quart raspberries
2 green apples
2 oranges
2 limes

Wash all fruit thoroughly. Using the raspberries and a half quart of strawberries, mash the fruit to a puree using a hand potato masher.

Cut the remaining strawberries, and section the apples, oranges, and limes. Also squeeze and juice some of the oranges and limes to add additional fruit juices to the sangria.

Add the wine, brandy, sugar and Sprite. Stir and taste. I prefer to add Sprite for desired sweetness over sugar. This is truly a taste testing game. It may also help to refrigerate and chill before tasting again.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

Diet. It’s the word you love to hate. We’ve all probably attempted one at some point in our life, whether it be calorie counting, extreme exercising, eating a grapefruit before every meal, drinking apple cider vinegar shots or maybe a combination of all this craziness! I’m pretty sure there was one month during college where I was living off of baby carrots and Lean Cuisines because I was adamant I was going to fit into a dress for a sorority formal from my freshman year of high school… and I did, but the weight didn’t stay off. I think I gained back all 10 lbs. in beer that night. We can all agree 97% of these ideas do not work.

Like the medical experts always say, the key to a healthy lifestyle (and losing weight) is eating a healthy, balanced diet with the “good” foods in moderation (a.k.a. carbs, alcohol and dessert) along with a daily exercise plan. That’s why when I told myself one of my New Year’s resolutions was going to be having a healthier lifestyle I was super excited to find the Mayo Clinic eating plan (I refuse to call it the Mayo Clinic Diet that they’ve now changed the book title to… I think the former “Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight for Everybody” was so much better!).

So what is the Mayo Clinic eating plan? It’s a healthy eating plan that uses the Mayo Clinic food pyramid to guide your food choices to help you maintain or lose weight combined with exercise. The book comes with sample menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for 7 days a week and for up to 12 weeks. The menus are great because they allow you to mix and match. If you’re trying to maintain your weight, it will guide you to how many calories you should be eating daily. If you’re trying to lose weight, it is designed to help you lose 6-10 lbs. within the first two weeks, and continue losing 1-2 lbs. per week. And you’re not limited to only the recipes available in the book. Mayo Clinic has several cookbooks also available that you can find through Amazon that use the same food pyramid.

This was finally something I could do realistically and Mayo Clinic is highly respected in the medical field. I initially lost 8 lbs. in the first month. You may be thinking, “Only 8 lbs?! I need to lose more.” Well, let’s also take into consideration I’m only 5’1″ and my BMI has never been “overweight” so 8 lbs. was a reasonable amount for me to lose in a month.

All of this better eating led me to buy the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health. May I also add this book was the winner of the James Beard Award in 2005? I’ve since tried out several of the recipes, and some on my unsuspecting friends and family who don’t know they’re eating a “diet” recipe. When I’ve come clean after the meal, the reactions have been shock that the food was that tasty because that’s not what you usually get from low-calorie, low-fat recipes.

So if you’re still looking to shed a few pounds for your upcoming summer vacation or wedding, or maybe you’re still trying to fulfill your New Year’s resolution like me, try out this recipe and decide for yourself! The braised chicken is extremely tender and moist and I like to serve it with a 1/2 cup of steamed rice and a fresh steamed green vegetable like asparagus, broccoli or green beans. You can find the nutrition analysis here.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

Adapted from the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO or canola oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 lb. small white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb. peeled pearl onions (frozen work well!)
3/4 cup vegetable stock, chicken stock or chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped thyme

In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour.

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

Add the shallot to the pan and saute until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes (Note: You may need to add an additional tablespoon of oil). Stir in the onions and saute until they begin to pick up some brown color, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the stock and wine and deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, the chopped thyme, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Let simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until liquid thickens to a gravy consistency.

To serve, divide the vegetables among warmed shallow individual bowls with rice, and divide chicken and vegetables evenly. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Serve immediately.

Semi-Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with Chardonnay Buttercream Frosting

Happy May! Do you realize how many holidays there are to celebrate this month? May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, my birthday(!) and Memorial Day to name a few. Maybe you want to wow mom with a great homemade treat, but have only ever made dessert straight from the box and a tub of Pillsbury frosting? This recipe will have everyone thinking you made it from scratch, but in half the amount of time (Yup, cat’s out of the bag my fellow co-workers… I didn’t make the cupcakes from scratch last week. Oops!).

Boxed cake cupcakes are easy to glam up with a simple homemade frosting, and trust me, homemade frosting is a lot simpler than you may think. Most frosting consists only of a butter or cream cheese base, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract.

For these cupcakes, I wanted to use my Chardonnay Buttercream Frosting recipe, so I chose a lemon cake. Lemon and grapefruit usually pair well with the citrus flavors of the wine. For a lighter (and not so sweet) option, this chardonnay cake recipe with hints of orange (minus the almond sugar crust) also makes a great pairing. If you want more details on how I edited the chardonnay cake recipe for my treat, leave a comment or send an email!

I followed the ingredients and directions on a lemon boxed cake mix, and also added a package of lemon instant pudding to the mix to make them extra moist. I’ve learned you can add a package of instant pudding mix to almost any type of cake to keep it moist for longer. Now for the frosting…

Chardonnay Buttercream Frosting

1/2 lb. European-style butter, at room temperature (I used Kerrygold’s Irish)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons Chardonnay

Cream the butter with an electric mixer, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium to high speed for about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and continue to mix on medium to high speed for another 2 minutes or until soft and creamy!

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, adding the last 2 cups of powdered sugar, and then increase speed to high speed and mix for another minute.

Add salt, lemon juice and chardonnay and mix on medium until the salt and liquid are incorporated. Refrigerate to stiffen before frosting cupcakes.

Frosted cupcakes should be refrigerated before serving. If you let them sit out too long, the butter in the frosting will start to melt!