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Our Wine of the Week, Cline 2010 Cashmere California Rhone ($16), is a workhorse wine and it loves its job.

This characteristic, a result of being both rich and smooth on the palate and of embracing a huge array of flavors and textures, accounts for the popularity of Rhone and Rhone-style wines in the United States. They are so very drinker-friendly. A Rhone may not bring tears to your eyes in the way that a breathtaking pinot noir will, but it will elicit a smile and buoy up the joys of the table over and over again.

Cashmere is a perfect example. As its name suggests, it is lush and plush, with a warm, homey elegance. The fruit of grenache and mourvedre, especially black cherries, black raspberries and black plums, joins forces with the sultry syrah and its suggestions of milk chocolate, black peppercorns and cool topsoil and the result is a well-rounded and engaging quaffer. Good acid keeps the wine refreshing and the flavors in check.

When it comes to pairing the wine at the table, there are plenty of obvious matches, from grilled wild Pacific King salmon and seared duck breast to most meat stews and pork sliders. But there are plenty of delicious possibilities, including for vegetarians. Black olives engage the wine beautifully and they can be folded into a simple risotto with extraordinary results. Wild mushroom risotto is a good option, too, as is mushroom ragout. Beets, celery root, carrots and winter squash, especially when they are roasted to concentrate their flavors, are great matches; dressed with a little butter and good balsamic vinegar enhances the connection.

For today's recipe, I've looked to Belgium and what is known as its national dish. It's a beef and onion stew cooked slowly in Belgian ale and finished with a splash of sweet and a splash of sour, sometimes in the form of jelly and mustard, here in the form of tomato paste and vinegar. Instead of stew meat, I've used short ribs because I love how they turn out in a slow cooker. To make without a slow cooker, see the variation at the end of the recipe.

Carbonnade Flamande: Belgian-Style Beef, Onion & Beer Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3? pounds beef short ribs

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

4 tablespoons butter

3 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups beef stock, hot

1 bottle (12 ounces) Belgian red ale, Newcastle Brown Ale or Anchor Steam

2 bay leaves

3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 4 thyme sprigs, about 3-inches long

? star anise

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste

— Cooked egg noodles, cooked spaghetti squash, roasted creamer potatoes or homemade fries

Season the short ribs all over with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet set over medium heat, add the beef ribs and brown all over, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the browned ribs to a slow cooker.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in butter and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the onions are limp and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Turn occasionally and do not let the onions brown.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions, stir and cook about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring or turning gently all the while. Season with salt and pepper, stir and remove from the heat.

Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker. Set the temperature on "low" and the timer for six hours.

Add the hot stock, the beer, the bay leaves, the thyme and the star anise. Stir gently a time or two, cover and let cook undisturbed.

Turn off the slow cooker.

Use tongs to transfer the short ribs to a platter and use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions; keep warm.

Use tongs to remove and discard the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and, if you can find it, the star anise. Stir in the vinegar and tomato paste. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Return the ribs and onions to the pot.

To serve, ladle into soup plates over or alongside your accompaniment of choice.

Variation: To make on top of the stove, set the browned short ribs aside while cooking the onions and the flour. Return them, along with any collected juices, to the pan, add the stock, beer, bay leaves and star anise, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to very low. Cover and simmer very gently for about 3 hours, or until the short ribs are fork tender and fall off the bone; stir now and then as the stew cooks. Continue as directed in the main recipe.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 &amp; 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.<QA0>


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