I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Showing posts with label Lamb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lamb. Show all posts

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Provencal Lamb Stew

Sunday evening rolled around and I walked through the streets of the East Village. The temperatures were warm compared to what we have been experiencing and the fresh air felt new and invigorating. I came upon the husband waiting for me outside of a teeny Japanese restaurant. We ordered, eyes wide and intimidated by the intensely efficient manor of the counter person, hoping to not step out of bounds and feel his wrath. With number in hand, we returned outside to wait as the order was prepared (not being enough space indoors to wait there). We caught up on our days, recounting the hours since we had last spoken until the sound of our number being called drifted through the restaurant door.

Chopsticks in one hand and plastic trays in the other we attempted to feed ourselves on the sidewalk while not making a huge mess. The okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) and takoyaki (fried dough balls with octopus) were piled high with mayo, sauces and bonito. Full of umami and novelty.

After the wrappers were tossed, we made our way up the block and then down an almost hidden set of stairs to a bar that appeared even smaller than the restaurant, if that was possible. With a word to the host and a flash of IDs, the rope in front of us was lifted and we were guided back to the slightly larger, yet still cramped, back room. It was dark and dingy yet full of character as the walls were littered with the scrawled names of those who came before us. We were shuffled into a booth towards the back along with five of our friends. 

The server helped guide us through an exhaustive list of sake to those that were his favorite and a bottle was ordered. After it was poured we raised our glasses to toast the gathering and welcome the fun the night would bring. Conversation tumbled about, flipping and turning on itself in the way only the best talks do. As the bottles we purchased got lighter our souls got fuller, feeding on the knowledge and laughter being shared. 

What seemed like not enough time later it was time to wrap up the evening. Hugs were passed about and promises made to make this happen again soon. Each went their own separate way, being swept back up into the swirl of the city's energy as they disappeared down the street. 

It was a night of joy and learning and happiness that keeps one feeling full for days to come. A gift from the city to make up for rough days. A bright spot in the midst of gloomy winter.

Though the blog has been suffering a bit this month I have been cooking up a storm. But I've also allowed myself to be caught up in friends and the joys of the city as above and let some responsibilities lag. Sometimes a break can be just what you need to springboard into the next big thing.

Today I'm bringing you a simple Provence-inspired lamb stew. Simple yet filling and warming. I served it with crash hot potatoes on the side (because I can't seem to resist them) but you can feel more than welcome to just add some new potatoes to the stew itself to make an even heartier version.

Provencal Lamb Stew
serves 8
 1 c. dried cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
zest of 1 orange
3 springs rosemary
4-5 sprigs thyme
1 lb. lamb stew meat
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
6 c. beef stock
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the beans and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 1 hour (or you can soak the beans in cold water overnight, but I never remember to do this).
Take a square of cheesecloth and fill with the bay leaf, orange zest, rosemary and thyme. Tie the package shut with twine and set aside.
Sprinkle the lamb meat with a bit of salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and then add the lamb once hot. Brown the lamb on all sides and then remove to a plate. Add the onions and the shallots, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until they onions are tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef stock, carrots, celery and fennel to the pan and bring to a boil.
Drain the beans and rinse them and then add them into the pot along with everything else. Drop in the bouquet garni (i.e. bundle of herbs). Cover and allow to simmer until the beans and the lamb are very tender, around 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Remove the bouquet garni and taste for salt and pepper. Serve.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Leg of Lamb Steaks with Mint Chimichurri

It seems like you can't have a discussion about food and recipes online these days without the conversation turning towards creative rights and license. Within the blogging world, it is something important to consider before posting any recipes.

I try to give credit whenever I use or change another person's dish here. However, I feel things get a little sticky when you consider inspiration. There are times where I come across different ideas--maybe something on a restaurant's menu or from someone else's blog. That could trigger an idea of my own. I still try to credit this other person/place for sparking this creative urge, although at times the idea comes from multiple sources and it's hard to pinpoint the original. Another problem lies when you come up with an idea on your own--maybe something jumps into your head while picking up a piece of produce at the market or while digging through your fridge. You take this idea, create your own recipe, put the meal together and get ready to post it online. That's when you realize the same dish is posted elsewhere--a cookbook, a magazine website, etc. At this point I feel like I still want to call the dish my own since it is something that I worked on without direct input from somewhere else, but feel bad doing so when this idea was out there before. And honestly, what if I had somehow already come across this recipe out and about and had just filed it away in the back of my brain without realizing it? Was the inspiration truly mine or was it just a recessed memory?

That is the case in this recipe. I was shopping at the greenmarket the other week and came across some absolutely gorgeous leg of lamb steaks. While considering how to prepare them I decided I wanted something bright and crisp to pair with them to help balance the earthy and gamey aspects of the meat. I decided to whip up a lime chimichurri to top them off. While I was buying the ingredients I decided to use mint as the main herb as it is a traditional pairing with lamb. I prepared the dinner and it was absolutely delicious.

A few days later I was flipping through my copy of "A Girl and Her Pig" by April Bloomfield and came across her recipe for lamb steaks with chimichurri. When I flipped back to the chimichurri recipe I saw to my dismay that she also uses mint in her version to pair with the lamb.

Therefore I don't know if this recipe is actually of my own mind or if it was inspired by April Bloomfield. She is pretty much a genius, though, so I'm happy to offer up the credit to her. Either way, this is a delicious meal combining the rich meat with a bright sauce to great success. Here's my take on the recipe:

Leg of Lamb Steaks with Mint Chimichurri
inspired by April Bloomfield??
serves 2

2 lamb leg steaks, about 1/3 lb. each and 1/2" thick
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

1/2 c. mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of chili flakes
juice from 1 lime
2 TB extra virgin olive oil

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the lamb steaks. Add about one tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan and once it begins to smoke add the lamb steaks to the pan. Sear until the steaks reach medium-rare to medium, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a platter and allow to rest while you make the sauce.

Mix together the mint, garlic, chili flakes and then whisk in the olive oil. The add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve chimichurri sauce over top of the lamb steaks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Warm Mediterranean Salad and Whole Roasted Eggplant

Happy New Year! How did you spend your holiday? I think I'm still (mentally) recovering from mine--which I spent working. It's always a crazy night for us at the restaurant. I passed most of the night fighting through the crowds dancing in the middle of the dining room and trying to be heard over the blasting DJ music, trying to keep my trays of drinks from crashing to the ground and trying to keep my patience. Definitely was not 100% successful, but I made it through.

But that is over now and we are onto a new year! I have high hopes and lots of good feelings about the year to come.

One thing I definitely have been trying to be better at lately, and hope to continue through 2012, is to eat more vegetables. I'm really wanting to be better about healthy eating habits, especially after seeing some of my family members struggling with heart issues this past year. As healthy as I generally am with my running and lack of fast food in my diet, I know I can do better.

For anyone with similar New Year's Resolutions, this salad is a delicious addition to your menu. It is a warm salad, so is also wonderful for the cold winter months, with small sausage "meatballs" in a tomato based sauce over top of a bed of fresh spinach leaves. I like to serve this salad with a whole roasted eggplant on the side--once roasted it creates a smoky, creamy spread perfect when served with crusty bread.

Warm Mediterranean Salad

4 lamb merguez sausages
1/2 TB olive oil
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives
1 cucumber, chopped
1 TB lemon juice
Spinach leaves
goat and sheep's milk feta

Cut open the end of each sausage casing. Push out the sausage meat and form into small 1" balls. 
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meatballs to the pan and cook until browned on the outside and cooked through. 
Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Then stir in the artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and cucumber and cook until heated through, another minute or two. Then stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
Place a good portion of spinach leaves in a bowl. The top off with the sausage mixture and toss together. Sprinkle with the feta on top and serve.

Whole Roasted Eggplant
1 large eggplant
Extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
coarse sea salt
red chili flakes
sliced French bread

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
Poke the eggplant all over with a fork or sharp knife and then place onto a baking sheet. Place the eggplant into the oven and roast for about 1 hour (or until the eggplant skin is slightly wrinkled and the whole eggplant is soft).
Cut the eggplant in half. Drizzle with fresh squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and red chili flakes.
Spread the insides of the eggplant on top of sliced French bread to serve.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Curried Lamb Couscous and Notes on Braising

A few years ago I didn't know what braising meant and had never used the technique in the kitchen. Now it is one of my favorite ways to prepare meat and I use it more that just about any other cooking method. The best part about braising is that it can take an inexpensive, tough cut of meat and turn it meltingly tender and rich. Plus it is exceptionally easy as long as you have a little patience.

To braise a cut of meat, begin by seasoning it (with salt and pepper at least, or a spice rub if you so choose) and allowing it to rest at room temperature for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking. This allows the meat to be cooked more evenly (and makes it more tender in my opinion). Then heat 1-2 TB of oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove. Sear the meat on all sides (usually about 1-2 minutes per side is sufficient) making sure they are nice and brown. You can skip this step if you like, but it does give a more rich, intense flavor to the final dish if you do it.

At this point you have a couple of options. You can remove the meat to a plate and add mirepoix before returning the meat and the liquid or you can move right on the the addition of the liquid. Again, I think that adding mirepoix (a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onion) makes for more complex flavors. After removing the seared meat to a plate I will turn down the heat significantly (to keep from burning the vegetables), add the mirepoix and cook until tender (usually around 7-8 minutes).

Next return the meat to the pan and add in the liquid. The liquid can really be anything, but stock, red or white wine or beer are all great options. The liquid should come about 1/3-1/2 way up the side of the cut of meat. Bring the liquid to a boil and then cover the dutch oven with the lid (or foil). You can either turn the heat down on the stove to allow the liquid to simmer, or place the whole pot into a preheated oven (around 425 degrees). The time you cook will vary greatly depending on cut of meat and size, but this is where you need to show patience--cook the meat slowly until it is so tender you can shred it with a fork. Stew meat can be done in around 1 hour, but larger cuts (shoulders, roasts) could take up to 3 or more. Now you can shred the meat and serve it in the braising liquids, or you can strain the braising liquid and reduce it or make a gravy out of it to drizzle over the meat. The result is delicious on its own but also tends to be excellent over pasta or rice or sopped up with really good bread.

Simple and foolproof (and always tender and tasty). Now put go out and put braising to use in the following Curried Lamb Couscous recipe!

Curried Lamb Couscous
5-6 servings
1 lb lamb stew meat
2 TB curry powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
pinch nutmeg 
1/4 t. cardamom
1/8 t. cinnamon
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 TB cooking oil
1/2 c. vermouth
1 1/2-2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. pitted green olives
1/2 c. raisins
1/3 c. toasted almond slivers
1 package Near East Couscous

Mix together the curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. Rub all over the lamb stew meat and then cover and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.
Heat the cooking oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lamb stew meat and sear on all sides (will go quickly with the small cuts of meat--give it only about 45 seconds to 1 min. per side). Remove the lamb meat to a plate, turn the heat down on the dutch oven to medium-low, and add in the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the vermouth to the pan and stir, making sure to scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom (these have a lot of flavor that you don't want to lose!).
Add the meat back to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Then cover the pan and then reduce the heat so the liquid will stay at a steady simmer. Cook for about 40 minutes, then add in the olives, raisins and almonds. Cover the pan again and cook until the lamb meat is extra tender, about 10-15 minutes longer.
While finishing up the lamb, cook the couscous according to the directions on the box. Once the lamb is tender and ready add the cooked couscous to the lamb and braising liquid and stir it all together to serve.