Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fiddlehead ferns, ramps and turkey thighs

I had better success with my camera this time. As you can see, the fiddlehead ferns are so named because their coils resemble the carving at the end of a violin fingerboard (called the "scroll"). As for their flavor? They taste unlike anything else I’ve ever had. They are very mild, slightly crunchy when cooked correctly, and reminiscent of a mélange of other green vegetables. One blogger describes them as being a cross between asparagus and artichoke. That’s as good a description as any I can think of.

The ramps are a wild leek or scallion, but with a much more pungent flavor and aroma. It is said that ramps can be smelled on you even a few days after eating them. So eat them with the person you’re going to be with the most!

My method of cooking them is very basic: a simple sauté in a bit of olive oil and butter with the addition of a few pinches of salt and pepper (to taste, as always). After the first 6 minutes, add 1/4 cup chicken stock. When the stock has evaporated the ferns should be done.

This picture of a turkey thigh is a little fuzzy. Sorry.

The thighs came from a turkey we got the day after Easter for a fraction of the original price. That sucker weighed about 20 lbs. The thighs themselves were probably 1 ½ lbs. each!

Roasted turkey thighs
2 turkey thighs, bone in and skin on
salted and peppered water for brining
olive oil
black pepper
all-purpose no-salt seasoning

Start by brining the turkey for several hours. Rinse thoroughly and dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the thighs with some olive oil and sprinkle with the no-salt seasoning. If you prefer, use some dried sage, oregano, thyme or tarragon.
Place on a wire rack in a baking pan and roast for 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Tent with foil and allow them to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Tilapia oreganata

I am here to testify to the great quality of the recipe for Tilapia Oreganata recently posted by Jen ( The flavor is wonderful, the breadcrumb topping crispy, and the fish cooked perfectly at 14 minutes in my oven. Try this!

With her permission, I’m including Jen’s photo of the tilapia.

I was cooking only 2 filets (instead of the 4 in the original recipe) but it was simple to halve the ingredients. I didn’t measure anything, just eyeballed it. I used homemade bread crumbs and turned the fish what I guess you would call “bottom side up.” That’s the flat side and I found it easy to get the crumb mixture to stay on that way. I also used more oregano than called for (dried). I love the oregano flavor.

I took a picture of our dinner plates last night but it is much too blurry to use. The real reason I wanted the picture is because it included fiddlehead ferns sauteed with wild ramps. We’re going to have them again tonight, so I’ll try again. Tune in tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rack of lamb


It’s Saturday and Monday is my 66th b-day. I’m cooking my own special dinner but don’t yet know what it will be. I have our specialty market trying to track down shad roe – for us a once-a-year favorite. Also have them trying to find fiddlehead ferns – an extraordinary veggie which is available for only a few weeks in the spring. I also thought of soft shell crabs. Alas, they won’t be around for a couple more weeks I’m told.

Fiddleheads are extremely expensive - $15 per pound if I recall correctly. The good news? We still have over $100 left on a gift card I received for my b-day last year (it started out at $650!) So the sky’s the limit.

Yesterday afternoon I got another inspiration: rack of lamb. I’ve only made it once and that was a long, long time ago. Have to look through our recipe collection to see what I have.

I haven’t yet thought of what the starch will be, or what the veggie will be if, as I suspect, I strike out on the ferns.

Later …

Well, the big day has come and gone. The menu became rack of lamb, oven-roasted green beans (thanks to Peter) and a russet potato galette.

I found a recipe for the lamb in our collection. It’s probably the one I used years ago. It is wonderfully simple. I posted my galette recipe a couple of months ago and will not repeat it here.

I’ll let you in on a secret: the rack of lamb cost $50.00! Thank goodness for my gift card (still has $80 on it). Another little secret: the lamb was so tender I could have removed my teeth (if they were false) and enjoyed it with no effort.

Rack of lamb
1 lamb rack (8 ribs), Frenched
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of ¼ lemon
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in an oven-proof skillet (cast iron is great for this). Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper. When the oil starts to smoke brown the lamb on both sides (6 minutes total).

Mix the other tablespoon of olive oil with the mustard, rosemary and lemon juice.

When the lamb is well-browned, remove the pan from the heat. Place the lamb on a cutting board and brush it all over with the mustard sauce. Return it to the skillet and place it in the oven.
Roast to an internal temperature of 135 degrees for rare/medium rare. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Meatloaf 101

The teacher in me is screaming to get out today. This will seem pretty over the top, but towards the end it all comes together with just 4 steps to make the meatloaf of your dreams.

Who doesn’t like meatloaf? Who needs a recipe for meatloaf? Nobody. There are several basic ingredients (or choices of same) that are the way to start up your loaf. There are choices of meats and vegetation. There are no bad choices (ok, maybe anchovies would not be such a good idea…or?). It suddenly occurs to me to wonder if one could make a faux meatloaf, a meatless vegetarian loaf. That’s for another day.

Start with:
*½ medium onion, chopped
*1-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper
½ green bell pepper, diced (or any color pepper)
*1 lightly beaten large egg
*1/3 cup breadcrumbs (preferably unflavored), moistened with 1/3 cup cream or milk
*salt and pepper to taste

Of the above the garlic, hot pepper, bell pepper are all optional according to your preferences. The breadcrumbs are essential as is the cream or milk you will moisten them with. If you start with the above, then the only other thing you need is 2 lbs. of meat.

I like to add some grated parmesan or romano into the meat mix and top the loaf with some pepper jack (only because it’s what I had).

I wanted bell pepper and a chile pepper but didn’t have any. Also did not want to go to the store. So…skipped those ingredients. The asterisks denote what I had and, therefore, what I used.

Meat choices:
*Ground beef (grind your own if you can)
Ground lamb
Ground veal
Ground pork
Ground chicken or turkey
*Italian sausage
*Mexican chorizo

I guess you could make a meatloaf using only one meat, but it would be pretty one-dimensional – although a turkey loaf is perfectly viable. The proportions are up to you as long as it’s a total of 2 lbs. (I’m basing this on my loaf pan which is 9” x 5” x 3 1/2”.)

Yesterday I threw together a meatloaf after foraging through the fridge and freezer. (An aside: I put the loaf together using salt and pepper only as I sautéed the onions and garlic, but the highly flavored chorizo and sausage precluded the need for any more seasoning.)

I often like to put bacon strips on top before the loaf goes into the oven. This time, however, there was quite a bit of fat in my meats. So I used cheese as a topping.

If all your meat choices are starting out unseasoned add your favorite flavors, any of the following.
Tarragon for poultry
Oregano, thyme for anything
Paprika, especially with the inclusion of pork
Of course salt and pepper to taste

How do you know if your seasoning profile is a good one? Put a teaspoon of the meatloaf mixture into a small bowl and nuke it for 20 seconds. Then simply taste it and adjust to your liking.

Meatloaf 101

1) You should start by choosing your meats – use anything you have on hand and need to use up. Get them ground and into a large bowl.

2) Decide on the vegetation and get it all prepped, as in chopped.

3) Saute the onions, garlic, peppers (if using) until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4) Add everything to the meat and mix well (I like to use my hands). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease up a loaf pan, press the whole mess into it, top with your bacon or cheese and bake until it reaches 160 degrees. It takes about an hour if uncovered and with bacon on top – closer to 1 ¼ hrs., covered for the first 40 minutes if you’re using cheese as a topping.

So, in the end, it’s easy as pie (actually I find pie to be hard). And I feel so liberated in that I no longer need to consult “Joy of Cooking” for guidance. Make the meatloaf a day ahead if it helps and just pop it into the oven the next day (allow it to come close to room temp if you have the time). Voila!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dog, the other white meat

It’s just a JOKE!

I have nothing else to post today, so I thought I’d introduce our little one, Scooper. He’s almost 12, a little deaf, but still very much the puppy at times. (In between, he sleeps most of the time.)

Scooper had a “brother,” Pupkiss, who was a year younger. Unfortunately the poor little guy developed the curse of the King Charles Spaniel, a bad heart. It didn’t affect him until last April when he went into conjestive heart failure. He got treated with drug after drug, but by October we realized we had to let him go. And so we did.

Scooper is named after the Pooper Scooper. Pup’s name had a more interesting derivation. At the time he came to us we lived in Teaneck, NJ, a community heavily populated by orthodox Jewish people. There’s a Yiddish word, “bubkes,” that sort of means “nada.” That’s what inspired Pup’s name. The first day he was with us was a Saturday and, while we were out in the side yard with the boys, along came a family walking to schul – 3 little girls with their parents. The girls came over to the fence to see the boys and of course asked what their names were. Now, mind you, we didn’t want to give offense. I started by telling them the bigger dog was Scooper. Then looking at the girls’ father I told them the wee little puppy was Pupkiss. The father got a twinkle in his eye and said (in a wonderful Yiddish accent), “Very clever.” Whew! I was relieved.

For about 3 years, after the dog food scare, I cooked chicken (boiled), rice (brown) and mixed frozen vegetables for the “boys.” I kept giving them a bit of Iams kibble along with these things. Iams was not implicated in any of the problems. So, you see, this really is an oblique way to post about food.

Say hello, Scooper.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Grilled hearts of romaine

Here’s an unusual use for romaine. I’ve done this once before and dressed it with a sort of Caesar dressing. This time I kept it very simple. Even the stem end of the romaine is tender enough to eat as long as you trim it the way you see it.

Of course you can buy hearts of romaine, but for a price. I just get the regular whole thing and cut it up myself, reserving all the extra greenage for salads. This would be good to do on an outdoor grill, but I use my stovetop grill and it’s more than fine.

If you want to be decorous, use a knife and fork to eat it. We just picked it up by the stem end and ate by hand.

Grilled hearts of romaine
1 head romaine lettuce
olive oil
garlic and/or onion powder, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan or romano cheese

Preheat a stovetop grill.

Cut the romaine in half lengthwise. Pull off the outer leaves until you get the amount and shape you want for the “heart.” Trim the stem end, leaving just enough so that the pieces stay together. Brush the cut side generously with olive oil and then add as much salt and pepper as you want and some garlic or onion powder (optional).

When the grill is nice and hot lay the romaine on it cut side down. Let it go for just a few minutes until it has browned a little. Brush the up-side with oil and again add salt and pepper and more garlic or onion powder, if using.

So that the “rounded” second side will make good contact with the grill, lay a piece of foil over it and weight it with something not too heavy. I use a small (7”x9”) cutting board.

After another minute or two it’s ready. Sprinkle some cheese on top and serve.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Curried turkey legs and wings

Having had the vindaloo shrimp on Monday, I wasn’t sure I wanted another Indian-spiced dish on Wednesday. We had garam masala, which has a lot of the same ingredients as the vindaloo. What to do? Peter wanted to use yet another Indian mix, chat, which goes really well with potatoes.

I looked in my “Food Lover’s Companion.” In the back is a list of suggested spices and flavorings for various foods. Curry and mustard were included under the chicken or turkey category. Oh, I didn’t mention that the whole deal here is to prepare the legs and wings from that honking big turkey we got last week.

So, here’s what I did. Made a paste using mustard, oil, Thai curry sauce and water. I had to adjust it so the hot curry paste wouldn’t totally dominate.

Curried turkey legs and wings
2 turkey legs, brined for 2-3 hours
2 turkey wings, also brined, tips removed
Spice paste*
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
black pepper
chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Use a sharp knife to remove the sheath that runs up one side of the legs. Run your fingers along the various muscle components of the legs to open up spaces where you can rub in the curry paste. Make a few slits through the skin of the wings, again so the paste can get inside. Cut a slit into the meaty part on each side of the legs.

Rub the curry paste all over and into the turkey pieces. Pull the skin of the legs up (you’ll have had to pull it down to rub in the paste). Place the legs and wings on a wire rack over a baking pan. Add chicken stock to the pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake 1 1/4 to 1 ½ hrs. This can be done ahead of time. Then the turkey can be reheated.

*spice paste: mix 2 parts curry sauce (mine is from Hong Kong) with 1 part grainy mustard, 1 part olive oil, and 1 part water; stir to combine. Since you probably don’t have exactly the curry sauce I have, futz around with curry powder and the other ingredients until you get something you like.

Vindaloo shrimp with couscous and caramelized broccoli

Vindaloo…who knew? An Indian spice, it can pack a punch depending on the amount of curry you incorporate. We have Savory Spice Shop here in Denver, a source for practically anything you can imagine. They make dozens of custom blends, including vindaloo. It has 13 ingredients – all contributing in the end to a warm and fuzzy flavor. It was a little hot when made into a paste, but I didn’t use all that much and on the shrimp it was fabulous.

I bought a packaged “instant” couscous at Whole Foods yesterday. Sounded like a good idea – so so in the end. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to give a recipe, I just followed what the box said.

Vindaloo shrimp with couscous and caramelized broccoli
vindaloo paste*
10 oz. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
small crown of broccoli, trimmed and cut into smallish pieces.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

*Combine equal amounts vindaloo powder, water and oil. Stir into a paste. For this amount of shrimp I found that 1 ½ tsp of each was perfect.

Heat 2 saute pans with 1 tbsp each of butter and oil. The one for the broccoli should be on medium high heat, for the shrimp, medium heat.

A word about the broccoli: I always use the stem; cut off the outside skin and cut the core into ½” pieces.
When the pan is hot drop in the broccoli. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper (to taste). Toss often with tongs until the broccoli begins to brown. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a couple of minutes. Take the pan off the heat and set aside.

Cook the shrimp simultaneously with the broccoli. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper right when you put them in the pan. When the bottom half has turned opaque, turn the shrimp and stir in the vindaloo paste. When the second side is near complete opacity, remove the shrimp from the heat. The length of time it takes to cook shrimp is entirely dependent on their size. Just eyeball them, turn them promptly when the time comes, and snatch them off the stove the instant the second side is done.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spicy orange salad, Moroccan style

A version of this salad appeared in the NY Times in 1980. It was by Craig Claiborne. I’ve rewritten it to satisfy myself. Castelvetrano olives are a bright green with a very delicate flavor. Whole Foods has them here in Denver in the antipasto/salad bar area. I like a nice big fat green olive (maybe stuffed with garlic or bleu cheese) in a martini, but not so much to eat by themselves.
My recipe calls for arugula, but we didn't have any. Substituted some shredded romaine. Prefer arugula

Spicy orange salad, Moroccan style (2 servings)
1 large navel orange, supremed
8 castelvetrano olives, pitted (or oil-cured black olives)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 t red wine or sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika
pinch cinnamon
pinch cayenne
baby arugula

If you don’t know how to supreme an orange, go to Google and type in “how to supreme and orange.” There are youtube videos to show you the technique. Alternatively, peel the orange well and cut it into segments.

Put the orange, olives, garlic, olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss.

Mix the dry spices in a small bowl, add it to the orange and olives and toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Place some baby arugula in a salad bowl, top with the orange and olives and serve.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Asparagus soup

I made (and posted) an asparagus soup a few months ago. Rather than consult my own recipe, I just started from scratch and made it up as I went along. By using half broth and half water the result was light and flavorful.

We had saved the “butt” ends of some thick asparagus from a week or so ago and kept them in the freezer. Let’s get on with it.

Asparagus soup
Trimmed bottoms of 1 bunch of asparagus
14 oz. chicken broth
14 oz. water
10 oz. frozen baby asparagus spears, thawed
large pinches each of: freshly ground coriander seed, cumin, onion powder, garlic granules, salt, pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream

Put the asparagus bottoms, broth and water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 1 hour. Strain out the solids, pressing them to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Cut 2 inch-long pieces from the tips of the baby asparagus. Set them aside. Cut the remainder of the spears into 1 inch pieces. Put them into the broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree in the food processor with some of the liquid. Return the puree to the soup pot and bring to a simmer. Add the spices and cream. Simmer 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let the soup sit until reheating at serving time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Turkey "sausage" meatloaf

Look how white this is! Apparently I never used pure turkey breast like this before. I was stunned pulling it out of the oven.
Time to stretch my culinary imagination. A long time ago I made turkey sausage a la Jacques Pepin (from a visit he made to Emerial Live). Then I recreated it in my own image. This time I’m going the sausage route but as a meatloaf.

In yesterday’s posting I discussed turkey milanesa which I made from slices of boneless, skinless turkey breast. They each were about 6 oz. The rest of the breast weighed 2 lbs!!! Thankfully my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer has a meat grinding attachment I use often.

The turkey had been brined for several hours and then, even though I rinsed it, it sat in the fridge for another 24 hours. A little sample, microwaved, proved to be on the salty side, but Peter agreed that by not adding additional salt the rest of the meatloaf ingredients would stretch it out and disperse the saltiness. Don’t get me wrong, I could have eaten it just as it was – but it was a bit over-salty. If I had planned to just make burgers, I would have soaked the pieces of turkey breast (before grinding) in cold water for an hour.

So here it is, thanks in part to Jacques, and in large measure to yours truly.

Turkey “sausage” meatloaf
2 lbs. ground turkey breast
½ cup minced onion
1 tsp ground fennel seed
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper, or to taste
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup heavy cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 slices thick-cut bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Put a teaspoon or so of the mix into a small bowl and microwave it for 20 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

Lubricate a loaf pan with cooking spray. Put the turkey mixture into the loaf pan. Top with bacon slices (cut them as needed to cover turkey in one layer).

Bake until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Turkey milanesa with hominy/bean/grits cakes

Pictured above: 2 pieces turkey milanesa and one bean cake (top of plate).

We bought a 20 lb. turkey at a 60% discount the day after Easter. I broke it down into legs, thighs, breasts (one boneless, one bone-on), wings and back (for stock). Last night I made some of the boneless breast into milanesa. The remainder of that breast will become turkey burgers tonight.

Cheese-Whiz, that’s a lot of turkey. But the t-bird is an excellent source of low-fat protein. And, as it happens, Peter and I love turkey.

I have studied the art of milanesa (or the Italian version, milanese) for a long time. The last two times I’ve made it (pork once, then now the turkey) I really felt like I understood it.

I did one thing different: I sliced the breast across instead of lengthwise – into two 5-6 oz. cutlets ½” thick (before pounding). This is the equivalent of cutting meat across the grain.

Keys to the process:
1) brining – 2 cups water, 2 tbsp kosher salt (1 for regular salt), 1 tsp roughly smashed black peppercorns – 2-3 hours in the fridge is fine.
2) Rinsing very, very well.
3) No added salt after brining – seasoning with some more pepper and some paprika is good.
4) Pounding thin is essential – no more than 1/4”; closer to 1/8” is even better.
5) Allow the coatings to set up in the refrigerator.
6) Getting the oil hot enough – when it’s ready a flick of water into it will pop instantly – not sizzle, pop.
7) Cooking time – absolutely no more than 90 seconds per side.
8) Drain on paper towel and dab the top to remove any excess oil.

Turkey milanesa
2 5-6 oz. turkey cutlets, cut across the grain ½” thick
brining liquid
sweet or smoked paprika to taste
black pepper
all-purpose flour for dredging
1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tbsp cream, milk or water
bread crumbs, homemade or panko, but never Italian-flavored ones from a box
2/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional)
vegetable oil, enough to coat a large saute pan to 1/8”

Pound the cutlets to 1/8” – ¼” thickness between plastic wrap or in a freezer bag. Season with paprika and/or pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Dip into egg and coat thoroughly, allowing excess to drain off. Coat with bread crumbs (with or without the cheese in it), pressing the crumbs in.

Place the cutlets on a baking rack over a plate and refrigerate until 30 minutes before cooking.

I cannot emphasize the importance of getting the oil hot enough. You can test it one of two ways: flick a drop of water into it – it should pop instantly; or drop a tiny bit of breadcrumbs into the oil – it should sizzle aggressively in an instant and be brown in a matter of a few seconds.

Here’s the part that’s hard to trust – the cooking time. Cook for 90 seconds on one side, turn and cook as little as one more minute. Last night, because the cutlets were about ¼” thick, I intended to cook them 2 minutes per side. After turning them I let them go only 30 seconds on side 2.

Drain on paper towels, dabbing the tops with another towel to remove any residual oil. Serve at once.

It was time to dispose of some leftovers: a bit of grits from last night, a bit of hominy from the recent posole, and an orphan can of Navy beans in the pantry. I had to consult a couple of recipes from our loose-leaf collection, mostly to see what I should use as a binder.

Grits, hominy and Navy bean cakes
1/3 cup leftover grits or polenta
½ - 14 oz. can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can Navy beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, green and white parts chopped fine
1 tsp hot sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
pinch finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup grated pepper jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the hominy and beans in a food processor and pulse to a rough chop. Mix in grits, scallions, hot sauce, egg, flour, serrano chile, rosemary, cheese, salt and pepper. Form a little of it into a 1” ball, flatten it and microwave it for 15 seconds. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Form the mixture into patties and fry 3-4 minutes per side until hot throughout.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grits with shrimp and chorizo

We had to drag ourselves kicking and screaming away from the red meat last night. Fortunately we had a 2-lb. bag of shrimp in the freezer that we had gotten at Sunflower at a really great price.

A little Mexican chorizo could sub for the Spanish (fully cooked), you’d just need to cook it as the first step before getting to the shrimp. The ketchup and horseradish garnish is certainly optional – I just got a jones for it at the last minute.

Grits with shrimp and chorizo
1 14 oz. can chicken stock
½ cup water
1 cup medium grind corn meal
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, divided
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp finely chopped Spanish chorizo
10 oz. peeled and de-veined shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbsp prepared horseradish

In a deep sauce pot (because of potentail splatters) heat the stock to a boil. Whisk in the corn meal and adjust the heat to a lower setting so that the grits bubble, but slowly. Stir frequently. It will take about 20 minutes for the grits to finish cooking. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Near the end, stir in 1 tbsp butter and the peas.

When the grits are about 10 minutes along, heat the olive oil and the other tbsp butter in a saute pan. When the butter has melted and the foam subsided, add chorizo and the shrimp. (I should point out here that this timing was based on large, 16-20 per lb., shrimp. Adjust your timing to suit the size of the shrimp.)

Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Turn the shrimp when the bottom half has turned opaque. As soon as the second side is opaque, remove the shrimp from the pan to a plate or bowl until ready to serve atop the grits.

To serve: put grits in the bottom of heated bowls and top with shrimp, chorizo, scallions, and some mix of ketchup and horseradish, if using.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Braised lamb shanks

What is it about me and lamb shanks? I posted them in January with the crappiest photo in my entire blog. I cooked them again for Easter the other day and ended up with a very blurry photo. Oh well, my point today is to describe just how easy it is to make this dish. And the photo? I “borrowed” it from someone else’s site. At least it looks just like my lamb shanks.

The most time-consuming thing is the trimming of the silver skin. Frankly, I don’t think it’s essential to do it – the lamb cooks for so long it probably doesn’t matter.

Braised lamb shanks
2 lamb shanks, trimmed of silver skin
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 cups beef or chicken stock
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and place a rack in the lower third.

Heat the oil in a pot large enough to hold the lamb in one layer. Liberally salt and pepper the meat and brown on all sides (about 8 minutes total). Add the chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and put in the oven for 3 – 3 ½ hours. Go play tennis.

Friday, April 2, 2010

50's-style pot roast

I posted my pot roast back in January, although it was more of a stew than a roast. Nonetheless, this one is the real “pot” McCoy. I grew up eating Sunday roasts cooked just this way by my mother (back in the 50’s). And few things could be easier.

Nearly every recipe for roasts calls for browning. Not this one. You can see from the photo that the meat browned up beautifully during the baking. Once it goes in the oven (it takes 5 minute to prepare), you walk away for at least 3 1/2 hours!

The recipe calls for a 3 lb. piece of chuck roast because that’s what I had in my freezer. A roast up to twice that size will work with the same amount of other ingredients. Note that there’s no added salt. There is plenty of it in the soup mixes.
I started with a 300 degree oven for an hour, just to get things really going. Then I reduced the heat to 275 and let it go for a total time of 3 1/2 hours. A lot depends on your cut of meat. If you are sure to get the liquid in the pot to a boil 275 should do it, especially if what you want to do is literally go away (shopping, biking, etc.)

50’s-style pot roast
3 lb. beef roast
black pepper
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 can mushroom soup concentrate
2-3 cups low fat, low sodium beef stock

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Get out your Dutch oven. Scatter about 1/3 of the onion soup mix in the bottom (so that it seasons the underside of the meat). Spoon on 1/3 of the mushroom soup (undiluted).

Sprinkle pepper on all sides of the meat. Place it in the pot. Top with the remaining onion soup mix and mushroom soup concentrate. Add enough beef stock to come up about 2/3 of the way up the meat.

Bring the stock to a boil. Cover and place in the oven. Go away. Come back 3 hrs. later (perhaps 3 ½ if your roast is much larger than 3 lb.). Remove the roast to a platter, cover with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Slice and enjoy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sauteed baby spinach

Given that we ate leftovers of the recently posted “posole” recipe, I thought I would post our side dish, an extremely simple and extremely tasty version of sauteed baby spinach. We saute greens of various sorts frequently, in the case of stronger flavored ones I’ve taken to making them creamed.

This takes so little time that you can do it just minutes before sitting down to dinner.

Sauteed baby spinach
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
10 oz. baby spinach, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
granulated or powdered garlic to taste
2 tbsp orange juice
zest of ½ an orange (optional)

Using a large saute pan, heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted and the foam has subsided. Add the spinach to the pan. It will look like a huge amount, but will reduce to 2-4 portions (depending on your appetite).

Toss with tongs until the spinach is about half wilted. Season with salt, pepper and garlic. Add the orange juice. After 1 minute remove the pan from the heat, toss one more time and remove the pan from the heat and cover it. That’s it. Within a minute or 2 the spinach will be ready.

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