Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lamb Shanks Cooked in Yogurt

Was craving a hearty stew and something light at the same time, so this minty recipe, found in Bittman's Best Recipes in the World (thank you, Norah and Jeff!), seemed like a decent compromise. The title's perhaps a bit misleading, as the yogurt is added during the last few minutes of cooking, but this turned out wonderfully. Used slightly less meat and more garlic (surprise) than the recipe called for, but it turned out wonderfully - rich and yet with a tangy lightness from the yogurt and the mint (fresh from our garden patch); when the dill comes in, I'll use that in a variant of this dish. Served it with couscous and chives (also fresh from outside).
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 meaty lamb shanks (3.2 lbs)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 25 or so garlic cloves (2 heads), peeled
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 quart yogurt (used full-fat Greek)
  • 1-2 tsp. minced garlic (used two fat cloves)
  • chopped fresh mint leaves for garnish (used about 1.5 tbsp. per serving)
Put olive oil in a deep pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Wait for a minute, then add the lamb shanks. Brown well, turning as necessary and sprinkling the meat with salt and pepper as it browns (about 10 min.).  Action shot below:

When meat is browned, add whole garlic cloves. Cook for another minute or two, then add the onions. Stir to distribute everything evenly, turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook gently, checking to make sure the mixture doesn't dry out - add water or stock in half-cup increments if it does (mine had plenty of fluid from both the meat and the onions).

Cook till the lamb is quite tender, about 1.5-2 hours (more like 2 hours for me).

Thin the cornstarch with two tbsp. of water, then stir into yogurt along with the minced garlic. Then stir this mixture into the pot with the lamb. Simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes (I went about 10, but that's partially because I was preparing couscous). Adjust seasoning, then garnish with the fresh herbs and serve.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Simple Chicken Soup (Nilagang Manok)

This simple but nourishing soup (pictured at the noon and 3 o'clock marks) served as a light dinner for two people fighting off a bug, a breakfast and three days of lunch. A few splashes of salty, savory fish sauce make it sing, so make sure you have your favorite (nuoc mam, patis, whatever) on hand.

My [vegetable] mise en place, let me show you it

The recipe can vary widely depending on  your mood and what you have on hand (for example, I replaced the traditional cabbage with baby bok choy); the following  is just what went into this particular iteration. I forgot to separate and weigh the potatoes and green beans (which came with a tomato in a farmer's market grab bag), so all measurements are approximate.

  • 2-2.5 lbs. chicken thighs (five plump ones in this case)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled and smashed (about 7 fat cloves)
  • 3 young onions, sliced, with greens washed and tied together
  • 1-1.5 tsp. salt
  • 5-6 young potatoes,  quartered
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and chunked
  • 10-12 oz. green beans, sliced
  • 6 baby bok choy, stems and leaves separated and roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • patis to taste (I like about a tbsp. per small bowl)
Put the chicken, water, garlic, onions and onion greens in a large pot. Bring to a boil then simmer till chicken's fairly well cooked but not yet done, about 20 mins. Remove greens and discard.

Add salt, potatoes and carrots. Cook till the vegetables start to soften, about 7-10 minutes. Add green beans and bok choy stems; cook till beans are becoming tender, but still have a bite to them (about 5-7 minutes).

Taste and adjust seasoning. Add baby bok choy leaves, cover and remove from heat. Serve with rice and patis on the side.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On Repeat: Mockquavit

In preparation for more seedlings, we decided to thin out the wall of mint in our shared front garden (a full pictoral account of our minty day is here). What to do with a heaping bowlful of the stuff? Infuse alcohol, of course. I basically doubled this recipe (minus 3/4 cup of vodka or so) and am now looking forward to enjoying some of this nice, fresh, mellowness over ice in about three weeks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chicken with Onions and Summer Squash

Clockwise from top: cheese and chocolate, salad, chicken with onions and squash, rice
It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I've barely cooked or packed lunch (or even noted down the recipes when I have, hence the lack of a lentil soup post from last week). We went to the market after getting back from my sister's on Sunday, and I made up a huge batch of take-to-work stew based on Bittmans' "Chicken with Onions." Couldn't resist the summer squashes at the market, so bought a few to add and made a few more tweaks, as noted below.

Things I will do differently next time:
  1. Brown the chicken beforehand. It's still tasty, but would have been even better with some help from the Maillard reaction.
  2. Onions and summer squash release a lot of liquid. No need to add more liquid to the recipe unless you feel like soup.
  3. Add the squash 20 minutes before the chicken's done. Had a brain fart and put it in right after the chicken, with predictable overcooking results. 
 Ingredients and procedure are below.
  • 3-4 lbs. chicken (about 6 big legs in this case)
  • 1 cup flour (if browning - otherwise, no need)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water, stock or white wine (used sake, as I didn't feel like opening the last bottle of Breaux vigionier)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 medium summer squash, sliced into 1/2-in. rounds
If not browning the chicken, skip this step. Separate the legs and thighs, then pat dry. Coat in flour then brown in the oil over medium-high heat, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from heat, reserve, and pour off all but a tablespoon of oil.

Saute onions in oil till soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute till fragrant, another 1-2 minutes. Add thyme and stir.

Add liquid, summer squash and chicken to pot; add . Bring to a boil, cover then cook over medium-low heat till chicken is done (about 20 minutes if browned, longer if not).