Lamb and Wild Rice with Roasted Autumn Vegetables

Fri, Sep 26 • 0

A good project for a lazy Sunday. It will fill your place up with some great aromas.

This recipe is a mixture of rich, tender roasted pumpkin, flavorful root vegetables, and earthy lamb and wild grains, and is based on something I saw in the October ’08 Everyday Food magazine. In their version, it’s rigitoni instead of rice, and it’s goat cheese instead of chunks of braised lamb shank.

You’ll need to decide what to use for your braising liquid. I chopped up 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery, a handful of baby carrots, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves in 2 cups chicken stock, but I bet you could get by with two cups of good red wine. Later, I used a rustic multi-grain rice mix I found in the store, but you could substitute it with your favorite, though I think brown rice would work better than Uncle Ben’s. I made this over the course of 2 days — braising the lamb the first day, and doing the rest the second day. It’s probably not a recipe you want to make after a long day at work, but it would be a good project for a lazy Sunday, or you could make most of it days in advance, and then put it all together for a weeknight dinner.

2 lamb shanks, trimmed of silver skin
some kind of flavorful braising liquid (see above)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oil

1 medium sugar pumpkin (about 3 pounds)
3 shallots
1 fennel (anise) bulb
salt and pepper
several fresh sage leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup multigrain rice mixture
1½ cups chicken stock

Braising the lamb shank :

Preheat the oven to 325°. Trim the silver skin off the shanks by slipping the point under the shiny whitish layer that covers the meat, and remove it in long strips to reveal the red meat below. Trim off the really big blobs of fat, too. Season with salt and pepper, and brown them on all sides over medium heat on the stovetop, about 8 minutes. Remove the shanks, and brown your braising vegetables if you’re using any, and add the liquid, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (aka deglazing). Return the shanks to the pan, cover, and cook in the oven for 1½-2 hours. Remove the shanks, and cool enough to handle, then pull the meat off the bones, removing any fat and gristle, and set aside.

Roasting the vegetables :

While the lamb is cooking, peel, seed and chop the pumpkin into 1 inch cubes. Cut off the stalks and fronds of the fennel, and then slice the fennel bulb 8 ways, diagonally, but so each wedge retains a bit of the core, so they’ll stay together. Peel the shallots, and cut them in half or quarters depending on the size, still trying to keep each part connected to the core. Toss all of this in a bowl with the salt, pepper, sage leaves, and olive oil, and spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast in a 425º oven for about an hour, tossing after 30 minutes, and checking every 5 minutes for the last 15 to make sure nothing is burning.

Putting it all together:

Prepare the rice according to the instructions. (If you did what I did, and made the other two parts of this recipe earlier, you can reheat the lamb and the vegetables in the same pan as the rice by using a steamer basket.)

Combine all, and taste for seasoning.

Great Food Processor, only $100

Wed, Sep 24 • 2

I’m not sure how long this deal will last, but if you need a new food processor, or don’t have one yet, Amazon is selling this Cuisinart food processor for $80 off its list price, a savings of 44%. This is the same model I’ve used since 2005, and I have no complaints about it. It works great, and this is a great, great price.

Truth or Consequences : Egg Labels

Wed, Sep 17 • 0

The New York Times has a pretty good article about the information you’ll find on an egg carton … what’s required, what the government allows them to claim, and what’s just creative story-telling.

“For eggs from chickens that live in the sort of utopia conveyed by the images on most egg cartons, look for “animal welfare approved.” Available in limited markets, it is a new label by the Animal Welfare Institute that is given only to independent family farmers. Flocks can have no more than 500 birds, and chickens over 4 weeks old must be able to spend all their time outside on pesticide-free pasture with a variety of vegetation. They must have access to dust baths and cannot have their beaks trimmed (a practice on crowded egg farms) or be fed animal byproducts.”

Spaghetti Carbonara(esque)

Wed, Sep 17 • 0

If you’re a strict conventionalist when it comes to your italian pasta recipes, this recipe will probably offend you. It’s based on a recipe by Nigella Lawson. She uses pancetta, but I went with uncured, applewood smoked bacon. She adds cream, and I think it’s rich enough as it is. Her recipe calls for Parmesan, and I opted for shredded Gruyere. It still tasted pretty fantastic. The white wine replaces the vinegar I’ve seen in other recipes, but isn’t nearly as sharp, so it’s a nice change. She claims this amount feeds 2, but it’s more like a recipe for 4.

1 pound spaghetti
4 slices bacon, cut into ¼” pieces
2 teaspoons oil
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere
Freshly ground black pepper

  • Boil plenty of salted water for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to instructions.
  • Put the oil in the bottom of a frying pan, and cook up the bacon until nearly crisp. Add the wine, and let it boil and reduce until syrupy, stirring often. (Watch out, because the hot bacon fat in the liquid will sizzle and pop quite a bit.) Set this aside.
  • In a bowl, mix up the eggs, the cheese, and the pepper.
  • Drain the pasta and add it in with the bacon and wine.
  • Add the egg mixture, and toss to coat all the strands and cook the eggs.
  • Serve immediately.

Have You Been Short-Sized?

Wed, Sep 17 • 0

They have a gallery up over on The Consumerist showing 34 examples of what they call the “grocery shrink-ray…”  Manufacturers hope you won’t notice, but even the New York Times noticed : “In industry lingo, it’s called short-sizing. Aiming to offset increased ingredient and transportation costs, some of the nation’s food manufacturers are reducing the size of packages. The price, of course, usually stays the same.”

How do you save yourself from this pernicious downsizing? Check the shelf — if you’re like the people in the Consumerist photo essay, you might be able to actually find examples of the before-and-after on the shelf, and score the bigger sizes. Otherwise, the best way to combat the phenomenon is to turn off your automatic pilot when you’re in the grocery store, and stop buying products just because you always buy them. Actually check the unit prices, and look for the product with the best price that way. Of course, if the only peanut butter you like is Skippy Super-Duper Double Chunky-chunk-chunk, then go ahead and buy it, but know you’re probably not getting as good a value as you’re used to.

Smothered Pork Chops

Tue, Sep 16 • 0

Serves 4

4 thick, center cut pork chops
1 cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 gallon water
3 slices country bacon, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon oil
salt & pepper
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Take a couple thick center cut pork chops (preferably not enhanced pork) and brine it in a mixture of water, salt and brown sugar for several hours in the fridge.

When ready to cook, cut 3 slices of good country bacon into 1/4 inch dice and fry it in a saucepan over medium heat until crispy. Fish out the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and set aside. If the bacon grease doesn’t equal 2 tablespoons, add enough oil to make it so. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, and cook this mixture over medium heat until it’s darkened to the color of peanut butter, stirring frequently. Add 1 and a half cups of good chicken stock (either home made or canned, low sodium), mixing constantly until incorporated. Heat to a boil, stirring often, then cover, and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat over high heat, 1 tablespoon oil until smokey. Dry off the pork chops with paper towels, season with pepper, and put in the frying pan, making sure they’re not overlapping, and brown each side for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat, add a touch more oil, and 2 medium sliced onions, a teaspoon of salt, and a couple tablespoons of water. Cook this for 5 minutes, scraping the brown crusties from the pork chops from the bottom of the pan, until the onions are clear and the edges are lightly browned. Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of fresh thyme, and cook for another minute or two. Add the pork chops back into the pan, again in one layer, and cover with the onion mixture, and the gravy. Lower the heat and cover the pan, and simmer for 30 or 40 minutes (or until the meat thermometer reads 160).

Remove the chops one more time to a heated serving plate, and cover with foil. Reduce what’s left in the pan over high heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring often.

Serve the chops smothered in the gravy over mashed potatoes, rice or egg noodles. Sprinkle the bacon bits over the top.

Poor Man’s Paella

Thu, Sep 11 • 0

I know it’s lowbrow, but I’d forgotten how much I like Rice-a-roni. My mom made it a lot when I was a kid, and I found a box in my cupboard the other night, and needed to come up with a quick starch side. Turns out, not all flavors push my buttons. Beef flavor is good, but their chicken & garlic flavor is just ‘meh.’ I tried using it to make a quick meal for supper last night, and was disappointed that it didn’t have a more full-bodied taste.

I followed the directions on the box, and just before popping on the lid, I put on a package of frozen mixed vegetables. While it simmered, I peeled and cleaned a dozen large shrimp, and 5 minutes before the rice was supposed to be done, I scattered them around the pan. Sort of a poor man’s paella, I thought.

As I said, the dish could have used a stronger dose of flavor. If I were to make it again, I’d probably just go for regular rice cooked in chicken stock.

Better Beer Batter

Wed, Sep 10 • 0

Slight update to the recipe I posted here a few months ago. This is straight out of the Joy of Cooking. It called for some milk in with the recipe, but I was all out, so I just increased the beer by the ½ cup.

1 cup All-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 12 ounce bottle cheap beer (I used Rolling Rock)
2 eggs, slightly beaten

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or a fork.
  • Add the beer and the beaten eggs, and stir to combine.
  • Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

This recipe was written to coat butterflied shrimp, but I used it to coat a pound of fresh halibut fillet, cut into 5 inch pieces. Any white fish would work — like catfish, cod, or tilapia. Just dip it in the batter so that it’s well coated, and drop it in the hot oil. I had plenty of batter left over, so I also used it on sliced onion rings that I dredged in flour first. I fried both up in about an inch of hot (365°) canola oil in a cast iron skilled, turning after 2 or 3 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.

How to Write a Recipe

Tue, Sep 9 • 0

Advice on how to write better, more legible recipes and make them more accessible to cooks of all skill levels.

I recently received a book called The Recipe Writer’s Handbook, by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Janet Baker, as a gift, and I was interested in reading it, with the hopes of learning how to write better, more legible recipes here on this site. The book offers a lot of good advice that I thought I’d highlight some of the recommendations I’ve learned so far, which are things all foodie bloggers could benefit from, and things I’ll try to implement from here on.

Keep reading…

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