SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO

When I was 13 years old I could not WAIT to turn 18. It took forever, but as you may have noticed, I made it. Now that I feel like setting the brakes on time, days pass flying by, turn into weeks, months, so here we are at the end of May, and I find myself with quite a few years added to those eighteen. Unreal. Anyway, the last Monday of May brings with it the formidable joy of Reveal Day from The Secret Recipe Club.  If you don’t already know about it, a food blogger is paired with another one in secret, has about a month to pick a recipe and cook from it, then the whole group blogs about their chosen dish at the exact same time.  Nothing is cooler than this, you must admit. I was paired this month with Life on Food, hosted by Emily, a 31-year-old woman with stunning blue eyes and a food blog that is a stalker’s dream! She’s been blogging since 2008, and her index of recipes is quite extensive. At first I decided to make something sweet, and almost settled on her Blackberry Oat  Muffins.  But then, I flirted with Carrot Cake Pancakes and with Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.  Not sure what happened to my sweet tooth, but the outcome was nevertheless perfect:  a fantastic dish of juicy meatballs laying on top of toasted orzo. Life on Food means life is good!

LambMeatballs

LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO
(slightly modified from Life on Food)

1 quart chicken stock
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Milk, for soaking
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, plus 2 tsp zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup orzo
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oven to 400 degrees . In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over low heat; keep warm. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and egg. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread and crumble the bread into the meat. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, onion, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Drizzle with olive oil; mix. Roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and arrange on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a few ladles of the warm stock and allow it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding stock a little at a time and cook until the orzo is al dente.

Stir in the spinach to heat through in the last-minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and feta. Serve the orzo in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining 1/4 cup parsley.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite

Comments: In the opening paragraph of her post on this recipe, Emily says… I plan my meals, snacks, grocery lists days in advance.  I don’t want to be unprepared. Currently I have only about 2 cups worth of flour. I want to make muffins that require 3 cups. I am stressed.  That gave me such a big smile, because I am exactly the same way. With the added quirk of often forgetting what I have hidden deep inside in the pantry, so I “think” I have only a cup of flour, but two unopened bags will be found when I bring yet another from the store. I never fail to amaze myself.

This was a great meal, my main change was to use a gluten-free bread which I had in the freezer begging to be used up. The bread was made with almond flour and some ground nuts, I thought it would go nicely with the lamb meatballs, and indeed it worked well.  The toasted orzo was super creamy, more like a risotto with all the starch of the pasta as part of the sauce.  It did not take that long to cook, we like our orzo very al dente. 

Emily, I hope you had a great time with your assignment!  And, as usual, I invite my readers to go poke a blue frog. Said frog will take you to a collection of goodies made by my fellow friends on The Secret Recipe Club for today’s reveal day…

ONE YEAR AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Superman

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango

FOCACCIA WITH A THRILL

When Phil and I sat down to plan the menu for our recent reception, the first thing he suggested was focaccia. Why? Because it is a crowd pleaser and I can make it in my sleep. But Sally’s mind works in mysterious ways. Instead of sticking with my tried and true recipe – the focaccia I blogged about when the Bewitching Kitchen was only 5 days old – I decided to try a completely new recipe. What enticed me was  its overnight rise in the fridge and with it, the promise of a sharper, more complex flavor.  Big risk? Maybe.  But, I am here to share with you great news:  I like this version even better than “the old one”.  The texture turned out perfect, and the taste was just the way I like it, with a very subtle hint of sourness, but mild enough that the focaccia paired well with all sorts of cheeses and dips.  The recipe published in Fine Cooking, comes with a big name behind it, Peter Reinhart. He knows his way around bread, and this formula proves the point.

IMG_0096OVERNIGHT HERBED FOCACCIA
(adapted from Peter Reinhart’s recipe, through Fine Cooking)

1 lb. 9 oz. (5-1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour
2-1/2 cups cold water (about 55°F)
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar (1 oz.)
2 tsp. table salt or 3-1/2 tsp. kosher salt (1/2 oz.)
1 packet (1/4 oz.) instant yeast
10 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Dried Italian herbs (I used Pasta Sprinkle mix from Penzey’s)
Sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling

The day before baking, mix the dough and let it spend the night in the refrigerator. Combine the flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast in the large bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment, not the dough hook). Slowly mix until the ingredients form a ball around the paddle, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium low for another 3 minutes. Stop the machine to scrape the dough off the hook; let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then mix on medium low for another 3 minutes, until it’s relatively smooth.

Coat a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and rotate the dough to coat it with the oil. Hold the bowl steady with one hand. Wet the other hand in water, grasp the dough and stretch it to nearly twice its size. Lay the stretched section back over the dough. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat this stretch-and-fold technique. Do this two more times so that you have rotated the bowl a full 360 degrees and stretched and folded the dough four times. Drizzle 1 Tbs. of the olive oil over the dough and flip it over. Wrap the bowl well with plastic and refrigerate it overnight, or for at least 8 to 10 hours.

Shape the focaccia: Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator and start shaping the focaccia 2 to 3 hours before you intend to bake it. The dough will have nearly doubled in size. Cover a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat and coat the surface with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Gently slide a rubber spatula or a dough scraper under the dough and guide it out of the bowl onto the center of the pan.

Drizzle 2 Tbs. of the olive oil on top of the dough. Dimple the entire dough surface, working from the center to the edges, pressing your fingertips straight down to create hollows in the dough while gently pushing the dough down and out toward the edges of the pan. At first you might only be able to spread the dough to cover about one-half to three-quarters of the pan. Don’t force the dough when it begins to resist you. Set it aside to rest for 20 minutes. The oil will prevent a crust from forming.

After letting the dough rest, drizzle another 2 Tbs. olive oil over the dough’s surface and dimple again. This time, you will be able to push the dough to fill or almost fill the entire pan. It should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. If it doesn’t stay in the corners, don’t worry; the dough will fill the corners as it rises. Cover the dough loosely with oiled plastic wrap, put the pan on a rack to let air circulate around it, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s about 1-1/2 times its original size and swells to the rim of the pan. This will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. Thirty minutes before baking, heat your oven to 475°F.

Bake the focaccia: Just before baking, gently remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle a few pinches of salt and dried herbs of your choice over the dough. Put the pan in the middle of the hot oven and reduce the heat to 450°F. After 15 minutes, rotate the pan to ensure even baking. Set a cooling rack over a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment (to catch drippings). Use a metal spatula to release the dough from the sides of the pan. Slide the spatula under one end of the focaccia and jiggle it out of the pan onto the rack. If any oil remains in the pan, pour it evenly over the focaccia’s surface. Carefully remove the parchment or silicone liner from beneath the focaccia. Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

IMG_0044

 

This dough was a pleasure to work with! I highly recommend this recipe if you have yeast-phobia, because it is simple, straightforward, and it will work perfectly no matter your skill level as a bread baker, I promise. If I had extra time, I would have made a rosemary-infused oil, but the dried herbs worked very well. You can use dried oregano, dried thyme, or get a mixture ready to use as I did.  Fines Herbes, Herbes de Provence, they can all work well topping the focaccia.

compositenewSO, WHERE IS THE THRILL?

BuckBoy

Did you call me, Mom? 

The Saturday before our reception was one of my busiest cooking days ever. Still, when I took the focaccia out of the oven, I decided to do a quick run to the recycling center, to dump our glass waste. Buck is my buddy for these outings, the only one who likes to ride in the car with me (Oscar has the shakes whenever faced with a drive).  Got there early, no one around,  so I mentally patted myself on the back: “Great job, Sally, you can park right by the glass container spot, in and out in 30 seconds. You rock!”  So I got off the car and left the engine running, my handbag inside with Buck. Rush out, rush back, done! Done? Not so fast. It was more like “rush out, rush back, shock and horror!  The doors were locked! Buck must have jumped on the switch when I left and locked them. If you lock one side from the inside, both doors get locked. I know, perverse technology. Big, huge shiver up and down my spine. The drama unfolded as I entered the recycling office in complete panic, barely able to form complete sentences, begging to use their phone to call for help… This HUGE guy sweet as a teddy bear said “maybe I’ll be able to help you….” – and he comes out with a bunch of gadgets worthy of a professional burglar… a little inflatable black plastic bag that he pushed through the door and pumped just enough to get a little opening, then a big wire – he manipulated it like a pro to hit the control to bring the window down. Of course, Buck is going NUTS inside, in complete disapproval of that humongous human being next to his Mom and messing with the pickup truck….

My life doesn’t have that many dull moments, I tell ya! It was a wild, wild ride…. So, my advice for you: never ever EVER leave your car running with a dog inside. Lesson painfully learned, but with a happy ending. All things considered, it could have been much worse…  

FocacciaPiecesWe are ready to party! What about you?

 

ONE YEAR AGO:  Raspberry Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Mousse “Légère comme une plumme”

THREE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Buttermilk Cluster 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farfalle, Farfalle

THE MAKING OF A NOBEL RECEPTION

As I mentioned earlier, we hosted a very important event in our home: a reception to honor Dr. Randy Schekman, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. I actually have a little gift for my readers. If you want to listen to one of his seminars, click on this link. Randy opened this talk with amusing stories about his life and how he first became interested in science. This particular seminar was open to the public and will appeal to anyone. He is not only a great speaker, but also very personable. It was one of the best scientific visits we had in our department.

Flowers1

Since the reception took place on a Monday evening, I could do most of the work in the weekend. Apart from store-bought items (crackers, cheeses,  charcuterie items, black olive tapenade, and fresh fruits), here is the list of what I prepared.

Cheddar Cheese Coins
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Dill Cream and Smoked Salmon
(from Evil Shenanigans)

Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with Parmigiano Cheese
(from Suzanne Goin)

Smoky Eggplant Dip
(from Fine Cooking)

Moroccan Carrot Dip 
(inspired by this recipe)

Herbed Overnight Focaccia
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Warm Spiced Almonds
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Meyer Lemon Baked Ricotta
(from Food Fanatic)

Chocolate Truffles
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Fresh Strawberries with Cannoli Cream
(adapted from Baked Bree)

prep

I spread the preparation over the two preceding days, freezing focaccia (cut in squares), cheddar crackers, and mini-pancakes on Saturday.  That worked very well, I removed them all from the freezer at lunch time on Monday and refreshed them briefly in a 250 F oven a couple of hours before serving, or in the case of the mini-pancakes, before assembling them with the dill cream and the salmon. One hour before the reception started I baked the Bacon-wrapped dates and the Meyer Lemon Ricotta.

Saturday

Saturday afternoon… We are headed to the freezer!

 Of all things I made, the carrot dip was my favorite. I served it over cucumber slices and the contrast of colors and flavors was exactly what I aimed for.  A detailed report about this dish will be on the blog soon.  I also loved the baked ricotta, and the cheddar crackers.  The only disappointment was the smoky eggplant dip. That was the first time I had a Fine Cooking recipe fail me, and let’s say it was a major fail. I should have stuck with a regular hummus.  Oh, well…

Suzanne Goin’s bacon-wrapped dates: delicious! In fact one of the guests told Phil that he would like to stand by the platter and inhale them all as dinner.  They were a perfect mixture of sweet and savory, with the sharp bite on Parmigiano to crown it all.

Stay tuned for some Nobel Reception recipes coming soon to a food blog near you…

;-)

Flowers2

ONE YEAR AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

TWO YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

THREE YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

FOUR YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

FIVE YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

POACHED WHITE ASPARAGUS WITH LEMON AND PISTACHIOS

I have a cookbook recommendation for you: Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, by Maureen Abood, who runs a gorgeous food blog I’ve been following for a while. As I browsed through my Kindle version, I was surprised by the number of recipes I bookmarked, a feature I love in the Kindle reader, actually. Makes it so easy to go back to favorites. So I did that A LOT. I also love when a cookbook mixes just the right amount of prose. Don’t make each recipe a reason to pour your soul out and tell me all about your childhood and that of your close friends, but give me enough to dream about, to make me understand why that recipe is special for you, special enough that you chose to include in your cookbook.  Maureen does just that. The first recipe I made from her cookbook is simple yet very elegant. Poached white asparagus with pistachios. She used pistachio oil to drizzle the dish, I decided to go with my recent acquisition, a blood orange-infused olive oil.  I am quite fond of its color, a soft reddish tone, and I think the taste matched the white asparagus very well.

White Asparagus with Pistachios

POACHED WHITE ASPARAGUS WITH LEMON AND PISTACHIO OIL
(from the cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms)
reprinted with permission from Maureen Abood

Makes 4 servings

1 pound / 450 g white asparagus
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons shelled roasted, salted pistachios
4 teaspoons pistachio oil (I used blood orange infused olive oil)
Fine sea salt, to finish

Trim the asparagus by snapping the ends off at their natural break. Peel them from just beneath the tip to the end with a vegetable peeler. Cover the asparagus with water in a large sauté pan. Squeeze the lemon into the pan and add the teaspoon of salt.

Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until a spear can be easily cut with a knife and fork. Drain and set the asparagus aside to cool. Remove the thin papery skin on each pistachio to reveal the bright green nut underneath by rubbing the skin off of each nut between your fingers and thumb. Coarsely chop the pistachios.

Divide the asparagus among four individual salad plates, or pile them, all facing the same direction, on a platter. Sprinkle the pistachios across the center of the asparagus crosswise, forming a line. Drizzle everything with pistachio oil, and finish with the sea salt.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

whiteasp

Comments: White asparagus will always make me think of a trip to Germany many years ago. We were living in Paris at the time, and went for a little scientific mission to a couple of cities in Germany. We arrived at the peak of asparagus season and one restaurant in particular had pretty much all dishes centered on them. I still remember a gratin of white asparagus and ham that blew my mind, it was superb! Until I got Maureen’s book, I confess to butchering my share of white asparagus when trying to cook them at home. It never occurred to me that these pale white creatures need to be treated differently from their siblings, the ones allowed to grow under full sun. Maureen gives two simple tips for success: peel them all the way from the bottom to the region right below the tips. And cook them gently but for a longer time. I was amazed at the difference these two little modifications brought to my culinary life.

rwob_cookbook

Now, back to Maureen’s book. So many dishes I want to cook from it, it’s not even funny…  Doesn’t “Flower Water Syrup” make you go in a dreamy daze? Many of her recipes are simple but join unexpected flavors, leaving you with that feeling of “why didn’t I think of that?” For instance, Warm Dates with Almonds and Lime Zest… I just know it will be an amazing recipe. Or… Tahini Avocado?  Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes? It all sounds perfect.  And to me, nothing is better than a great kibbeh, I love it. She shares her classic version of Baked Kibbeh, and one particular recipe I had a few times in Brazil and find spectacular: Yoghurt-Poached Kibbeh.  You may think it is strange, but trust me, it is the best kind. I guess I was lucky to grow up in São Paulo where we have many great Lebanese restaurants, some pretty close to the university where I studied. Still on the kibbeh front, Maureen offers several variations that were unknown to me: Fried Kibbeh with Mint Butter, Vegan Tomato Kibbeh, and Potato & Spinach Kibbeh. But I will tell you what will be my next recipe for sure: Whipped Hummus with Minced Lamb. One little tip she gives in that recipe is worth my weight in chickpeas. But I share no more. You will have to invite her book to join your collection, and that will be a very wise move. Go for it with a simple click here.

Maureen, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe, and best of luck with your cookbook!

ONE YEAR AGO: Dan Lepard’s Saffron Bloomer

TWO YEARS AGO: Fesenjan & The New Persian Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pasta Puttanesca

FIVE YEARS AGO: Miche Point-a-Calliere

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKES AND CAPERS

If you are into Paleo recipes, make this dish!  If you are not into Paleo recipes, make this dish!  Yes, I am a bit bossy today, as a husband and a few graduate students might have noticed. But it’s all with good intentions, as I know what is good for them, for you, and maybe even for myself.  The inspiration for this recipe was found in one of my Kindle cookbooks, Make it Paleo II, by Hayley Mason and Bill Staley. They also have a food blog, Primal Palate, with great recipes and youtube videos. I always read the good and the bad reviews of a cookbook before buying it, and one of the reviewers at amazon.com said that this recipe alone was worth getting the book. I made it twice, once exactly as written, but in this post I am sharing my take on it, modified not only in flavor but also in the method itself. In their version, it is all made in a single skillet, but I did not want to turn on the big oven, so after browning the meat I transferred the pieces to a baking dish that fits in our Breville.

SkilletChickenThighs

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKES AND CAPERS
(adapted from Make it Paleo II)

6 skin-on chicken thighs, boneless
Sea salt to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp za’tar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (6-oz) jar artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and drained
2 Tbsp capers
1 lemon, sliced into rounds and quartered

Heat the oven to 425°F. Heat a skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, removing as much moisture as possible. Season the skin with salt and place them skin side down in the hot skillet. Flip the thighs once they develop a nice brown sear on the skin, which should naturally make them easily release from the pan. Cook the chicken skin side up for 1 minute, then transfer to a baking dish, skin side up.  Season evenly with the oregano, za’tar, and  more black pepper to taste. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, capers, and lemon slices to the skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  If you never de-boned a chicken thigh yourself, take a deep breath and try it, because it’s a nice skill to acquire in the kitchen. I don’t know what type of chicken meat your grocery store carries, but where we live I can find bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, and boneless, skinless.  The former I use for roasting all the time, but the skinless I reserve for either braises, stir-fries, or grilling (usually after a nice marinade with yogurt or some citric concoction).  You absolutely need boneless pieces with the skin on for this recipe, so if you cannot find it, roll your sleeves up and get working.  It was a bit of a struggle, but I got better and better as I did it.  I watched some videos on youtube to help me with the technique, but most videos available show professional chefs who handle the knife as if they were born with one in their hands.  Amazing to watch, but when trying to mimic them, my shortcomings became quite evident. I say take your time, put some soothing music on, and practice. By the way, if you don’t have za’tar, don’t worry. But get some, will you?  I must say it’s one of my favorite spice mixtures at the moment. Love it.

Phil is so addicted to my default recipe for chicken thighs, that at first he was disappointed by the different preparation. But, it took him only one bite to say that I should revisit this recipe whenever I feel like it. Two thumbs up!  So there you have it, make this dish because I said so, and Sally knows what’s best for everyone. HA!

;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

TWO YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

FIVE YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

AS GOOD AS IT GETS… IN SCIENCE

Once again our department will be hosting a very special seminar speaker, Dr. Randy Sheckman, from Berkeley, Nobel Laureate of 2013 in Physiology or Medicine, for his work on protein trafficking and secretion in eukaryotic cells.

Schekman_gray_7x11

I am of course delighted that Phil accomplished all the negotiations needed to pull off this type of event.  It’s not easy, many hurdles must be dealt with.  But his power of negotiation is quite unique and hard to resist. For instance, the first time he hinted at the idea of us hosting a reception in our home in honor of Dr. Sheckman, my answer came  quickly: No way we are doing this. Forget it.  In your dreams. I don’t want to hear anything about it again. 

I inform you that said reception will take place at our home on Monday, and all faculty members interested in meeting Dr. Sheckman were invited to show up.

This weekend, yours truly will be found pacing frantically around the kitchen, preparing for the big event…  I have a few things planned, some a bit daring, some inside my comfort zone. I am actually super excited about it, and intend to have a great time getting ready for it!  Stay tuned for a full report sometime in the near future… (assuming my mental sanity is not compromised).

LAMB SHANKS EN PAPILLOTE WITH CAULIFLOWER-CELERIAC PUREE

One of Phil’s favorite dishes is a nice, melt-in-your-mouth lamb shank. When we go out for dinner, if the restaurant offers lamb shanks, chances are he will order it. Lamb can be a bit tricky to cook at home. It’s usually not very cheap, so the pressure not to ruin it goes up a couple of notches. Our grocery store sometimes has lamb shanks on sale, but I usually stay away from them. Not this time. The price was too good to resist, and I decided to face the challenge. Brought them home without any specific recipe in mind, which proves I was in full daring mood. A quick search on the net pointed me to this simple and straightforward method from Fine Cooking, that gave me the opportunity to practice the “papillote” thing. It also gave me the opportunity to drive all the way back to the grocery store to get leeks (sigh). To offset the richness of the meat, I served it with a super light side dish, mashed cauliflower and celery root. Honestly, I think the puree might have stolen the show, it was superb!

LambPapillote
LAMB SHANK EN PAPILLOTE
(slightly modified from Fine Cooking magazine)
.
4 medium leeks (white and light-green parts only), cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 strips orange zest, each about 3 inches long
Crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each)
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
.
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.
.
Arrange four 16×16-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Put one-quarter of the leeks, one-quarter of the carrots, 1 rosemary sprig, and 1 strip of orange zest on each square. Season each with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
.
Pat the lamb shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer 1 shank to each foil square, arranging it on top of the vegetables. Draw up the edges of the foil to capture any juice, but don’t seal the packets yet.
.
Return the skillet to medium heat, add the vermouth, and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat. Portion the vermouth evenly among the 4 packets, pouring it over the lamb. Dot each shank with a slice of the butter. Fold the foil to form rectangular packets, sealing the seams tightly. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet; it’s fine if they touch but they shouldn’t overlap.
.
Bake for 3 hours; then check for doneness by carefully opening one of the packets (watch out for the steam) and testing the meat with a fork—it should be tender and pulling away from the bone. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10 minutes and check again.
.
Transfer the contents of the packets to large plates or pasta bowls, surrounding the shanks with the vegetables and juice. Remove the rosemary and orange zest before serving.
.
                                                    to print the Lamb Shank recipe, click here
.
mash
CAULIFLOWER-CELERIAC PUREE

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

.
1 head cauliflower, cut in individual florets
1 head celeriac, peeled and cut in 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium shallots, thickly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
coconut milk (about 1/4 cup)

dash of ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375°F.
.
Steam cauliflower florets until very tender.  Coat the celeriac chunks and shallot slices with olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and with a light browning around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes, moving pieces around.
.
When the celeriac is easily pierced with a fork, transfer the pieces to a pan, add the steamed cauliflower florets, and start mashing it all with a potato masher, or use an immersion blender, depending on the texture you like.Turn the burner to low heat, add a dash of nutmeg, and add enough coconut milk to give it a nice creamy feel. Mix well and cook on low heat for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
.
You can also use the food processor to make the puree, if you like a much smoother texture.
 .
ENJOY!
to print the Cauliflower-Celeriac puree recipe, click here

served2

Comments: The most important step in this recipe is taking the time to brown the lamb shanks. I halved the recipe, since it was just for the two of us, but decided to post the recipe as published in the magazine which feeds four.  I confess that I forgot to add the butter on top of the shanks when closing the packages, but that did not seem to hurt anything.

Make sure you have a very big aluminum foil because it is important that the package closes well around the meat.  Also, the recipe called for a cooking time of 2 to 2.5 hours, but I really like the lamb falling off the bone so I did not even bother checking it before 3 hours. Do what suits your taste best.

The mashed cauliflower & celeriac was simply amazing!  If you’ve been following the Bewitching Kitchen for a while, you know I love to play with cauliflower in all sorts of recipes, and you’ll find many versions of mashed cauliflower in the blog.  This is a new favorite.  If you serve it for guests, it will be pretty hard for them to figure out the components, but even if a little puzzled, they’ll be in love with it. Some recipe sources advise to pass celeriac puree through a fine sieve to improve texture, but I didn’t, and it was still very smooth and pleasant. Of all jobs in the kitchen, passing things through a sieve is the one I despise the most, and always find excuses to skip it. My number one excuse is “I do not want to do it“.

This meal would be great for company, since you can assemble the packages and start roasting the meat 3 hours before you plan to serve dinner.  The mashed cauliflower can also be reheated without compromising flavor or texture. One of the wonderful things about papillote cooking is the aroma that is released once you open the package, it will certainly awe any guests!

ONE YEAR AGO: Chestnut Brownies and a Blog Award!

TWO YEARS AGO: Quinoa with Cider-Glazed Carrots

THREE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday: Heirloom Tomatoes Steal the Show

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pain de Provence

FIVE YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands