The Seasonal Chef

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Diane Morgan’s latest book, “The Christmas Table: Recipes and Crafts to Create Your Own Holiday Tradition” (Chronicle Books, 2008, San Francisco, CA, $19.95) has arrived just in time for the holidays.

Her 12 planning tips of Christmas with lists of ingredients, equipment, and tools are excellent. Moreover, the menus with timetables—including décor—plus ideas for thoughtful gifts from the kitchen and the cookie section will help home chefs make this holiday season memorable and manageable.

Why not plan a dinner party to lift your spirits between Christmas and New Year’s? Start off with soup or salad greens with orange or grapefruit sections and pomegranate seeds. For the main course, make delicious short ribs Bourguignonne because it can be done at least two days in advance, leaving plenty of time for the rest of the menu.

Serve purée of celery root with the ribs, along with green vegetables. And complete the festivities with scoops of your favorite store-bought or homemade ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and some beautiful cranberry pistachio biscotti for dessert with piping hot espresso. Bon holiday appétit!

Short Ribs Bourguignonne

(Serves 6)2 tablespoons unsalted butter2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil2/3 cup all-purpose flour for dredging6 to 7 pounds individual beef short ribs about 3-inches long, trimmed of excess fat2 teaspoons sea salt1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper3 cloves garlic, minced2 tablespoons tomato paste1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced, plus 4 sprigs of fresh thyme1 bottle red burgundy4 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 1/4 cup parsley, minced, for garnish1 bay leaf1½ cups water or more as needed1½ pounds small white boiling onions1 pound baby carrots1 pound button mushrooms, washed and stems trimmed1/4 cup madeira1 tablespoon cognac or brandyTo prepare:

Position the rack on the second lowest level in the oven and preheat the oven to 325.

Add the butter and oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Spread flour on a plate and, working in batches, roll the short ribs in the flour, tapping off the excess. Add the ribs to the pan without crowding. Cook, turning occasionally until brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes per batch.

Transfer the browned meat to a rimmed baking sheet and continue until all the meat is browned.

Season the cooked ribs with salt and pepper. Pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the pan and return the pan to medium low heat.

Add garlic, tomato paste and minced thyme, sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add burgundy and stir to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a simmer.

While the wine simmers, make a bouquet garni with sprigs of thyme, parsley and bay leaf, bending the stems to bundle up the bay leaf and tie with cotton string. Add the bouquet garni to the pot.

Returned the browned meat and all the accumulated juices to the pot over medium heat. Add just enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring to a boil. Cover with tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven.

Braise for 2 hours, stirring the meat after 1 hour.

After 2 hours, add onions and carrots to the pot. Submerge them into the liquid and cook until barely tender, about 30 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook about 15 minutes. At this point the meat should be so tender it falls off the bones. Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate if making ahead.

If serving immediately, remove pot from the oven and set it over low heat. Skim off excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and remove the bouquet garni.

Add madeira and cognac and simmer about 5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasonings.

Remove ribs to a platter; spoon sauce, carrots, onions, and mushrooms over the meat. Garnish with minced parsley and serve at once.

Purée of Celery Root

(Serves 8)2 large celery roots, about 3 pounds total2 large russet potatoes, about 1½ pounds1 tablespoon sea salt or more to taste1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into chunks1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, warmFreshly ground white pepperTo prepare:

Fill a large saucepan with water and set aside. Peel celery root and cut into 1-inch chunks and immediately place the chunks in the water to prevent them from discoloring.

Likewise peel and cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks and add them to the celery root. Add about one teaspoon of salt to the pot.

Place over high heat, partially cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the water simmering and cook until the vegetables are tender to the point of a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain the vegetables in colander and return them to the pot. Place the pot over low heat for 1 minute to evaporate the excess liquid.

In the food processor or with an immersion blender, process the vegetables until puréed and transfer to large warm bowl.

Whisk butter into the purée and blend in the hot cream. Taste and correct the seasonings.

Can be done ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and warm in the microwave.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

(3 dozen biscotti)2¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting1½ teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon sea salt1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (2/3 stick)3/4 cup sugar2 large eggs2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract1 cup sweetened sun dried cranberries3/4 cup shelled natural pistachio nuts, toasted6 ounces white chocolate, chopped1½ teaspoons canola oilTo prepare:

Preheat the oven to 325. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or use nonstick baking sheets.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Stir in the cranberries and nuts.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface. The dough will be a bit sticky. Divide the dough in half. With lightly floured hands, roll each half into a log about 1½ inches around by 15 inches long.

Place the logs on a prepared baking sheet at least three inches apart. Bake in the center of the oven until they become lightly firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 20 minutes.

Transfer the logs to a cutting board and use a sharp serrated knife to carefully cut each log on a slight diagonal into half-inch slices.

Lay the slices on their side in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until dried out and lightly golden on top, about 8 to 10 minutes. Turn each slice over and bake until lightly golden on the second side, about 7 minutes longer.

Transfer the biscotti to a rack and let cool completely.

Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring until it is completely smooth, then stir in the canola oil.

To dip the biscotti, line rimmed baking sheets with waxed paper or parchment paper.

Holding them vertically, dip one cookie at a time into the chocolate, coating about one third of the cookie and letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Carefully place the dipped cookies on the sheets.

Let the chocolate harden about one hour. Place cooled, dry cookies in an airtight container and store.

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