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—

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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