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Monday, July 19, 2010

Lamb Shanks Beatrice. OR. Why is Nick doing a braised dish in JULY?

Here's a recipe that I grew up on but everyone else seems to have forgotten. Let's rescue this little gem. It's in my Mom's Betty Crocker book from 1970 but I did some research and added some stuff. It resembles an Osso Bucco only kinda. Lamb shanks are cheap, about 4-5 bucks a pound.

This dish comes right out of La Provence (that's in France). Easy.
The crappy part is that I'm doin' a braised dish in the middle of summer. I hate you APS.

Chef Nick's Jarrets D'agneau Beatrice.


3-4 lamb shanks, cleaned of all silver-skin and stuff.
seasoned flour (flour with salt and pepper or whatever)
enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a heavy saute pan
one deep pot
salt and pepper
4-5 fresh tomatoes concasse, chopped. This means peeled and seeded. Get a blowtorch.
6-8 shallots, peeled, whole
1 large carrot, peeled, large dice
6 cloves garlic, peeled, leave whole
1 zucchini, large dice
1 large eggplant , large dice
1 TB tomato paste
some wild mushrooms. Today I'm using Crimini. Clean and leave whole.
 a 1 inch piece of orange peel. Right, look if you don't have this in your kitchen, go get one. This is Phoenix, should be a matter or going a few steps.
2 bay leaves
Fresh herbs. Today I'm using mint and rosemary. Chopped.
1 bottle of something like a Tempranillo, Granache, Syrah or whatever.

I plated this with some polenta but use whatever you got. Rice, potato or egg noodles work great.

Any of you who wear a white coat at the shop know how this works, we got a rataouille with a braise goin' on yo.

A few words about lamb shanks. This is the top part of the leg of lamb. Kinda looks like a big fat drumstick. Most butchers leave it behind when they bone out the leg. I talked to my butcher and he had his boys save me a few over last week. It's full of silver skin and that waxy fat that must be removed. If you don't feel comfortable doing it by all means ask your butcher. OR if you wear big boys pants grab your sharpest boning knife. There's no way to describe this except to say you stick the tip of your knife under the silver skin and slice away from you.
 The more of it you remove the better quality of your finished product. OK done right? Let's leave this behind for a bit.

Easiest mise en place ever. Large dice on everything. Peel your shallots and garlic cloves but leave whole. Go out to the garden, grab a handful of mint and a couple sticks of rosemary. Chop it up together. Mint is a seriously under-used herb.

Ok grab your blowtorch, let's get those tomatoes done. We need to do a quick concasse, removing the peels and seeds. What do you mean you don't have a blowtorch? Go get one....I'll wait. Ok great. I gotta say every time I catch one of the TV Chefs telling folks "using your gas burner, blacken the skins to remove them." I want to upchuck.

Using the blowtorch is easier, faster and doesn't heat up the house. Stick 'em on a meat fork, blast the skin until it's black, put the tomatoes in a plastic bag for a few minutes. Rub the skin off with a clean towel.

Now for those seeds, cut the fruit in half and squeeze gently and they'll just pop out. Don't throw them away. Put them in a strainer and gather up the gel and juice. Why? Try an experiment. Sample a tomato eating just the flesh part...ok now do the same thing but with only the gel part surrounding the seeds. See? All the character is in that gel and you almost threw it away. Yes it's me being fussy but I don't like waste. 

 Just dump it back with the tomatoes you just chopped.

Back to those shanks. Grab a plastic bag and put your seasoned flour in it. Make this easy. Add a shank at a time and shake the bag to coat. Shake off excess flour and set aside. 

Heat up a large pan. Splash a little oil in it and let's get to browning. All sides, golden yumminess. 

Put all that in the bottom of a large pot, dutch oven...whatever ya got. 

YAY !! It's Ratatouille time. Using the same pan, add your shallots and garlic cloves, just shake that around with some salt and pepper. We're building flavors. 

 add the rest of your vegs except for the tomatoes and mushrooms. Toss those around in the pan checking your seasoning. Add half the herbs and sweat thru. Now a cool Chef thing. Add the tomato paste and keep cooking until it starts smelling sweet. This is a great way to build flavors. The big cool Chef word for this is "pince" 

  Man oh man, doesn't that look good. Time for your chopped tomatoes. Just cook all of it together for a few minutes and dump it over the shanks in the large pot.
 De-glaze the pan with some of the red wine. Don't leave any flavor behind. 

Add your mushrooms, the rest of the herbs, tuck the orange peel under and pour the rest of the bottle of wine over. 
Bring to a simmer on the stove. Place in 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. 

That's it, you're done. Those shanks will be butter tender, serve with some of the vegetables and the sauce right from the pot. Now that I've heated my place up on one of the hottest days of the year, I'm heading out to the pool. Y'all get your grub on. Ciao. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Game Hens Mariam. Stuffed with spiced rice and an apricot, mint sauce.

 I have some very strong interests besides food and wine. One of them is a fascination with ancient history and cultures. The reason I mention this is that I have a very old pal from grade school that was lucky enough to marry a terrific lady, let me introduce you to Mariam. She is the first Assyrian I have ever met. Very thrilling. These people have been around FOREVER. Seriously, they invented the city, math, irrigation and astronomy. They no longer have a country but they have occupied their homelands in Iraq since the time of Babylon and Uruk. Unfortunately and at a great loss to world culture there aren't many of them left.
 So of course the first thing I asked Mariam was "please please tell me about your people's FOOD." No better way to understand another culture then to look at the cuisine. Like most peoples of the middle-east they use exotic spices and herbs very differently than Europeans. After some research I came up with this dish based on what I read. This one's for you Mari. Shlomo, Shlama.

I did have to bow to what was available here in Phoenix, I wanted to use pigeon or squab but I couldn't find anything under $15.00 a pound so I went with Game Hen. This man's blog is called "COOKING POOR, EATING RICH." Game Hens are cheap as heck, about 3ish per.



1/2 cup rice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
scant pinch ground clove. A little goes a long way
1 cup some kind of cooking liquid like chicken stock, vegetable stock or if it's all you have, water
salt and pepper
1 TB fresh orange peel, grated  (half for stuffing, half for sauce)
large clove garlic, minced (ditto)
1 large yellow onion, minced (ditto ditto)
bunch fresh mint, finely chopped (ditto ditto ditto)
splash olive oil

 For the poaching liquid
1 stick cinnamon
4-6 whole cloves
2-3 bay leaves
1 TB black pepper corns, barely crushed
handful kosher salt
enough water to cover

6 ripe apricots, concasse, I'll explain later.
splash cider vinegar
about 2 cups of the poaching liquid.
half the onion from above
half the garlic from above
fresh mint, finely chopped...geesh really do I have to say this again?
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
splash olive oil

I like a challenge. I do.

For the stuffing, heat up your saute pan, add a splash of olive oil. Throw in some of your onion, garlic. Season. Sweat this through and add your orange peel and spices.

WOW does this smell like heaven. Add your half cup of rice and gently toss around to coat until it turns slightly opaque. Add the raisins. Slowly add small amounts of whatever cooking liquid you chose. We don't want to cook this through but we need to give it a head start. Remove from heat and put aside for now.

Clean out your birds carefully. Dry with paper towels. Stuff your birds. Don't pack it tight, the par-cooked rice will expand and we need to leave some room. I used some small skewers to close up the end. Ok leave all this in the fridge while we get the poaching stuff together.

In a large pot put all your poaching ingredients with about 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil.

 Gently lower your hens into the pot and return to a simmer, poach for 30 minutes. 

Now for the sauce. Let's talk about concasse. We need to remove those peels without destroying the integrity of the fruit. Grab a good sized pot and bring some water to a boil. Along side that we need a small bowl of ice-water. Wash your fruit and cut a small X on the bottom. Carefully drop your fruit maybe 2 at time into the hot water. Count to 45. Remove and throw into the ice water. Those skins should just peel right off. If they seem tight then just put them back in the hot water for a few more seconds.

See? Cool right? Works for tomatoes too. 

OK chop the fruit large dice and gather together the rest of your ingredients. Heat up a large saute pan, add a splash of olive oil. Toss in the rest of your onions and garlic, lightly brown off and add your orange peel. Season with S+P. Once smelling really great add your apricots.   
Toss those around until sticky, add your splash of cider vinegar. Once the sharp smell whiffs off, add your remaining poaching liquid until you feel the sauce is loose enough, you won't use all 2 cups. To finish turn off heat and add your mint, check your seasoning and remove to sauce boat. 

Your hens should be done by now. Remove carefully from the poaching liquid. Please don't throw away that precious fluid. Save by freezing. You just never know when you might need it. Dry your hens thoroughly. 

To finish you will need about a cup of vegetable oil. Heat it up in a large pot. Once hot, brown off your birds one at a time on all sides. For some reason Assyrians seem to cook everything twice. Ask them, I don't know why. 

So that's it. Plate up, serve with a little of the sauce. Get your grub on. Ciao.