Yes, you read right...."mock eel"....like really. I've found some time to cook a bit recently and am now going to try to make it through those cookbooks I've got stacked on my coffee table. I've often done riffs on Fuchsia Dunlop's recipes. Her cookbooks hold a special place on my shelves. So when her latest cookbook Land of Fish and Rice was announced, I pre-ordered it.
Being married to someone from China and working with several others, I've noticed something quite interesting; the Missus's Shandong cum Hunan lineage struggles with the sweet flavors of Su-Cai and similar cuisines. As does our former coworker "Lily" who is from Shanxi. Meanwhile "YZ" can't deal with "Yang Rou"....and so one and so forth. Me? I love it all. So while I'm tempted to go for the Dong Po Rou, the Missus wasn't having any of that. While paging through, I found a rather simple recipe that caught my atttention it's called Vegetarian "eels" in Sweet-and-Sour Sauce in the book. I was mainly interested because the recipe didn't use tofu; which would probably have been the easy out. Instead, dried shiitake mushrooms were used.
Of course I adjusted the recipe to suit our (the Missus's) taste, upping the Chinkiang vinegar and soy sauce, adding a bit of five spice, mushroom soaking liquid, and a chili for some heat. And of course, using the Big Kahuna which cut the cooking time to mere minutes. The dish is best made in small batches. Also, do a good job of "scattering" the mushroom while deep frying, otherwise they tend to stick together.
The Missus really enjoys this; the sweet-salty-sour-savory components go together well.
Vegetarian "Eel" in Sweet and Sour Sauce:
10-12 dried Shiitake Mushrooms About one-fourth of a good sized red bell pepper About one-fourth of a good sized green bell pepper Three thin slices of ginger One medium sized red serrano pepper Hot Water
1/2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce (you may also want to try Mushroom Soy Sauce) 1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
- Soak the mushroom in hot water for 20-30 minutes - Slice bell peppers into thin strips. Julienne the ginger. Cut the serrano pepper in half, remove seeds than cut into strips. - Remove mushrooms from the soaking liquid, squeeze out excess liquid, remove stems and cut into strips. - Strain 4Tb of the mushroom liquid - Combine sauce ingredients until sugar is dissolved - Combine mushroom slices with potato starch and five spice until coated - Heat oil and scatter the mushroom, you may need to do in two batches. Fry until slightly crisp and remove from the oil - Remove all but about 3-4 tb of oil and heat until nearly smoking - Add peppers into the hot oil and stir fry - Add Shaoxing, mushroom liquid, and ginger and stir fry until fragrant - Add the mushroom back into the wok, add the sauce and stir fry until coated. - Remove from heat and add dark soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix well.
After having Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao for breakfast, the Missus thought having Nam Tok for lunch would be the perfect thing. And it was.....
Like the Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao, this recipe was based on the one in Andy Ricker's Pok Pok cookbook. And just like the previous recipe, I made some adjustments for our taste; replacing the white sugar (we still used a bit) with palm sugar, using Thai Chilies instead of just ground chilies, since we had some growing in the yard. I also replaced the shallots with thinly sliced red onion.
The Missus really loved this. I'm thinking that there were several factors involved; first, we used grassfed wagyu skirt....'nuff said. Second, the recipe in the book mentions the use of 1 tablespoon of beef stock. What did was pour all the beef drippings into the "dressing". Third, I grilled over hardwood charcoal.
I believed this was going to turn out well, but the Missus shocked me when She said "this is better than Sab E Lee....."
The recipe format might seem a bit disjointed, but I thought I'd present it in the order I did things....
Neua Nam Tok:
Salad Prep: 1/4 cup small mint leaves 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro coarsely chopped 3-4 cloves of garlic sliced thinly lengthwise
- Combine lemongrass, black peppercorns, garlic, and chili in a mortar and pound to a paste - Scrape to a bowl, combine with soy sauce, and work into the steak. - Marinate for an hour - Grill the steak - While steak is resting put together the dressing
The sauce/dressing: 3 Tb lime juice 3-4 Tb fish Sauce 2 tsp palm sugar 1 tsp white sugar 4-5 Thai Chilies thinly sliced 1 tsp ground chilies 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion Beef Drippings
- Combine the first six ingredients and briefly heat to dissolve the sugar - Remove from heat and add in onion and beef drippings
Putting it together: 2 tsp toasted rice powder lettuce or cabbage
- Slice beef thinly on a bias against the grain place on a plate and sprinkle on half the rice powder - Top with the dressing and sprinkle on the rest of the rice powder
I can tell I'm going to have a lot of fun with this cookbook......
I finally had some time off this past weekend. It has been a busy and stressful couple of weeks and it ain't over by any stretch of the imagination. Things are starting normalize as I finally got a chance to enjoy a couple of cookbooks that arrived during that period which I hadn't had the chance to open. So during the weekend, the one I opened first was Andy Ricker's Pok Pok. I've eaten at Pok Pok in PDX a couple of times and really enjoyed the food, which really did remind me of what came out of all those wonderful street stands in Thailand.
A couple of recipes jumped out at me and I decided to start with an easy one for breakfast the next day, the Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao.
Free range ground chicken, organic eggs, and greens and peppers from our garden.
One of the main ingredients in this dish is the kaphrao...."Hot" Basil, also known as Holy Basil. So early Sundya morning I headed off to Minh Huong Market and got some Holy Basil.
The recipes are quite precise; even though I deviated to our tastes, I appreciated the gram based measurements.
I've taken to measuring things fairly well nowadays and I basically changed a couple of things to fit our tastes and what we had in our pantry. More garlic, more fish sauce, more chilies, which didn't over-power the dish at all. The long beans looked terrible so we decided not to buy any. In terms of timing; in the book, the chef cooks his eggs first and places them on the side while doing the rest of the dish, making this a basic one-wok process. I prepped and completed the stir-fry portion up to the point of adding the hot basil, then started on the eggs....I also added some coconut oil for cooking as well. Once the eggs were almost done, I put the wok back on the flame, heated and added the basil to finish.
This turned out real well though the Missus told me She prefers regular Thai Basil in this.......
Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao
12 ounces ground chicken 3 Tb Fish Sauce 2 Tb Dark Soy Sauce 3 Tsp white sugar 3 Tb grated garlic 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion 6 Thai Chilies sliced 2 Red Serrano Chilies thinly sliced 3 dried chilies crumbled 2 Cups loosely packed Hot (Holy) Basil 2 Tb grapeseed oil
3 Eggs 2 Tb grapeseed oil 1 Tb coconut oil
- Combine fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Mix to dissolve the sugar - Heat the wok over high heat. When the oil is smoking remove it from heat, add the garlic and stir quickly. - When the garlic starts to brown slightly, place back on the heat and add the onions and fresh chilies. Stir until fragrant. - Add the chicken and stir fry, breaking up the ground chicken. - When the chicken is almost done, add the fish sauce mixture and dried chilies, and combine well - After about 30 seconds add the dark soy sauce - 1Tb first, until the color is right. - Stir fry until the liquid has been completely absorbed by the meat. - Start eggs in grapeseed and coconut oil - When eggs are almost done as desired, put wok back on heat and mix in hot basil
Serve up with Jasmine Rice.....makes about 2-3 servings
Every once in a while I'll get an email asking where to get items like Holy Basil or Cha Om.
Even if you're not looking for anything in particular and are in the general vicinity, drop by.....
You'll see some items you won't find in your local neighborhood Chinese/Vietnamese/Korean market. On this day we saw some young women with Thanaka, the distinctive Burmese cosmetic paste applied to their faces. Something I'd never seen in San Diego.
Minh Huong Supermarket 4029 Euclid Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Though I love food...both consuming and cooking; once in a while I kind of hit a rut and need a little change of pace. I don't remember where I first about Tapioca Maltodextrin and its effect as a fat stabilizer. I'm sure it wasn't in Modernist Cuisine at Home which I bought last year. And looking through it. Maltodextrin is only mentioned in two recipes and barely in passing. I do recall seeing something, perhaps on Youtube where an olive oil powder was made. Anyway, a couple of months ago I bought Modernist Cooking Made Easy, which had a short chapter on Maltodextrin. It just seemed like fun.....plus Maltodextrin is plant derived and a pretty common food starch. First I cleared things with the Missus who has a Masters in Chemistry, then I went ahead and ordered a pound.
Getting to the point; tapioca maltodextrin can turn fats and oils into pastes and powders. For my first try, I decided to use something that we have around the house and use in sparing quantities...sesame oil was an easy choice.
One of things you'll notice right away is that tapioca maltodextrin is lighter than air....so no sneezing....no heavy breathing either. You don't need anything more than a whisk for this one. Using the recipe in Modernist Cooking Made Easy as my reference, it was a simple as this:
Sesame-Salt Powder (based on the recipe in Modernist Cooking Made Easy) 50 grams sesame oil 2 grams kosher salt 25 grams tapioca maltodextrin (this was about 3/4 cup) extra tapioca maltodextrin as needed
- Pour sesame oil into a large mixing bowl (a large mixing bowl) - Add salt and mix - Add 10 grams of tapioca maltordextrin...gently, unless you want clouds of the stuff all over the place - whisk in until a paste forms. Slowly add the rest of the maltodextrin. It will begin to clump. - Whisk until it starts to form "beads", you may need to add more maltodextrin to get the texture you want.
Other than a couple of maltodextrin clouds floating about, this was easy.....
It will stay in powder form as long as it doesn't come in contact with liquid...though it lasted a while even when on some poke I made.
There's quite an interesting sensation...ahem, "mouthfeel" when it turns back to oil in your mouth.
It was also delicious on my Hiyayakko Tofu.......
I really didn't detect much in terms of any additional flavor....by itself, there's a very faint sweetness, which I could not detect when using it with my poke or tofu.
Truffle Powdered Popcorn, caramel - salt powder, nutella, and probably duck fat or bacon powder seem around the corner. This will be great for dipping....
This was a fun experiment.....now it's on to Xanthan Gum and Lecithin!
I felt rather triumphant, having exceeded the Missus's expectations....basically pulling a recipe out of my....well, you know where, and making something She really enjoyed. The following day, the Missus sent me a text, telling me She, "wanted fish made totally differently from anything I've made before....no salt baked, no fried of any kind, no simmered, no baked, no saute, no stew, no pan fry, no stir-fry." No way!!! Not really knowing what to do, I picked up some olives on the way home.....I really don't know why.
I came home and started leafing through some of my cookbooks......some of the recipes were too elaborate to pull off on a weeknight. Until I went through Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore's Fish Without a Doubt. I found a recipe for Oil Poached Halibut with Gribiche. Sauce Gribiche is a classic French sauce, with cornichons, capers, vinegar, and such. Think of it as an unemulsified tartar sauce if you will....though I've come across recent versions of Gribiche that has been blended and it really did seem to be tartar sauce. Instead of that route, I used the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and basically made my tapenade minus the anchovies and artichoke hearts.
The fish itself was pretty simple......the one item being, even though I used the tiniest cast iron pan I had, we ended up using quite a bit of olive oil for this. Still it came out rather well.
There are just four ingredients needed to prepare the fish:
Fish Salt Pepper Olive Oil
- Salt and pepper fish filets and let sit for 45 minutes - Heat oven to 175 or the lowest temp. Our circa 1959 oven's lowest is called "low" and bottoms out at 190 according to the oven thermometer - Place fish in skillet/pan and add enough oil to cover. Remove fish and set aside. - Place pan in oven and heat oil to about 125 degrees. I could still place my finger in the oil and it just felt hot.....you may just want to use a thermometer though. I don't want anyone coming after me after burning their finger! - Add fish back to pan, cover (I used aluminum foil), and place in oven. Check after 15 minutes to make sure oil is not too hot....i.e. no deep fry action going, just a mild poach. - Check after 20-25 minutes.I use a very sharp paring knife and insert into the fish. If it goes in cleanly, almost with resistance the fish is done, or will be done by the time you get in on the plate. White Sea Bass is pretty dense. This took about 35 minutes. - Remove fish, blot dry, and serve.
The fish is very moist...almost melting away in my mouth. The flavors are mild. Texturally, this didn't do it for the Missus, even with the tapenade. It was a nice experience for Her.....even though She probably won't want me to make fish this way again, at least She tried it.
As we took care of the dishes after dinner, She turned to me and asked, "so what are you going to do with the halibut for tomorrow night? I want something really good.......something with mushrooms!" Stay tuned for the finale!
Not everything we make, even if it's made exactly as the recipe is written works out, or is even to our taste. Of course, I've mentioned how much we enjoy Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks as evidenced in previous posts. The dude has some great vegetarian recipes and also seems to have a serious egg fetish. And you know me....I love my drippy eggs, right?
On the other hand, I've been a bit leary of the meat and especially fish recipes in his latest book, Jerusalem. But the Missus was taken with the Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish recipe from the book.. It had all the great ingredients we enjoy...the peppers, the harissa, coriander seeds, garlic, tomatoes......
And I took the Missus to Catalina Offshore getting some really nice halibut.....
I did think the recipe bit odd. You basically saute all the vegetables. Then fry the fish in an egg batter, then place the fish in the ragout to finish in the oven. For me, it really got odd when the book recommended you eat this the next day.....at room temperature. I mean, you've created a pretty hard barrier, via the egg batter....would any of the flavor permeate the fish which is simply seasoned with salt? It was strange enough that I followed the recipe to the letter....even doing the steps I usually change around from the book, like not blooming, in this case, the curry powder in oil for more flavor. I even held off and used only two cloves of garlic, crushed. I will say that the dish really did look like the photo in the book.
With nothing to really do the next day; I just made a simple tomato-lettuce salad with a white balsamic vinaigrette and roasted some baby eggplant and small white potatoes in the oven.
The dish was nothing if not bright and vibrant looking.
Man....compared to other dishes I've made from the book; this was pretty bland. The batter from the fish had become mushy....really not a great texture. The flavor of the vegetables was all over the map....a combo sour-curry-coriander, not bad, but just kind of weak.
So no recipe on this one......
I do always say to adjust recipes to your taste, his time I didn't. Get the book though....try out the recipe, just because we didn't care for the flavors doesn't mean you won't like it. I will say, that I found this to be a bit fussy, with maybe too many steps.
The one great thing.....I managed to show the Missus what I like when buying fish...the sheen, etc.... Catalina Offshore has often been problematic because of their hours. But now, the Missus enjoys dropping by and picking up fish for dinner.
Remember that shakshuka recipe from the same book (adjusted a bit of course)? Well, I made the peppers and tomato portion as before. Then seasoned some nice halibut with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, granulated garlic, then finally some cumin powder to tie it to the vegetable concoction and used it as a relish or salsa if you will. I'm thinking the recipe above might have been great done this way.
This was a really nice dinner........
Pan fried halibut on spicy red bell pepper-tomato relish, with some shaved kale and purple cabbage salad and oven roasted potatoes and eggplant. It's amazing what you can make on a weeknight if you have a plan!
The Missus has noted that I really don't do many Mexican inspired dishes, so I figured why not do something for the grill on this lazy Sunday. A recent impulse buy at Northgate Market were some Guajillo Chilies, which are quite common in many recipes.
I decided to do something simple from Roberto Santibanez's cookbook, Truly Mexican. There's a recipe for a Guajillo based adobo that sounded like it would be great with chicken and there is indeed a recipe for grilled chicken using this sauce a few pages later in the book. As I usually would do, I initially followed the recipe, which means that several steps that I'd usually take were bypassed; I didn't use the chili soaking liquid for the sauce, nor did I toast the garlic like I'd usually do. When I got the sauce together I tasted it....and though the smokiness of the peppers came through, along with the mild tart-puckeriness, I ended up adjusting to our taste by adding a whole bulb of garlic and twice the amount of apple cider vinegar. The flavor was now more complex, but still lacked something......I ended up raiding the Missus's "healthy stash" and using some agave syrup to give it a bit more umph.... Guajillo's aren't especially hot, but don't get fooled there's a mild sneaky heat. The sauce came out a beautiful smokey red......looking like a good barbecue sauce......and with mild spice, smoke, and sweet, you could probably make one with a few adjustments.
The book says a two hour marinade is good enough, but I think more is warranted. Anyway, the chicken still came out nice and was topped with some of the extra sauce. The Missus is going to use the leftover sauce for shrimp, which I think will be quite good.
Adobo de Guajillo 12 Guajillo Chilies - each about 3 1/2/ - 5" long, wiped clean, stemmed, slit open with seeds and veins removed water 1 cup water 4-8 cloves garlic 3 tsp apple cider vinegar 2 tsp sea salt 2 tsp white sugar 2 Tb agave syrup 1 tsp ground cumin black pepper to taste
- heat a heavy skillet or griddle (I used my cast iron pan) over medium heat - toast the chilies for a few minutes, pressing down frequently, turning several times until fragrant and the chilies have slight changed color and even blackened in a few spots. - tear chilies in half and over with water, soak for 30 minutes - after 30 minutes, drain the chilies - place chilies along with 1/2 cup water and the rest of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth - add more water as sauce becomes too thick - make sure to taste and adjust flavor
Pollo Adobado 2 pound chicken thighs salt 1/2 cup Adobo de Guajillo
- mix all items together in a ziploc bag and marinate for at least 2 hours (I recommend more)
I don't recall seeing peppers priced quite as cheap as in the last few weeks. The abundance of peppers gave me a chance to make another recipe from Molly Stevens All About Braising. Unlike the Lamb Shanks Braised with Lentils and Curry, this one is quite easy. Peperonata is an Italian stewed pepper dish that tastes great on bruschetta or as an antipasto. While we ate most of it on toasted baguette, the only photos I took were as a relish for a simple pan sauteed chicken breast.
As always I did ad a couple of things to the recipe, in this case some garlic and dried oregano. Since the amount of peppers I had was closer to the three pound mark, I ended up using 1/2 of olive oil. The anchovies in the recipe add a deep savory and salty background flavor and I loved the addition of balsamic vinegar instead of the usual white wine or red wine vinegar.
Anyway......here's what I did.
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 3 pounds various sweet peppers (do not use green bell peppers) cut into 1/3" strips 1 large onion also cut into strips 2 coves of garlic minced 4 anchovies minced 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes 1/2 tsp dry oregano crushed 2 tb balsamic vinegar salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add red epper flakes. - Add onions and garlic, stir ocasionally until softened. About five minutes or so. - Stir in the anchovies, oregano, black pepper and a large pinch of salt. - Add the peppers and combine. Lower the heat to low and braise. - Check and stir every 10 - 15 minutes. Lower the heat if the peppers are sticking or getting mushy. - The peppers should be tender after about 45 minutes or so. - Remove from heat, add balsamic vinegar and taste. Adjust salt and pepper. - Let cool to room temperature before serving.
I'm thinking that you could find numerous uses for this. Add some fresh herbs to serve with antipasto, use it with meats.......
Recently, the Missus made an interesting observation; telling me that I really hadn't "cooked" in a while. I was kind of flabbergasted, I'd catered a friends Sukiyaki dinner for twenty that swelled to thirty, even made a huge pot full of Oxtail Soup for my friends. I'd been making a lot of stuff at home. But the Missus quickly noted that much of it was "on the fly" or just stuff I'd made before. And She was right. So I made it a point to, well, really make something, spend some time in the kitchen, and fall in love with the process all over again. I had the perfect muse for my goal; we had just gotten a 9quart French Oven from Le Creuset. I'd coveted one for years, but dreaded spending the money, or to be more frank, asking to spend the money for one. So I did the smart thing, I just waited until the day the Missus said, "you know we need something good to braise in, like a Dutch oven." Man, I got on the Internet and ordered it so fast smoke was coming from my keyboard! I also ordered Molly Stevens James Beard Foundation award winning book, All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking. Even though I've done my share of braising, I love cookbooks, as they give me inspiration, and I really wanted to see what this one had to offer.
The first dish I tried out was the Lamb Shanks Braised with Lentils & Curry, which I paired with some on the fly couscous with sundried tomatoes and pinenuts toasted in roasted garlic olive oil. I'm sorry to say my photos don't do it justice.
My presentation in most of them looks kinda sloppy and the best one is the one above which is actually from a container that the Missus took to work with Her.
I'd made up my mind that I'd do it right this time around, no cutting corners. So things had to start with some lamb stock. On that Saturday, I had ot head of North a bit, so I stopped by PQ Market in Ranchos Penasquitos. A small unassuming market with shelves empty, but a freezer full of beautiful Halal lamb. I got five lamb shanks, about a pound each and three pounds of lamb bones which looked especially clean and the nice gentleman cut into pieces for me. I thawed the shanks in the fridge and the bones on the counter; the weather was very mild so I knew a couple hours would be just fine. Needless to say, I spent the late afternoon first roasting, then lightly simmering the bones making a nice, clear stock. With the French Oven I was able to maintain that light, undisturbed bubbling necessary to create a nice stock. Just strain, cool, and refrigerate overnight, skim off the fat the next morning, and you a stock with the essence of lamb, with a mild, almost sweet flavor.
There are a couple of key points that I enjoyed about the recipe, one was parcooking the lentils and setting aside until the last part of the braise. One of the reasons I dislike lentils is that they are usually served really mushy. The recipe calls for Le Puy Lentils, a highly sought after green lentil(which looks almost black/blue) grown near the town of Le Puy in France. I just went with some good quality green lentils and the results were fine. The other was reinforcing the seal of the pot by laying some parchment paper over the rim, pressing down close to the braise and covering the pot. I also loved the common sense steps in recipe, especially to check in on the braise while it's in the oven to make sure it's not boiling, something that will make the meat fall apart and mushy. It's something I normally do anyway, but it's good to see stuff like that in a cookbook.....it makes it more than a color-by-numbers experience.
I did diverge from the recipe in a couple of ways, I added a whole small can of peeled plum tomatoes which I crushed instead of measuring a cup. Next time, I think I'll add the juices as well as the recipe says to drain. I used six cloves of garlic instead of four, well, I could say because the number four is bad luck in Chinese, but really, if you've read long enough....we love garlic. I used a bit more stock because I knew we'd be running out of the wonderful braising liquid to pour over things, ditto with the lentils. Also, the recipe calls for Madras Curry powder, which I used. But instead of adding them after the aromatics, I added it straight to the oil to "bloom". I did end up cutting down on the total braise time because everything seemed to be coming together quickly and green lentils tend to cook faster than Le Puy lentils.
Anyway, enough with the blah, blah, blah.....
Lamb Shanks Braised with Lentils and Curry
2-3 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil 5-6 Lamb Shanks - about a pound a piece 1 large red onion chopped 3 small-medium carrots peeled and coarsely chopped 1 large stalk celery coarsely chopped 6 cloves garlic minced 1 1/2 Tb Madras Curry Powder 1 1/2 Tb chopped fresh thyme 2 Bay leaves 1 14oz can peeled plum tomatoes drained and crushed 3 Cups lamb stock 1 1/2 Cups green lentils Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 325 - Trim lamb shanks if necessary - Heat the oil in braising pot over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with Salt and Pepper then brown. Do this in batches, turning with thongs. Remove shanks to a plate or pan. - Pour off all but 2-3 Tb of oil from the pot. Add curry powder stir and allow to bloom for a minute or two. - Add the onion, carrots, celery to the pot stirring to coat well. This should take 7-9 minutes, it's ok if the vegetables have slightly browned edges. - Stir in the garlic, 1 Tb of thyme, and bay leaf, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. - Add tomatoes and stock. Stir and make sure to scrape off all those lovely bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Bring the pot to a boil and keep at low boil for a few minutes. - Return the lamb shanks to the pot arranging them in layers if necessary. Don't forget any juices from the lamb on that plate/pan. - When the liquid returns to a simmer cover with parchment ten the lid and place in the 325 degree oven. - Check after 15 minutes. The liquid in the pot should be at a gentle simmer. If it is not lower the temperature. - After one hour, check on the shanks and rearrange, turning the lamb shanks over, and moving the ones on the top to the bottom if layered. - Continue braising for another hour - Meanwhile place lentils in a saucepan with 3-4 cups of water, the remaining 1/2Tb of fresh thyme, the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for ten minutes. - Drain the lentils and spread on a sheet pan, with the bay leaf and let cool. - After the second hour as passed, remove the lamb shanks from the pot. Skim fat from the liquid then adjust for seasoning. - Stir in the lentils and place shanks back into pot. Place parchment back on along with lid and braise for additional thirty minutes. - Check after thirty minutes, the lentils may need another 15 minutes.The lamb shanks should be tender but not falling to pieces off the bone. - Transfer the shanks to a pan and cover loosely with foil. - Taste the lentils and liquid and adjust. - Serve the way you feel like. We served over couscous made with the remaining lamb stock, sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts, along with lemon wedges. You can garnish with parsley or other herbs to make more colorful....I was just too darned hungry to even care.
You know, this waiting until the Missus "just needs" something has been working out rather well.We recently finally got an immersion blender because She absolutely couldn't live without it. What do you think about my chances of Her needing a Sous Vide Water Oven? Yeah, I might be waiting for a while for that one......
The Missus has been trying to cut down on meat consumption over the last year and I'm really trying to support Her. However, there's just so much roasted vegetables, which we make twice a week one can really deal with. This started me off on trying other vegetables and greens, stuff like Chard, Kale, Celeriac, Rapini, even sauteing Collard Greens. Mushrooms now is a big part of the Missus' diet. I'll often now make protein for me and a large shared veg dish for us, or even something just for the Missus. We're also trying not to waste as much....and I had half a Kabocha staring me in the face. For New Years I'd made Kabocha Nimono using half the squash.....now I needed to do something with the other half. I'd also bought a bunch of parsnips most of which I roasted with potatoes....
Looking for some inspiration, I opened Yotam Ottolenghi's wonderful cookbook, Plenty. I really trust this cookbook, ever since I tried out the Mushroom Ragout with Poached Egg recipe and it turned out to be one of the best things I made all year. As fate would have it, I opened up the book to a recipe for roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette.......I guess it was meant to be. I basically subbed the kabocha for the sweet potatoes and adjusted the cooking time.
For me, cookbooks tend to be a set of ideas and guidelines, though many times I'll follow the written recipe the first time through, making adjustments later. To me, Ottolenghi's book is more of an idea book. Using items I had on hand and adjusting for taste, this came out real well. The adjustments? I used 12 cloves of peeled garlic rather than a split bulb, kabocha for the sweet potatoes of course, replaced the fresh thyme and rosemary with dried thyme and oregano, two fairly large red onions instead of four, two vine ripened tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, and I used honey instead of maple syrup in the vinaigrette. The recipe times the addition of the vegetables into three stages to make sure that everything is cooked, but not overcooked.
Speaking of the vinaigrette, the Missus initially didn't want me to use it, but I eventually wore Her down and She ended up loving what it added to the dish.....just a slight acid and mild sweetness, not enough to interfere.
Roasted Parsnips and Kabocha with Caper Vinaigrette
About a pound or a bit more of (peeled)parsnips cut into 1 1/2" - 2" long by 3/4" pieces 2 medium-medium large red onions cut into wedges 12 cloves garlic peeled but left whole 1/2 kabocha pumpkin sliced into pieces about the same size as the parsnips (leave the skin on) 2 tomatoes cut into eighths Dried Thyme Dried Oregano 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Spitiko) Salt and Pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 - In a bowl coat the parsnips, onions, and garlic with 1/2 cup of the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. - Spread on a baking sheet or roasting pan - Roast for about 20-25 minutes. - Coat kabocha with more olive oil and add to the pan, combining with the other ingredients. - Roast for about another 30 minutes - Add the tomato wedges to the pan and roast for about another 15 minutes. You may want to give everything a gentle stir then finish off. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
After adding the tomatoes put together your dressing. Combine: 4 Tb Capers chopped 1 Tb Honey 1/2 Tb Dijon mustard 3 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil - I used a low acidity Picholine Olive Oil for this 2 Tb fresh squeezed Lemon juice
Whisk ingredients together to emulsify.
Remove vegetables from the oven....I put everything into a nice cast iron pan which I intended to use at the beginning bt proved too small. Pour dressing over the veggies and lightly mix.
This turned out well....I can only imagine what other combinations of root vegetables and herbs can be done in this manner.