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Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Lentils December 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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3-4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each)
1 red onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 canned whole tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1-1/4 cups lentils (about 1/2 lb.)
1-1/2 tbsp. chopped thyme
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. olive oil
fresh ground pepper
salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Dust lamb shanks with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven.  Brown the lamb thoroughly, about 6-8 minutes per side.  Cook in two batches to prevent crowding, if necessary.  Remove lamb and set aside.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to Dutch oven and cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add 1 tbsp. of thyme and 1 bay leaf.  Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups of stock.  Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen browned bits.  Boil for 5 minutes.

Return lamb shanks to pot.  Return liquid to a simmer.  Cover pot with parchment paper and close the lid as tightly as possible.  Cook lamb in the oven for one hour.  Turn lamb and cook for another hour.

While lamb is braising, parboil the lentils.  Bring 3 cups stock and 3 cups water to a boil.  Add lentils, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the remaining thyme and bay leaf.  Return to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain lentils and spread them evenly over a large plate, allowing them to cool to room temperature.

After lamb has braised for 2 hours, remove lamb shanks and transfer them to a plate.  Stir lentils into the braising liquid, mix well, and return lamb shanks to the pot.  Cover Dutch oven again with parchment paper and return to the oven to cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Remove dish from the oven.  Transfer lamb to a holding plate and cover with foil.  Taste lentils for salt and pepper.  Arrange a bed of lentils in a serving plate and nestle the lamb shanks into the lentils.  Sprinkle parsley over the dish and serve.

Time to Prepare: 3 hours

Level of Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 3-4 people

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Tunisian Lamb Stew with Quince November 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cubed
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tbsp. cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 oz. tomato paste (1 small can)
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch of saffron
4 cups chicken stock
2 quinces
1 tbsp. honey

Time to Prepare: 3 hours + Overnight marinating.

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 4+

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1. Toast coriander, caraway, and cumin in a small dry pan until they begin to release their aromas. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Crush seeds with mortar and pestle.  Tear chiles into coin-sized pieces.  Combine seeds with garlic, chiles, paprika, and cayenne.  Season lamb with spice mix and 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Bring lamb to room temperature.  Using medium-high heat on the stovetop, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium dutch oven.  Brown the lamb cubes in batches until evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch.  Set aside.

3. Cook onions with 1 tbsp. tomato paste in dutch oven until soft and golden.  Add a splash of chicken stock and deglaze the pot.  Add the remaining chicken stock and tomato paste to the pot, mix well, and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the cinnamon stick and saffron.  Add lamb, reduce to a low simmer, cover.  Cook for 90 minutes.  Check pot every 30 minutes, making sure that the liquid is not cooking off too quickly.  (Add water 1/2 cup at a time to replenish, as necessary.)

4. Wash quinces under cold water.  Slice into eighths and remove the cores.  Stir honey into simmering lamb stew.  Submerge quinces in stew liquid, cover, and cook for another hour.

5. Remove from heat.  Serve over cous cous.

This recipe is adapted from http://www.chow.com/recipes/11148.  Proportions and ingredients were adjusted to suit my whimsy.

Braised Endives November 9, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Recipe, Side Dish, Veggies.
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2 lbs. Belgian endives
1 c. water
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. toasted cumin seed (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Quarter the endives lengthwise.  Combine the other ingredients in a bistro pan and bring to a boil.  Add endives, cover, and cook at medium heat for 10 minutes.  Remove cover, increase heat and boil off liquid until endives are almost dry.  Serve immediately, or remove endives from heat and hold, covered, for up to 15 minutes.

Variant: substitute one 1 teaspoon bacon drippings for one of the tablespoons of butter.

Duck Legs braised in Port-Soaked Cherries October 17, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Duck, Entree, Recipe.
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6 large duck legs, including thighs
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. allspice berries
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tsp. fleur de sel (or coarse salt)
1 cup tawny port
1/2 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock

Time to prepare: 3 hours + overnight prep.

Difficulty: 6/10

Serves: 6

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There are five general steps to preparing this dish:

1. Prep – Duck is coated in a dried spice mix and refrigerated overnight. (Overnight)
2. Sear – Duck is browned in a hot pan. (30 minutes)
3. Prepare Braising Liquid. (10 minutes)
4. Braise – Duck is cooked in braising liquid, covered, for two hours. (2 hours)
5. Finish – Duck is dry-cooked, and sauce is made from braising liquid. (20 minutes)

Step One – Prep

Duck legs: Without cutting into skin, trim off excess fat. Place legs in a shallow bowl or sealable plastic bag. In a spice grinder or a mortar, combine coriander, peppercorns and allspice, and grind until coarse. Mix in thyme and coarse salt. Rub mixture evenly over duck legs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cherries: Soak cherries in port, covered, for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Step Two – Searing

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a shallow braising pan or skillet to medium-hot. (I have made this dish using only a single shallow braising pan or bistro pan for steps 2 through 4. Some people prefer to use a separate skillet and braising pan, for the searing and the braising, respectively.) Sear 3 duck legs, skin side down for 8 minutes. Leave them undisturbed, checking only to ensure that they are not aticking and burning onto the pan. There is no need to add oil or butter to the pan before searing — enough fat from the duck will coat the pan suitably within seconds. Turn legs over and sear for 4 minutes. Remove duck legs and drain excess fat from pan. Repeat process for the other 3 duck legs. Reserve one tbsp. of duck fat after searing.

Step Three – Braising Liquid

Return searing pan to medium heat with 1 tbsp. duck fat. Add sliced shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add cherries and port-soak to pan and reduce by half. Add stock and bay leaves and simmer until reduced by half.

Step Four – Braising

Arrange duck legs flat in the bottom of a shallow braising pan or bistro pan. Pour braising liquid over duck. Cover pan with parchment paper and close lid. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. Turn duck legs over and cook for 1 more hour. Reduce heat to 275 or 300 if liquid appears to be evaporating rapidly.

Step Five – Finishing

Remove braise from the oven. Turn on broiler. Remove duck legs from liquid and transfer to a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil duck legs on middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes, or until skin is crisp. Remove duck legs from broiler, cover, and keep warm until served (holding warm duck no longer than 15 minutes.)

While duck is broiling, prepare a sauce from braising liquid. Using a gravy separator or a large flat spoon, remove as much fat and oil from liquid as possible. “Hammer” braising liquid in a sauce pot at highest possible heat until thick and saucy, adding salt and pepper to taste if needed. (Do not over-reduce sauce or it will burn.)

Serve duck leg, accompanied by sauce.

If holding for one or two days, store duck legs and sauce separately in refrigerator. Skim fat from sauce before reheating. Gently re-heat duck legs in sauce, adding 1 or 2 tbsp. of water if needed. Finish duck legs under broiler, as above, and serve immediately.

Braised Cabbage April 1, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Recipe, Side Dish, Veggies.
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2 lb. head of green cabbage
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, cut into rounds
1/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt
pepper
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 325° F. Cut cabbage into 8 wedges. Arrange wedges in dutch oven or other braising pot such that they overlap as little as possible. Scatter carrot and onion over cabbage. Drizzle olive oil and stock over cabbage. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cover pot with parchment paper and put the lid on.

Cook the cabbage for 2 hours. After one hour, turn the wedges of cabbage over and drizzle it with the balsamic vinegar.

Cabbage can be served immediately. Or it can be held, covered and refrigerated, for up to two days. To reheat, bake for 10 minutes at 400° F with the lid off.

Time to Prepare: 5 minutes preparation + 2 hours baking

Difficulty: 1/10

Serves: 4 to 6

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This dish is so simple and delicious it’s already becoming something of a favorite and a staple after only two cookings. (Two in the same week!) I am not the hugest fan of cabbage — it’s kind of a ho-hum vegetable in my mind — but this preparation completely transforms the insipid cabbage into a rich, sweet, deeply-flavored side dish.

The dish virtually cooks itself. If need be, the turning of the cabbage can be omitted and the vinegar added at the start, making this an ideal candidate for cooking with the oven-timer while at work. (When cooking with a timer, I usually reduce the cooking time of long, slow dishes by fifteen minutes — because ovens can take so long to cool down, it will actually finish off the dish nicely even after the oven is off.)

The 1/8 tsp. of red pepper adds a surprising nip to the cabbage which wakes it up. This amount of pepper is too much for Connor, but I haven’t heard any complaints from adults.

Braised Green Beans with Tomato and Basil March 26, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Recipe, Side Dish, Veggies.
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1-1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 cippolini onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup water

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, basil, and water. Cover skillet and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until beans reach desired degree of tenderness. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Time to Prepare: 10 minutes prep + 20 minutes (avg.) stovetop.

Level of Difficulty: 2/10

Serves: 4

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I’ve been getting bored of green beans lately. I avoid casserole-type dishes because of their general heaviness. And tossing beans in butter / olive oil and adding salt has gotten old. So I was really happy to discover this recipe. It is light in oil and has tons of flavor. The sweetness of the onions and tomatoes really complements the basil.

I loaded up on the salt and that worked out ok — tomatoes can handle it. Next time I would take them off a bit sooner than 20 minutes, to make them a little crisper. This is an easy dish I could see myself making once a week.

Braised Chicken with Wild Mushrooms March 25, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Chicken, Entree, Mushrooms, Recipe.
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6 large whole chicken legs
zest of one lemon
3 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped (white and pale green parts only)
1 cup wild mushrooms1
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1 qt. low sodium chicken broth

Put chicken pieces in a large bowl with lemon zest, thyme, and chopped parsley. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from refrigerator. Sprinkle with salt and freshly grated black pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes, until room temperature. Preheat oven to 325° F degrees.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skiller over medium-high heat. Add 3 chicken pieces, skin side down, and sear for five minutes. Turn chicken over, reduce heat to medium, and cook for another two minutes. Remove chicken and place it in a large broiling pan or pot. Repeat process for the other 3 pieces of chicken.

Spoon half the drippings from the skillet and discard. Add onion, leeks, mushrooms, and bay leaves to skillet. Saute over medium heat until onions are golden, about 7 minutes. Add wine and sherry. Increase skillet to high heat, and boil liquid until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add a handful of fresh parsley sprigs.

Pour vegetables and liquid over the chicken in the braising pot. Cover the pot with aluminum foil, and place the lid over the aluminum foil, to seal as tightly as possible. Cook at 325° F until chicken is very tender, about 90 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 400° F. Add 1 millimeter of chicken liquid to a large flat baking dish. Transfer chicken pieces skin side up. Strain mushroom and vegetable solids from chicken liquid, surrounding the chicken legs with them in baking dish. Roast in oven until brown, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, transfer remaining chicken liquid into a medium saucepan. Boil liquid gently to reduce, about 15 minutes or until thickened slightly. Optionally add 1 or 2 tbsp. butter if it looks like it needs more essence. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve whole chicken legs with reduced juices spooned over, accompanied by browned mushrooms and vegetables.

Time to Prepare: 4 hours marinating + 3 hours total cooking time (90 minutes baking).

Level of Difficulty: 6/10

Serves: 4 to 6

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1 Any type of wild mushrooms can be used, dried or fresh. Morels are nice, as are Yellow Foot Chanterelles. It is best to use whole mushrooms, so don’t use anything too large.

This dish is more work than I would ever commit to on a weekday. But as a special-occasion chicken it’s a winner.

The browning at the beginning is crucial. I have skipped the marinating step without disastrous results, but it’s really better if you can commit to it.

The Summer of Braising March 25, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Cooking, Personal.
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I have decreed this summer to be The Summer of Braising. Which means much braising will be done at 1100 Everett Ave.

Yes, it’s not summer yet. And yes, hardly anybody braises during the summer months, at least not in the Northern Hemisphere. But I feel a strong need to master this particular side of cooking. Hence, TSOB.

Last night I braised chicken with onions, leeks, and wild mushrooms, in white wine. (Recipe to follow.) It was tasty, and I have solid ideas for improving it to something transcendent.

Braised Swordfish in Saffron Sauce January 22, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Entree, Fish, Recipe, Seafood.
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2 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped peppers *
4 tbsp. finely chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf *
3 tbsp. brandy or cognac
1/2 cup strong chicken stock
1/4 tsp. nutmeg powder
small pinch of saffron threads
black pepper
salt (to taste, after cooking)
1-1/2 lbs. swordish steaks

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and peppers, and cook until soft. Add tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook 5 minutes. Add brandy, stock, nutmeg, and saffron. Mix well. Add black pepper, to taste. At this point the sauce is finished and can be set aside for a few hours or refrigerated for a few days.

Bring sauce to a simmer. Add swordfish cubes. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

Serve in a decorative communal bowl, accompanied by buttered garlic toasts or crostini.

This is a delicious tapas recipe. Like much of Spanish cuisine, this dish has an exotic, don’t-taste-this-every-day flavor for those of us who didn’t grow up on the stuff. It’s also very easy to make, almost foolproof. And since the sauce can be made in advance, it can be a 10-minute dish with a little planning.

Time to prepare: 15 minutes prep + 20 minutes cooking stovetop.

Difficulty: 2/10

Serves: 4

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* You can use any fresh peppers you like for this dish. I used yellow chilies, which are slightly spicy when raw but cook down to virtually no spice. Bell peppers of any color would work fine, and you could also bump up the spice by using poblanos or even jalapenos if you’re into heat. (Spicy peppers will bury the subtle flavors of this dish, but we spice fiends sometimes make this trade-off to get our kicks.)

I didn’t need to add any salt, because my stock was salty enough. If you’re in any doubt, hold off on deciding on the salt until after the fish is cooked.

The sauce is best after it has had a few hours to come together. But regardless of whether you are holding the sauce for a few hours or refrigerating for a few days, the bay leaf should be removed after cooking or the flavors will fall out of balance.