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.