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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lamb Espresso

I just read this in the NY Times: "In January, the United States Department of Agriculture released figures showing that domestic lamb production is at an all-time low, down 13 percent over just one year. On the ranch and on the plate, beef cattle are elbowing out sheep by a little more each year. The average American now eats over 60 pounds of beef annually, but consumption of lamb is just over 1 pound per person."

Beef over lamb? Not in my house! My mom loved to cook lamb. I'm not sure how we afforded it, but we ate lamb chops a lot. Maybe it was a lot cheaper back in the 60's and 70's. That's surely why I developed a long-standing love of lamb - early and frequent exposure.

Traditionally, mint jelly is served with lamb. Maybe people don't really like the strong flavor of lamb and mint covers it up. My mother never served mint jelly and I am not a big fan. Everyone in my house liked the flavor of lamb and gobbled it up.

This recipe is from a cookbook called America's Best: A National Community Cookbook. It was published in 1983, and contained recipes from cooks throughout the country with a special emphasis on recipes from ski country. Its sales raised money for US Ski Team. You can get a copy used for next to nothing. In keeping with the ski theme, the recipes are rated Beginner, Intermediate and Expert, just like ski trails (and they use the circle, square and diamond shapes next to each recipe, just like ski trails). I think my mom bought it for me because a) she thought it was an awesome cookbook, and b) I had just learned to ski. And, it is an awesome cookbook with lots of very solid recipes. Lamb Espresso would be the best of the best, in my opinion.

Lamb Espresso
(serves 8)

1 4 pound Leg Of Lamb
3 cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons Dry Mustard
2 tablespoons Ground Ginger
Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 10-ounce Jar Currant Jelly
⅓ cup Tawny Port Wine
½ cup Brewed Espresso Coffee, or very strong regular coffee

Preheat  oven to 350℉.

Cut 3 slits in lamb and insert the garlic cloves.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, ginger, salt, and pepper and rub this mixture over the lamb. Place the lamb in a roasting pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the jelly, wine, and the coffee and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until the jelly is dissolved. Reserve.

Baste the lamb every 10 minutes with the sauce, until the lamb is the desired internal temperature (about 50 minutes more for medium-rare). Total roasting time is 90 minutes.

Allow lamb to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Link to PDF of Lamb Espresso recipe

Monday, April 18, 2011

Southwestern Matzoh Ball Soup

Southwestern matzoh balls, jazzed up with some fresh chiles and julienned carrots
It's nearly Passover, friends. Now, being the unobservant Jew that I am, I have not cleaned out every speck of chometz (that would be bread-like products that aren't Kosher for Passover, and believe me, that definition is extremely broad). I did wash the floor today, which is pretty good in my house. I do believe in the restorative power of matzoh ball soup however. And after washing the floors, I need something restorative.

This is quite an old internet recipe, at least in terms of the age of the internet (it is not, however, the oldest one I have, which dates from 1982). This recipe came from which was the grand-daddy of internet recipe sites. It was a mishmash of people, with some definite likes and dislikes. Which led to some pretty interesting flaming but also a lot of interesting food.

This recipe is from Susan Hattie Steinsapir who was a frequent contributor to the group. I believe she lived in Southern California and she passed away at some point during the heyday of But, she is not forgotten as I think about this lady I never met every Passover when I pull out her unorthodox version of matzoh ball soup.

Southwestern Matzoh Ball Chicken Soup
(serves 4)

A classic recipe from the days of with some enhancements from me. I added the black pepper and cumin. If the jalapeno is not very spicy, I like to add a teaspoon of very finely minced serrano chile or a pinch of ground dried chipotle chiles to spice things up a little. I also use tequila rather than vodka sometimes, for a little Nuevo American twist.

2 tablespoon Oil
2 large Egg
½ cup Matzoh Meal
1 teaspoon Salt
⅛ teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
⅛ teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 tablespoon Finely Minced Onion
1 teaspoon Finely Minced Jalapeno
1 tablespoon Minced Red Pepper
2 tablespoon Tequila or Vodka
6 cups Chicken Broth
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, dill or parsley

Beat oil and eggs together. Add matzoh meal, salt, onion, jalapenos, red pepper and vodka. Stir to blend thoroughly. Refrigerate covered for 15 minutes.

Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Reduce heat so that water is boiling gently. Drop 1" size matzoh balls (they will swell as they cook) into the water. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove and drain. At this point, you can chill the matzoh balls and reheat them in the chicken broth when you want to serve them.

Add the matzoh balls to chicken soup and simmer for 5 minutes (20 minutes, if chilled) before serving.

This recipe can be doubled but only use 3 eggs.

notes: This dish will serve 6 as part of a big Passover meal. By doubling the recipe and thereby decreasing the percentage of eggs, you end up with slightly denser matzoh balls. A single recipe results in very light and fluffy matzoh balls while a double recipe results in somewhat denser matzoh balls. This is based on personal observation making a double and single batch in the same day.

Link to PDF of Southwestern Matzoh Ball Chicken Soup

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pork Green Chile with Farro

One of my daughter's favorite foods is BBQ Pork Shoulder (see my post on North Carolina BBQ). This is not a small chunk of meat. One half of a shoulder runs 6-7 pounds. I try to invite as many people as I can to help us eat it, which isn't terribly hard. But, still, there are usually plenty of leftovers when you cook up a 7 pound hunk of pork. I didn't shred up all the meat last time, so I was left with a chunk of pork. This is where it ended up.

Don't worry about trimming all the fat off the pork as you cut it up. As you brown the pork, it will render out and add great flavor to the dish.

Depending on where you live, finding the frozen green chiles may be difficult. If you can't find them, you can substitute roasted fresh chiles, like Anahiems or Poblanos. I would not use the canned ones; they don't have the right flavor. And this dish really does depend on the flavor of the chiles.

Farro is an old Italian grain, a relative of spelt. It's showing up in more places these days. I got a bag of it at my local CostCo. One clear advantage of farro is that it cooks up quickly, in just 15 minutes. It has an appealing chewy texture and it doesn't get gummy like brown rice. It's an excellent addition to the whole grain shelf. Rice would certainly be a more traditional choice with green chile but I so love the chewiness of farro that I used it instead.

Pork Green Chile with Farro
(4 servings)

1 tbl Vegetable Oil
3⁄4 pound Leftover Cooked Pork Shoulder, diced
1⁄2 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Flour
12 ounces Frozen Diced Green Chiles, mild or medium, depending on your heat preference, thawed
1 1⁄2 cups Water
1⁄2 cup Frozen Corn Kernels
1⁄2 cup Frozen Peas
1 cup Frozen Green Beans
2 tsp Kosher Salt, or to taste
1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 cup Farro

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute pork in oil until browned. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reserve.

And onions and garlic to pot and saute until onion is translucent. Add cumin and flour. Cook for another minute. Add green chiles and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

While the chile is cooking, heat 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes until the farro is tender, but still chewy.

Once the farro is cooking, add the corn, peas, and green beans to the green chile. Continue simmering while the farro finishes cooking.

Drain the farro after 15 minutes and add to the chile. Add the browned pork, salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes to reheat the pork.

Link to PDF of Pork Green Chile with Farro recipe