Independence Day smoked lamb shanks

After seeing the photograph and reading about smoked lamb shanks I decided that was what I needed for the Fourth of July.  It took some searching but I did finally find some shanks.  Unfortunately, they were not as large as those shown in that photograph, but I decided to give it a try with the smaller ones.  I also included two goat shanks to see how those tasted smoked. (These were from Two Bridges Farm, Louisburg NC)

I took the basic seasoning  from Rufus’s post:  lots of rosemary, garlic, some chili powder, some cinnamon, and added a healthy dollop of Colman’s mustard powder, salt, and added enough oil to make a very thick paste–heavy on the rosemary.  The shanks were rubbed all over with this, and then allowed to stand (refrigerated) for about 18 hours (overnight until ready to start the smoking process).

The Weber kettle grill was set up with a pan in the middle with water in it; then added hardwood charcoal briquettes (unlit on both sides of the pan.  These were topped with lit briquettes, and the soaked hickory wood chunks.  Vents were adjusted for a nice slow fire.  I opted not to use a mop sauce this time–may well try that on the next round!  But soon there were wonderful smells wafting from the grill–smoke, rosemary and lamb.

Smoked lamb and goat shanksIn an effort to keep the day as simple as possible (read to avoid dish washing, either by guests or me) there were disposable plates. Although I really did have a platter set out on which to serve the shanks, they never made it into a serving dish since we were being so casual; hence, picture of shanks in the pan that was used to bring them from the grill.  The results were fantastic.  (The goat shanks are the two in the front of the pan–the rest are lamb). The seasoning was there, but not intrusive but complementing the meat– the hot mustard added some “spice” and “zing” without ever seeming “hot”.

Mojitos started us off; then we had a very eclectic meal–one of the guests prepared Padrón peppers for starters–I’d never tasted them before, but I certainly hope that it will not be the last time.  Those wereplate with lamb corn on the cob and potatoes followed by wonderful gazpacho, then by crab cakes, with some melon interspersed.  Then,  the main course:  lamb shanks, corn on the cob, and several kinds of newly dug potatoes steamed and then tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and peppers.  There were Purple Majesty, Red Thumb, and Russian banana potatoes mixed.  (Unfortunately, the Red Thumbs lost their pink color during the steaming, but there were the lovely red skins to make it red, white(ish), and blue!)

For those of us who wanted wine with the meal, we had a 2008 Marcillac Rouge “Lo Sang del Pais” (Domaine du Cros)…this was not the wine that I had bought to serve.  My mistake–it was a bottle from my cellar that I  considered before I decided to go visit the Wine Authorities.  They suggested 2008 Rouge “Cuvee Jericho” Vin de Pays (Mas Montel (Mas Granier), France, that I bought.  When I was setting up the serving area, I put out the Marcillac (my original intention) instead of the Jericho (80% Syrah and 20% Grenache)!  The Marcillac was awesome with the lamb shanks–it’s 100%  from Mansois (Fer Servadou) grape.   So I still have a bottle of the Jericho (and some “leftover” lamb shanks–that may well be supper this evening.

This is something I’ll do again, soon…the smoke flavor was not overwhelming, but very complementary to both the lamb and the goat and it was low-maintenance cooking, thought it took about 3-1/2 hours, that let me visit and relax while preparing it.  Perhaps the next thing to get smoked will be a goat leg.  The vendors from whom the goat shanks were purchased said that they had recently tried smoking a leg and it was excellent.  I’m glad that I discovered the post on smoking lamb shanks–and the associated information on smoking.

If there are “leftovers” after this evening, I think that those might end up in something with white beans for sort of a mini-cassoulet (for a hot dish) or maybe even a white bean salad–we’ll see what evolves.

I think there’s more smoking in  my future–and I’ll be learning to make the gazpacho that we had with this meal too!

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Cold beet soup

I’m back from the Durham Farmers’ Market–it was a great day, even though the market is not in full summer swing yet.  The Piedmont BioFarm’s booth, which was right next to mine, had absolutely gorgeous beets. Unfortunately, they  sold quickly so  I didn’t get any today, but I’m told that there will be more next week, so I’m planning to bring some home with me then.

beets with tops from Johnny's Select Seeds.The sunshine and warm weather made me think about beet soup.  This recipe was given to me years ago by a good friend, and it’s become one of my favorite summer things to have in the refrigerator for hot weather.  It’s cool and refreshing, yet very satisfying.

I first experienced this soup when Casey brought me some, just when it was most needed:  I was moving–in extremely hot, humid weather–from one apartment to another in the same building, so it was mostly carrying boxes and lugging furniture, all very hot sweaty work.  Air conditioning was out of the question with the constant coming and going, with the doors open.

Cooking was also out of the question–mostly for reasons of fatigue, sore muscles, disruption of the kitchen, and the heat, and maybe even a dollop of laziness thrown into the mix.   That soup was the most wonderful treat, particularly under those circumstances; I’ve made it many times since and it’s at least as good, if not even better, when had in much less dire straits.

It’s not a small recipe, but it holds very well in the refrigerator;  a “left-over” taste is not a problem–and I think that the flavors actually blend and grow with standing.  I suppose you could always halve the recipe, but it’s so good that I’ve never done that–I can easily enjoy  it several days in a row!

Šaltibaršciai (Casey’s Cold Beet Soup)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium-size onion, finely chopped (preferably Vidalia or Walla Walla sweet onions)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6-10 (depending on size) boiled, peeled, and grated beetroot
  • 2 cups water in which the beets were boiled.
  • Chopped stems and greens from the beets, steamed 3-5 minutes
  • 2 large cucumbers peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 gallon buttermilk
  • 2 cups water from cooking the beets (cooled)
  • red wine vinegar (0 -4 tablespoons) to taste.

Assembly

  1. In a large bowl, place the 1/2 medium onion and about 1 salt. With the back of a wooden spoon, grind together the onion and the salt to draw out the onion juice. (You really need to do this “muddling” process–you don’t get the same “blend” of the onion flavor if you simply add minced onions.)
  2. Add the remainder of the ingredients to onion in the bowl and stir well.  Adjust the flavor balance with additional salt if needed, and a wine vinegar to taste.  Add more liquid if needed for the consistency you prefer.
  3. Chill thoroughly.  Serve with boiled or steamed potatoes, chilled.  (You want boiling potatoes, not baking potatoes for this; red or Yukon gold work well.)

Wine suggestions, courtesy of Casey, were as follows:

  • Sauvignon Blanc is excellent.  The soup needs a wine with more fruit and not too herbal or grassy.
  • A white Corbières was too herbal–it accentuated the dill in the soup until it was just overwhelming.

I did not try the Corbières; overwhelming dill did not strike my fancy and I trust this recommendation.  I can attest that Sauvignon Blanc is excellent with the soup.  I’ve probably eaten this for breakfast, lunch, and supper, with wine, and without.  It’s well worth the effort of making and it may well improve with standing a few days.

I have to confess that is a spate of utter laziness, I have replaced the potatoes with cubed extra-firm tofu with a very satisfying result.  I have always thought that it’s the eggs and the potatoes that make this such a satisfying, but cool, meal.  And, it a marvelous color, too–definitely shocking pink.  I’ve not tried it with the orange beets, but that might be interesting, too.

Think it looks like a lot? Well, invite a friend. Friends are usually glad to help in cases of an excess food crisis!

A son goût!

I love wine in a box!

I’m definitely an oenophile. I like wine with my meals, but sometimes I hesitate to open a bottle when I know that I’m going to have leftovers, or if I think that it’s a more expensive bottle than I want to have only for one.  I also like to cook with wine, but hate opening a bottle for just a glass and a splash in the sauce.  I think that wine in a box is one of the greatest that for those of us living alone.  It’s now possible to get good wine, inexpensively in a box.  Tuck a box of white in the fridge, and stash a box of red on the pantry shelf.  I can have the luxury of a glass of wine whenever I want, and a splash of white for cooking even when I’m drinking red.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have some exquisite bottles in my cellar.  They’re the ones to  have with a special meal, and possibly with friends.  But the “house” wine is now in a box.  It’s not cheap wine–just inexpensive and convenient.

There was one advantage of having “leftovers”–bits and pieces of bottles: those make great wine vinegar.  I have a glass container in the cabinet that get “fed” on those to keep the mother alive, so I have a constant supply of good wine vinegar.  It’s unfiltered, unpasteurized, potent, and much more complex in flavor that the stuff out of a bottle.  I’ve had the red wine going since I was given the mother over 10 years ago.  It’s simple to keep–the occasional splash of wine from the box, or occasionally, but a really inexpensive bottle and dump that in.

I recently decided that I wanted white wine vinegar, too.  So, took some of the mother from my red wine and put it into a bottle of white wine.  Not sure yet what is going to happen–now it’s still a bit pink as the mother was a very deep, dark red.  There will be future reports on the progress.