Chilly weather food

Summer is not my favorite time of the year: I just don’t like hot, humid weather. It makes me kind of listless and wilted.  I don’t mind seeing winter come around because it’s my favorite cooking time.

One of my fall and winter favorites is fårikål.    That’s what I started out to make today since it’s chilly, damp, grey, and seriously pluvial but I got distracted and stumbled on a similar recipe that looked so good. From the North Wild Kitchen, I found slow-roasted lamb shoulder with cabbage.

That seemed easy to adapt to cooking for one.   Since my shoulder chops were nice and thick and it eliminated me having to trim them into chunks–just the thing for a lazy cook.

I have to admit that I didn’t do the apples, although I’m sure that would have been very good with it;  I just didn’t want to go back out into the rain to the grocery store to retrieve an apple! ( I did say “lazy cook”.)

My only modification here (other than using chops) was to cook it in my Romertopf instead of a covered baking dish since I was making a smaller quantity for just me (and the cat).

This is another keeper for cooking lamb and cabbage!

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

Lamb Stew (Alentejo-style)

My bargain shopping got me a butterflied leg of lamb that was on special. Rather than roast it whole, I decided our chilly, grey, damp weather needed stew.

I cut the lamb leg into 3 cm cubes; I decided that I wanted some variety in my stews so since I had two pounds of lamb so all I needed to do was halve the recipes.Since I’ve not done much Iberian cookery I got out The Food of Spain & Portugal: The Complete Iberian Cuisine by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz (page 152).  

pimenton-de-la-veraThere are a lot of lamb stew recipes in this book. I finally made a decision based on seasonings that sounded interesting: garlic, parsley, pimenton de la vera (smoked), cayenne, and cloves. (The recipe only said “paprika”–which I’m sure would work fine, but I particularly like the smokiness of the pimenton de la vera, but I used the amount called for.)

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Carneiro à Alentejana

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 900 g (2 pounds), lean, boneless lamb, cut into 3.5 cm/1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil or lard
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 175 mL/ 3/4 cup dry white wine

Preparation

  • Mix garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb to the garlic mixture and marinate about 2 hours. (I left mine overnight)
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil or lard and brown the lamb pieces all over.
  • Transfer lamb to a flameproof casserole.
  • In the remaining oil and sauté the onion until soft and add to the casserole.
  • Add paprika, cayenne, cloves to the casserole. (I like to “bloom” dry spices in oil before adding liquid so I added the paprika while sautéing the onions)
  • Bring to a simmer on the stovetop.
  • Cover and put in a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF) and cook until the lamb is tender (about 1-1/2 hours).

The author recommends serving with a light red wine (red Vinho Verde or Dão, and notes that in Portugal meats are usually served with both potatoes and rice.

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I halved the recipe above and used the other pound of lamb to make my favorite lamb and cabbage stew (Fårikål) with the other half. I considered being very energy conscious and making both at the same time; however, my hedonism won and I made them on different days because I love to luxuriate in the aromas of cooking–that’s part of the anticipation and enjoyment of cooking and eating. I just didn’t think I would get to enjoy them in the same way if I were to cook both at the same time. I would have missed some of the pleasure of cooking had I done that. The smell (especially of the pimenton de la vera) was particularly appetizing.

The combination of the pimenton, cayenne, and clove was wonderful. I don’t often use the “sweeter” spices with meats but that little dash of clove has made me wonder why I haven’t used them more with meat. I need to broaden my perspective on the “appropriate” spices to use with meats.

The balance of the seasoning in this recipe (I didn’t change anything) was wonderful–just enough cayenne to give a little “burn” as you eat your way through a serving, but not every getting to the point where you felt as if you had blisters on your taste buds–and the clove didn’t smack you in the face either. All in all a very well-balanced seasoning. I’ll probably try this with lamb shoulder chops–even without cutting them up.

Oh, wine? Well since there was a bottle of my “house wine” already open, I used that–it’s one of the things I like about that wine: it’s very versatile. Rice? Potatoes? Nope–garbanzo beans.

There is one modification I think I’ll make next time–I’ll add more onions they were luscious after cooking with the lamb and seemed just right with the pimenton.

Another lamb and garbanzo bean stew

Yesterday was the day for a trip to the supermarket–as usual dictated not by coupons but by me being low enough on milk that I was not going to be able to make enough caffè latte to get me awake and doing what I needed to do today. As usual, I didn’t go with preconceived notions of what I might bring home to cook.

I got my milk and eggs–just not possible to be out of eggs, but I was–and did my usual troll past the butcher counter. I found a manager’s special that was simply too good to pass up: lamb stew meat at a great price. Since my agenda today was mostly minor chores I thought I’d have time to cook, so I came home with lamb stew meat and actually remembered to soak (in brine) the garbanzo beans last night. You’re probably thinking so what?

Well, it’s fall and that makes me want to cook hearty stuff and lamb stew just seemed to be a really good idea: economical, tasty, some to go in the freezer for quick meals, and some to eat now. Unfortunately, the weather is not really cooperating–my thermometer is showing 82ºF right now–but at least it’s cooler in the evenings now so stew is not completely amiss. Still, so what?  Right?

Well, as I started my morning caffeination by browsing Facebook I was informed that I had memories from two years ago. Now I’m still not convinced the FB really cares about my memories, but the top item on the list was my post about making–yep!–lamb and garbanzo bean stew in the oven. Well, same today: it’s unseasonably warm again, but not too humid, and it’s sunny and breezy today so it’s oven rather than slow-cooker version this time. Since I did forget to soak the Romertopf  ahead of time, I just pulled out the Dutch oven instead.

I did look for recipes last night but didn’t really find anything inspiring, so today’s lamb stew was a “kitchen happening”–let’s just see what turns out. That two-year-ago lamb stew was an oven version of a slow cooker recipe. This year, given the weather I decided that I’d (again) do oven braising. (The slow-cooker version was good, but no way as good as the one done in the oven.)  I haven’t looked back to see what went with that version–all I really remember is that I used canned beans that time.

Oven-braised lamb and garbanzo stew (2016)

Ingredients

(I’m not giving much in the way of measurements here since this was a “kitchen happening”)

  • Lamb stew meat (about 3 pounds with some bones included)
  • Garbanzo beans (brined over-night)
  • Lots of onions (cheated and used frozen chopped ones)
  • Bay leaves–2 large
  • Salt about 1-1/2 teaspoons, give or take–will taste later
  • French thyme (dried)
  • Marjoram (dried)
  • Garlic powder (Oops–not a single head of garlic in the house!)
  • One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes–drat, out of fire-roasted ones.
  • Smoked Spanish paprika
  • Olive oil as needed for browning lamb

Preparation

  • Brown stew meat (bones included; they will make good stock as the beans and lamb cook ).The bones are big enough to get out easily when the stew is done. Add to Dutch oven.
  • Saute onions until just golden, and add to Dutch oven with meat, beans, and tomatoes
  • Deglaze skillet with water and add to braising pot
  • Add  salt, herbs, and spices.
  • Bring to a simmer on the stove-top
  • Place in a 185ºF oven  and cook until beans and meat are tender–about 3 hours.

Ò¿Ó

Here I was, again, making this lovely stew in unseasonably warm weather but still cool enough to use the oven rather than the slow-cooker. Cooking my own garbanzo beans was well worth the thought and bit of effort that it took to soak them. Brining them seems to make them cook much more quickly. Leaving the bones in with the meat really gave a lot of lamb flavor–worth the effort of taking them out after the meat was done.

I love this combination of lamb and garbanzo beans–it seems that I’ve used different seasonings almost every time this “happens” in my kitchen, but it’s good every time! No recipe needed just season as you like…a son gôut!

 

Braised lamb shanks

Continuing my freezer clean-out, I discovered two lovely lamb shanks that I must admit, I had forgotten were in there.  The weather that we’re having now just begs for comfort food, so I decided to make braised lamb shanks and the shanks beg for white beans to accompany them.

Starting with a recipe for braised lamb shanks and white beans that I knew worked well I still perused recipes from some other reputable sources (Williams-Sonoma, Food and Wine, and The New York Times). My lazy side came to the front and I decided that I wanted to do this all in one pot–so I went with the New York Times recipe–except I used thyme instead of rosemary and scaled the recipe for two lamb shanks.

Then I decided to follow a favorite principle of mine in cooking: never do on the stovetop what you can do in the oven (extremely hot weather will modify this). After bringing the pot to a simmer on the stovetop, I popped the pot into a 275°F oven for a few hours–low and slow since this is supper for tomorrow, likely with a grilled (well, broiled given the weather) cabbage wedge for a side.

Even for two shanks, this comes out to be a lot of food, so I’m looking forward to putting some into the freezer for another rainy day meal when I’m feeling indolent.

Greek Lamb Casserole

In the chilly, grey, damp weather we’re having now, I see this in the near future! Making the shopping list for tomorrow.

MY LITTLE ROCK

ROCK

My Little ROCK – Reliable Organised Cooking Kitchen

Greek Lamb Casserole

– Greek Lamb Casserole –

This greek lamb casserole packs a punch with flavour!!! It’s got a rich tomato sauce that zings with lemon and fresh oregano. Its a perfect dish for a cold winters day and what’s even better is that it can be on the table in less than an hour. You can serve it with rice or some fresh crusty bread that can be used to mop up the delicious sauce from the plate. I found this recipe in The Australian Women’s Weekly Pressure Cooking – The new way to cook fast cookbook.

Serves:

4

Preparation Time:

15 minutes

Cooking Time:

25 minutes

Time to Table:

45 minutes

Number of Ingredients:

14

Equipment:

Pressure Cooker – I used an electric pressure cooker

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons plain flour

1kg diced lamb

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium brown onion thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic sliced

410g…

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Lamb leg steak–continued

lamb leg steak on plate with ratatouilleThat lamb leg steak that I cooked a couple days ago was a big steak–weighing in just a bit under a pound. That’s a lot of meat–couldn’t possibly eat all that at one time.  As vehement as I’ve been about not liking, or dealing well with leftovers,  that does not apply here.  I don’t really consider the part of this steak that I didn’t eat then as undesirable. I couldn’t have that luscious steak without some left for other uses–not when it needs to be at least an inch thick to cook well. You’re wondering what happens to the rest of this steak?

Often the remains of a beef steak or a pork chop goes into a sandwich–since roast beef, lamb, or pork is not on the single-serving menu. Other times it does some metamorphic changes.  The remainder of this steak went into the rice cooker with a convenience mix of grains,  some garbanzo beans to give me some additional meals that were not meat-centric.

Ingredients

  • about 1/2 pound of cooked lamb steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • one 15-ounce can garbanzo beans with liquid
  • one 10 ounce can of diced tomatoes with jalapeños with liquid
  • 1 cup of brown basmati rice, red rice, barley, and rye berry mixture (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried Turkish oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup water (to bring total liquid to amount required for grains)

Preparation

  • Add all ingredients to rice/multi-cooker, stir well.
  • Set on rice cooking mode.
  • When cycle finishes, check grain for doneness.  If needed add more water in 1/2 cup increments until grains are done.

Ò¿Ó

Since the lamb steak had been well-browned on the griddle, it provided good rich flavor for the grains and the garbanzo beans.  Some of this was an extra meal (with a side of ratatouille), and the rest was packed (with the Handi-Vac®) for the freezer for later (especially cooler weather) meals.

mixed grains with tomatoes and lamb

Lamb leg steak

IMG_8327I’m an omnivore–and that definitely includes meat in judicious amounts. Lamb shoulder chops get frequent use in my kitchen since they are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and tasty. Lamb chops or a rack appear seldom, unfortunately, since they are expensive; braised shank will appear occasionally, but leg of lamb almost never–unless I’ve organized my self to invite lamb-loving friends to share.  Even a half leg is just not in the single-serving category, so much as I like it, I don’t get it very often.

On a recent quick stop at the grocery store, I found a lamb leg steak! Fortuitous since I just happen to have made a batch of  ratatouille (slow-cooker testing of a recipe) and somehow those two thing are appealing together.  That lovely steak is going to be cooked indoors since it’s grey outside with spatterings of rain off and on–comforting sound on the metal roofing, suggesting a lazy day.

ÒσÓ

single-burner griddleThe omnipresent cast-iron griddle is my instrument of choice for cooking steaks or chops indoors. For steaks or chops that are up to an inch in thickness–or perhaps just a tad more–I like to cook them with the method described by Jamie Oliver for pork neck steak.

This 1-inch steak weighs in at just under a pound, so there will be leftovers, but as with beef steaks this isn’t a problem–easy to find uses for the leftovers before they spend enough time in the refrigerator to taste like something that has been in the refrigerator. Though this steak could be cooked right out of the package without any preparation, I’m going to give it just a bit of pretreatment.

Cook’s Illustrated (and America’s Test Kitchen) have repeatedly demonstrated that brining or salting improve texture and taste of meats. Salting has the advantage of not requiring planning–and it’s easier.  The usual procedure is to sprinkle with lamb leg steak saltedkosher salt and allow to stand at room temperature for an hour. I’ve found that salting and allowing to stand in the refrigerator overnight works well–I can prep my chop or steak immediately on bringing it into to the kitchen and it will be ready for later. The suggested amount of salt is 3/4 teaspoon for each 8 ounces of weight.

(This doesn’t call for a measuring device at all;  two good three-fingered pinches, sprinkled from way above so that it spreads out evenly.  When you see chefs sprinkling something from shoulder height, that’s not showmanship. Sprinkled from that height, the salt crystals have a chance to spread out and not just plop on the steak in one spot.)

Cooking instructions

lamb leg stteak on griddleNotes:  I prefer a griddle (or griddle pan), not a grill pan that has the ridges on it. The griddle will give you browning all over the surface of the meat, not just stripes on it. Stripes are pretty, but all-over sear really tastes better to me.

  • Deactivate the smoke alarm–probably means taking out the battery. This is necessary before you start cooking because you need to be paying close attention while cooking.  (You see the smoke in the picture, right?) There’s no way to do this without it smoking. If you try to do this without smoking, you won’t get the same results.
  • Heat cast-iron griddle (or skillet) over high heat until it’s very hot–you want really high heat. This is why you deactivated the smoke alarm. Test heat by flicking a drop of water onto the griddle–it will sizzle and skitter around hectically, kind of like one of the really supper bouncy balls that my cat plays
  • Pat steak dry and rub with a little oil (not extra-virgin olive oil–the heat will destroy flavor) on both sides.
  • Put steak on the griddle–it should make some noise or the griddle is not hot enough, and cook for two (2) minutes without moving it. Don’t turn the heat down.
  • Turn and cook the other side for two minutes.
  • Return to the first side, and cook for one minute; turn over and cook that side for one minute.
  • Repeat the one-minute cook-and-turn until the steak has been cooked for about 8 to 10 minutes total time. Check with an instant-read thermometer if you  need to (insert through the side of the steak or simply press the surface with a finger. For medium it should feel the same as pressing on the palm of your hand at the base of the thumb).
  • Let rest for 10 or 15 minutes for juices to distribute evenly, then eat!
  • A dollop of gremolata would be a nice touch; you might even add a bit of mint when making the gremolata.

ÒΔÓ

lamb leg steak on plate with ratatouilleEver since I discovered this technique of cooking 1-inch chops or steaks, it’s all I’ve used for meats. For thicker steaks, I’ll use a combination of pan-searing and oven. I’m sure there’s a good food-science explanation for why this works so well, but I haven’t gone looking for it–I suspect that the heat transfer to the interior of the steak or chop is different than cooking one side at a time, as well as the extremely high heat.

True, the stove will need cleaning after you’ve done this, but the result is well worth it. There is no “overcooked” grey area to this steak. This works well with pork, veal, beef, and the lamb.

. . . don’t forget to put the battery back in the smoke alarm!

lamb leg steak cut to show pink interior

Fårikål (Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew)

Cold, rather dreary day so I’m making some warm, cuddly, comfort food from my most recent cookbook, The Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad.

I made the lamb and cabbage stew–well, sort of–I had goat meat in the freezer so I substituted that for lamb.  As I’m writing, I’m smelling it cooking–and practically drooling on my keyboard.

The stew is in the oven in my “small” Dutch oven (did not make the whole recipe). It smells SO good. I’ve been reading posts from a friend on Facebook singing the praises of this stew–reheats well–which means I can make a batch and freeze some.

The seasoning of this stew is bay leaves and black peppercorns–a lot of black peppercorns, cooked with the meat and cabbage.  This surprised me when I read the recipe because I’ve seen sources saying that black peppercorns will be bitter with long cooking, so it’s not usually added until late in cooking, though this is not dry heat, so that may make a big difference. This recipe calls for 1 to 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns.  (From tasting so far, I think I’m going to want to add more black peppercorns.)

Product.DisplayNameReally good, fresh-ground black pepper is one of my favorite spices.  I’ve gotten hooked on the India Special Extra Bold Tellicherry  and that’s what I’m using in this recipe.  Regular Tellicherry or Malabar pepper should also work.

Fårikål (Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew)

This recipe is adapted  from The Kitchen of Light (Andreas Viestad)–It’s easily adapted for single-serving cooking, but also suitable for making the full recipe and reheating/freezing.

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds of bone-in lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces.
  • 4 pounds of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups cold water
  • fine sea salt (to taste)

Preparation

  • Layer the meat and cabbage in a large pot
  • Add black peppercorns, bay leaves, butter, and sprinkle in flour
  • Add water
  • Bring to a simmer, covered,
  • Cook about 2 hours over medium-high heat about 2 hours
  • To increase spiciness, add 1 more tablespoon peppercorns and cook an additional 15 minutes
  • Season to taste with salt
plated lamb and cabbage stew

Lamb and cabbage stew (from Wikipedia)

My first adaptation was the use of goat meat since that’s what I had in the freezer–as well as goat brown stock.

The goat meat was excellent, but in the future  I’ll use bone-in lamb shoulder chops, cut into appropriate-sized chunks.  My other adaptation of this recipe was to put it in the oven to cook at 300°F until the meat was very tender. It’s unlikely that I’ll want to make full quantity  of this recipe–more likely half, which will still give more than one meal, and  some to freeze.

This is NOT a pretty dish.  By the time the meat is really tender, the cabbage is NOT going to be pretty and bright green.  There’s more discussion of this dish on My Little Norway.  I like more peppercorns than that recipe uses–I actually added a lot more–and finished my serving with carefully roasted black peppercorns, coarsely crushed.

This has me looking for other recipes using cabbage–which I think is an under-appreciated winter vegetable. Too often I think it’s thought of as “slaw”.  After reading Viestad’s cookbook and North: The New Nordic Cooking of Iceland  by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy,  I want to explore more Scandinavian cooking.  I found lots more recipes on New Scandinavian Cooking, too–and the manifesto of the “New Nordic Cuisine”.

For a beverage with this dish? Well, a porter would be excellent. If I were doing wine, I think I’d look for something really robust–something that has at least some alicante bouchet in it, or maybe a Minervois–I think this calls for some research!

A son goût!

 

Oven-braised lamb and garbanzo beans

It’s another grey day–unseasonably warm, but at least not hot, sticky, and terribly humid today–the kind of day when you need to smell something cooking–long, slow, and tantalizing.   I found lamb shoulder chops on special (2-1/2-pound package) at the grocery store, I decided to try the lamb/garbanzo slow-cooker thing in the oven since it’s not too hot (and I’ll use the oven to prepare a second dish for reheating tomorrow (acorn squash stuffed with Sicilian sausage).

Book coverThe slow cooker version of this concoction was really good, but I thought it could be improved by doing it in the oven. Even after reading the Cook’s Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution (volume 1), I am still not a wild fan of the slow-cooker.  I use it because it does some things well, and is necessary at times to fit cooking into a working schedule.  The Slow Cooker Revolution has improved my slow-cooker results immensely, mostly because I’ve discovered some unusual ingredients that can improve flavor.

My impression was that many of these recipes required more preparation time than I would be able to put into a slow cooker recipe, given that I use it for utter simplicity.  I’m interested in seeing what comes from volume 2 of the Slow Cooker Revolution.  If I have to do a lot of preparation for the recipe, then I might as well not use the slow cooker.  I still find that I like over-braising when possible; however, I do find I’m using the slow cooker even more since I read the first volume of this book. That said, I still prefer oven braising, especially if I’m working at home.

Romertopf clay baker (oval)I had intended to do this in the Romertopf, (one of my favorite things for roasting and baking hearty, peasant-style comfort food in the winter) but by the time I had boned the lamb and added other ingredients, it wouldn’t fit in either of my small ones (great for single-serving cooking), and was not enough to fit in my large Romertopf (for roasting whole chicken, for example)–so it was the Dutch oven for today.

(Shoulder chops are reasonably priced, and the boning doesn’t take long if you use a boning knife rather than trying to do it with a paring knife or chef’s knife.  Those bone went into a saucepan with a tad of salt and some bay leaves to make stock.  After boning out, I had about 2 pounds of lamb, so that’s what I started with.)

Oven-braised lamb and garbanzo beans

lamb from chopsIngredients

  • 2 pounds lamb (from boned shoulder chops)
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted, diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tablespoons of Hatch chilli powder (used for the slow cooker), but more added after tasting this halfway through cooking
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Mexican oregano, minced
  • 1 cup water

PreparationIMG_7667

  • Put everything in pot
  • Cover
  • Pop it into the oven, and check for liquid in an hour
  • Go get laundry or whatever, then check liquid again

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In order to be as much like the slow-cooker, I did not brown the meat or cook the onions separately–just combined everything, covered, and put in a preheated, 300-degree Fahrenheit oven.  I added 1 cup of water to start, and checked in one hour but there was plenty of liquid.

On tasting, I found it needed more than the 2 tablespoons of chili powder so I added about 1 tablespoon more, stirred, covered, and let it continue to cook. There was plenty of liquid, so next time, I’ll not add any water–just rely on the juice from the tomatoes, onions, and meat.

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The stock made with the bones smelled really good–if more liquid had been needed during baking, I would use some of the stock.  There was some meat from the bones in the stock, but I not enough to spend time picking off, although I’m not compulsive about trying to get every bit off when I bone meat like these chops. Since I started the stock in cold water, the meat that was left was pretty flavorless, but the stock was good.

-<>^<>-

There will be a next time for this–and unless I’m really pushed for time, or can’t leave the oven while I’m out, I’ll opt for the oven method to cook this–a much more complex flavor with the same ingredients, likely attributable to the bit of evaporation that takes place in the oven but not in the closed slow-cooker.

Getting this added flavor lead me to consider the energy used in the various cooking methods–the energy required for cooking is certainly part of the energy required to make that food edible–the energy  of production and transportation, and the cooking is all part of the picture: the footprint of feeding me. We cannot ignore the energy used for cooking when we talk about other energy costs associated with our food so I spent some time browsing to find information on different cooking methods.

In trying to research this issue, I’ve perused many different sources–and the gas/slow cooker comparison is difficult, and I get the feeling that the answer to which is more efficient is an “it depends” situation.

Interestingly, an article on slow cookers versus electric ovens from the University of Connecticut Sustainable Living suggests that there may not be a significant difference in energy use.  SFGate discusses gas versus electric energy use, which gets more complicated, but I’m not sure that there difference is significant enough to make me give up oven braising, even though I’d like to minimize my “carbon footprint” as much as possible. If my slow cooker requires eight or so hours of cooking, and my oven braise requires only two or three hours on low to medium heat, then it may be a toss-up, since the slow cooker doesn’t cycle, and the oven (gas or electric) does.

Oven braising in the wintertime helps warm the house so probably cuts my heating use some, but I’m certainly NOT going to oven braise in the summer and increase the use of air-conditioning.  There is lots of conflicting information out there on the ‘net.  The “best” I found was from the Consumer Energy Center (California Energy Commission)–from that information, I’m not going to give up oven braising for the slow cooker anytime soon, but I’ll still use the slow cooker for some things.

Cover, pressure cooker perfectionOne comparison that I’d really be interested in is slow cooker versus pressure cooker energy use, and taste of the same dish prepared in both. Most data that I found suggested that the slow cooker wins on convenience, and the pressure cooker on energy saving. A taste comparison would certainly be interesting.  I’m almost certain that a pressure cooker can’t replace a good old-fashioned slow braise in the over.

I’ve recently started playing with a pressure cooker–it’s a lot different than what my mother used. The recipes in Pressure Cooker Perfection have been a good starting point. I suspect that I’ll be using a pressure cooker more  in the future, as well as the slow-cooker. Climate, air conditioning, and heating, are all things that will enter into my decisions. I’m also trying out an portable induction unit which is supposed to be ore energy efficient.

So many options for energy efficiency–but what about taste?  I doubt that any other method is going to come out tasting like an oven braise, no matter how many umami-enhancing ingredients you add.

A son goût!

Dutch oven with lamb and garbanzos

very simple, very tasty

Celebrating the autumnal equinox.

I woke up to a lovely fall morning–sunny, breezy, cool–absolutely lovely day, some leisurely time over coffee in the sunny kitchen, and realized that I’ve gradually been shifting into autumn cooking mode–cooking urges that are very different from the hot, humid weather of summer.

I’ve been making meals in the multitasking rice cooker lately: whipped up a great spicy lamb and garbanzo bean stew and another of braised pork and collard greens.  Some of immediate use today, and some of each of those to stash in the freezer for quick meals on a cold winter day when I need serious comfort food.

The lamb and garbanzo “stew” was one that I literally threw together in about 15 minutes while I was finishing an index to send to a client. A good friend who knows how much I like to use chili peppers gave me a wonderful chile powder from Made in New Mexico.  I used lamb shoulder chops, a healthy batch of chile powder, some Mexican oregano,  Goya garbanzo beans, and a can of diced tomatoes. The lamb chops came out of the slow-cooking melt-in-your-mouth tender, with just enough spice to accumulate a bit of burn by the time you’ve eaten a bowl of it, but not enough to rip you taste buds out by the roots.  This chili powder is the best I’ve ever used–I’ll be ordering more of that one.

Another job that just could not be put off any longer was cleaning the gas stove. It is one of my very least favorite things to do so I do tend to procrastinate about it; that does not make the task any easier and I know that but I still procrastinate about it. (I think that a house elf would be a wonderful thing to have around!)

Now the stove has at least had a  lick and a promise as my grandmother would have said. Well, at least the lick, but still needs the promise though that is going to happen today. (Definitely no pictures here!)  So happy that the oven is self-cleaning since it gets lots of use in cool weather for carefree braising while I’m working at home.

Now I’m ready for a plate of braised pork and collard greens!