Archive for November, 2013

Mustard and Herbed Rack of Lamb

rack_of_lamb2I made this for Thanksgiving, and it was delicious. For those of you who think lamb has to taste “gamey,” whatever that means, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t. It just depends on the cut of lamb you buy, how fresh it is, and how you prepare it. I had the ultimate anti-lamb person I know taste this on Thanksgiving, and she loved it.

Rack of lamb is one of those cuts of meat that is worth the price because it lives up to its billing. It’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious. If you’re not convinced, I suggest you give it a try so that you can see for yourself.

You can get your butcher to “French” the rack for you or, if you’re lucky, your local supermarket sells it that way. I ordered mine a week in advance from my local grocer and it came all ready to go.

Ingredients

Two 1.5 lb racks of lamb, Frenched

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup minced garlic

2 tbsp packed light brown sugar

2 tbsp dried rosemary leaves

2 tbsp dried thyme leaves

Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, garlic and brown sugar until well incorporated. Score the fat side of the lamb racks. Place in a glass or non-reactive baking dish and pour the marinade over the lamb. Be sure both the top and the “meat side” of the racks are covered with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight.

The next day, scrap the marinade off the lamb and retain. Heat the olive oil and a pan, and brown the racks on both sides. Sprinkle both sides of the racks liberally with salt and pepper, as well as the rosemary and thyme leaves. Place in a baking dish and pour on the marinade.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove and cover with aluminum foil. Allow the racks to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into chops and serving.

 

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Slow Cooker Lamb Vindaloo

Lamb vindaloo with Basmati RiceAnother amazing Indian food here, this time made in a slow cooker. I have to tell you that I think a slow cooker (or crock pot or whatever you want to call it) is an essential kitchen item, and I have just posted this in my Kitchen Essentials section.

Vindaloo, whether it be with lamb, pork, chicken or beef, is one of the hottest dishes in all of Indian cooking. Not only does this recipe call for cayenne pepper, but it also calls for six Chipotle chili peppers. These are essentially Jalapenos that have been smoked. This dish is not for the weak willed, but it is so delicious. It should be served over Basmati rice.

For those who may not have an adventurous palate where “heat” is concerned, I am also providing a recipe at the end for a yogurt sauce that can be used to “cool” the dish when serving. The combination of the rice and the yogurt sauce should make it tolerable for even the weakest palate.

Ingredients

1 boneless leg of lamb, 4-5 lbs, trimmed of fat and cut in bite-sized pieces

3 medium red potatoes, washed and cut in bite-sized pieces

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 large Vidalia onions, chopped and divided

1.5 cups of frozen petite peas, defrosted

10 garlic cloves, crushed

6 Chipotle chili peppers, reconstituted and scraped (see Directions)

2 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp cardamom

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup low-sodium beef broth

1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

1 tbsp cornstarch plus 1 tbsp water

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cucumber, peeled, trimmed and seeds removed

Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper (to taste; for the yogurt-cucumber sauce)

Directions

The first order of business is to prepare the Chipotle chili peppers. Reconstitute the peppers by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Once they have cooled, cut them open and scrape the chili meat from the skin and set aside.

In a food processor, take half the onion, the garlic, the Chipotle chili peppers, the cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, paprika, ginger paste and two tablespoons of the olive oil and pureé into a paste. Put it into a bowl and add the lamb pieces. Stir to coat the lamb thoroughly and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day heat the balance of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the marinated lamb. You may need to do this in batches, but you do not need to cook the lamb through. Place in a slow cooker along with the beef broth, the salt, the sugar, the tomatoes, the potatoes, and the bay leaves. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours. About 30 minutes before the vindaloo is done, add the peas, then mix the tablespoon of cornstarch and the tablespoon of water and add it to the slow cooker. Stir thoroughly. The cornstarch-water mix will help to thicken the stew.

Serve over Basmati rice and garnish with cilantro.

Turning Down the Heat

Yogurt is a great way to temper the heat of this dish. Take the cup of plain Greek yogurt and the cucumber and put it in a food processor. Pureé until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste. Put in bowl and refrigerate until you serve the Lamb Vindaloo.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cajun-Creole Jambalaya

jambalayaThis can loosely be called the Louisiana version of Paella. The only real difference is that I bake this in the oven to finish it off, as opposed to cooking it on top of the stove. This is a crazy good dish, a complete meal in itself.

Again, I first got turned onto Jambalaya on my travels to New Orleans in the eighties. Although the travels were for business, I never failed to tack on vacation time at the end of my business obligations to enjoy the food and culture of New Orleans. While a lot can be said about New Orleans crime and corruption, the one thing that is absolutely certain is that you will never be served substandard food and drinks in that town.

This recipe calls for Andouille sausage. I have never had a problem finding this in my local supermarket, but Tasso or some other kind of smoked ham is a great substitute here. Alternatively, buffalo chicken sausage is great also.

You will need a pretty deep baking pan for this. If your skillet is big enough and can handle oven cooking, you can simply work with that.

Ingredients

3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 cups)

2 cups Andouille sausage, cut in 1/4 inch pieces then quartered

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup chopped onion, divided

1 cup chopped celery, divided

1 cup chopped green bell peppers, divided

3 tbsp minced garlic

1 28-oz can Italian whole tomatoes, undrained and broken up by hand

1 tsp broken-leaf sage

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 whole bay leaves

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups long-grain rice (Basmati works well here)

Tabasco sauce (for the table)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat up 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken and Andouille sausage, and cook until browned. (The meats do not need to be cooked through.) Remove and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of the olive oil and heat up. Add 1/2 cup each of the celery, onion and peppers, along with the cayenne pepper, sea salt, garlic, sage, basil, oregano and thyme. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Now, we move to the pan you’re going to bake in. Add the meats and shrimp. Then add the cooked vegetables and all of the juices that are left from that process. Add the rice, chicken stock, the remaining uncooked half cup of the celery, onions and green pepper. Add the tomatoes and the bay leaves. Stir everything together.

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour on 350 degrees.

Serve with a full bottle of Tabasco sauce.

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Rub n’ Slather Ribs

BBQ RibsI’m calling these Rub n’ Slather Ribs because they are cooked in two stages. Overall, these ribs take about four hours to cook at a low temperature of 250 degrees. The first stage is to cook them for two hours after applying a rub. After the first two hours, you add barbecue sauce and cook for an additional two hours.

I really dislike store-bought barbecue sauce. It doesn’t matter what the brand is; the stuff just doesn’t taste good to me. One of the things I dislike about them is the “smoke” taste. If you, on the other hand, like that smoky flavor, you can simply add “Liquid Smoke” to the homemade barbecue sauce.

The rub calls for an ingredient called Vulcan’s Fire Salt. This indispensable little condiment can be ordered from The Spice House, and it’s one of the things I keep in my spice cabinet. If you don’t have it or don’t want to wait to try these, you can always use a Cajun spice — which can be purchased at your local supermarket. The barbecue sauce also calls for a bit of a specialty product called Slap Ya Mama. You can also replace that with a Cajun spice. However, I highly recommend that you get both of these and stock this stuff.

This recipe works with both baby back ribs and regular ribs.

Ingredients

3.5-4 lbs pork ribs (baby back or otherwise)

Ingredients for Pig Rub

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp Vulcan’s Fire Salt

1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

Ingredients for Pork Slather Barbecue Sauce

16 oz tomato sauce

4 tbsp tomato paste

1/3 cup ketchup

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tbsp Slap Ya Mama Cajun spice

1 tbsp dry mustard

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp onion powder

3 tbsp minced garlic

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp fresh-ground black pepper

1.5 tsp sea salt

Directions

Mix together all the ingredients for both the rub. Be sure to mix well.

Prepare the ribs by cutting the top flap off each rack of ribs. Keep for use in another recipe, like say, a black bean soup (which I promise to get to).

Line baking dishes with aluminum foil (depending upon how many racks of ribs you’re cooking). Apply the rub liberally to both the underside and the top of the ribs. The idea here is to have absolutely none left over.

Place in the foil-lined baking dish(es) and cook for two hours, uncovered, at 250 degrees.

While the ribs are cooking, mix all of the ingredients together for the barbecue sauce. Whisk at the end to ensure that everything is incorporated.

At the end of two hours, remove the ribs from the oven and slather the top with barbecue sauce. Be sure to cover the whole area using a brush. Cover the ribs with aluminum foil and return to the oven for another two hours. After two hours, remove the aluminum foil and switch the oven to “Broil.” Leave the ribs in for an additional 5-8 minutes. Be sure to put the oven hood on and open a window. I’ve set off many a smoke detector with this kind of behavior.

 

 

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Spicy Spanish Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash with chorizoSpaghetti squash is delicious, and I’ve already posted one recipe on this site that is an Italian version. This particular recipe for spaghetti squash is a more spicy Spanish version made with Chorizo. I recently made as a side dish when serving Paella.

The recipe also incorporates Manchego cheese, a sheep-milk cheese that also happens to be the most popular and tastiest of Spanish cheeses. It is made in the La Mancha region of Spain.

Many people cut and remove the seeds prior to baking spaghetti squash. However, I prefer to bake the spaghetti squash whole, removing the seeds once the squash is cooked.

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash

6 oz of chorizo, diced

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

3/4 cup Manchego cheese, shredded

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pierce the spaghetti squash all over with a fork or a knife. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. You will know when it’s done because a fork will slide easily into the flesh. Do not be concerned if the outside of the squash becomes browned during the baking. You’re not going to use the skin.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes. If you’re going to add the red pepper flakes (and I, of course, would not skip this), this is a good place to do it. Add your chorizo and garlic and continue to sauté. Add your salt and pepper to taste.

The squash should now be cool enough to handle. Cut off the top close to the stem, then cut the squash down the middle. Scrape out the seeds and discard. Take a fork and scrape the squash away from the skin and into the skillet. It will separate easily into long, spaghetti-like strands (hence, the name). Your squash is already completely cooked, so this is all about mixing the ingredients together, not about cooking the squash.

Add the chopped cilantro and the Manchego cheese. Stir completely and remove from the heat. Again, I urge you to taste the dish and adjust the flavor as you wish. If you think it needs more Manchego, feel free to add it. (Then again, I am admittedly a cheese-o-holic.)

Garnish with a touch of shredded Manchego on top.

This is a delicious side dish, but it can also serve as a great main dish with some bread, a salad, and some good wine.

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