A Winter Dinner on a Not So Winter Day

I absolutely love braised short ribs. Actually I take that back…I love braised meat. It is succulent, it is moist, it is rich in flavor, and it is hearty, which makes braised meat a perfect dish as the days get shorter and the temperature drops.

So when Claire and I decided to invite Ty and Heather Hoad up for dinner on Saturday, December 11, I figured braised short ribs were in order. As fate would have it, the temperature for the day was 85 instead of 58 (I guess that is what I get for living in Southern California).

I have made short ribs a few times before, but I decided to use a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (registration is required). The recipe is basic in that the short ribs are braised in red wine and beef stock. But the outcome is magnificent – the short ribs were incredibly tender, and because the sauce was basic, the beef flavor actually came through. We served the braised short ribs with some creamy mashed potatoes, along with a fresh baguette. To drink we had a nice bottle of Conde de Valdemar Crianza made with the tempranillo grape. The wine was robust enough to compliment the beef, yet still very smooth with hints of fruit, exactly what I love about Spanish Red Wine.

When Claire and I were discussing what we wanted to serve, Claire mentioned a salad to start, especially after I stated my intentions to do short ribs. Since we now have Meyer Lemons in surplus, we served a simple salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing. To serve with both salad and dessert, we opened a bottle of Moscato d’Asti made by Rivata. If you have never had a Moscato d’Asti, I highly recommend it. It is a lightly sparkly Italian white wine that is fairly sweet, but not too sweet. Another great thing about the wine is that it is only five percent alcohol, compared with eleven to thirteen percent in most other whites and upwards of twenty for a fortified dessert wine.

For dessert we served a lemon-rosemary shortbread paired with an olive-oil gelato. You can find the lemon-rosemary shortbread recipe here. The only change I made was that I baked it in a nine-inch round cake pan. We also used Meyer Lemons, which Claire and I both loved the beautiful fragrance of the lemons, especially in the icing.

The gelato is a recipe I found on Serious Eats. The base of the gelato is still a very rich custard, in which a quarter cup of olive oil is added half way through churning. The result is a creamy, smooth gelato, with the sweetness tempered by the olive oil. The olive oil was subtle, but also gave the gelato a great mouth feel. (I did not use a great olive oil, so I can only imagine the gelato would taste even better with a really good olive oil.) A bite of the shortbread and the gelato, finished off with a sip of the Moscato d’Asti – brilliant!

It was a great night to have the Hoads up for dinner. To sit around the table and converse about life. To laugh. To share. And before we knew it close to four hours had flown by and it was time to part ways. I went to bed really full that night, not just from the food, but from the pleasure of the company.

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