Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I think my pumpkin's pretty scary...

And you know what? Baby chihuahuas love pumpkin.

Have a happy and safe Halloween! And try not to overdo the candy :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Braised Lamb Neck with Vegetables

Anybody who's been coming here for any length of time probably knows that I love long, slow, braised, stewy dishes. There's oxtails, lamb rogan josh, beef shanks, lamb shanks, and Yucatan pork stew, to name a few.

These dishes should be "one pot", but typically end up using many more than one in my kitchen, because I'm fiddly. I like to separate the veggies from the meat from the broth, refrigerate separately, remove the fat, squish the veggies into the broth through a strainer, etc.

And if I had my way, most of these dishes would be served over buttered noodles or some kind of potato, but given who I live with, it's usually over rice. I'm not complaining, just stating the facts.

Anyhow, today I made what was probably my first original braised lamb dish. I based it on a lot of past recipes, and others that I've seen online and in print, and was extremely happy with the results.

Unfortunately, as with most of my dishes like these, I couldn't get an appetizing-looking picture to save my life. So here's a picture of Little Dog after she had a bite of lamb.

It all started with lamb neck bones that I found at the local market. They reminded me of oxtails in regards to the meat:bone:other ratio, and they were cheap, so I had to buy them. So without further adieu, here's what I did:

Braised Lamb Neck with Vegetables

2 lbs lamb neck bones
vegetable/canola oil
2 carrots, cut in 2" lengths, thicker pieces cut in half lengthwise
3 ribs celery, cut like the carrots
2 parsnips, cut like the carrots
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2-1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1.5-2 cups chicken stock
1-2 T tomato paste
small handful of dried mushrooms
bay leaves
black pepper
smoked paprika
1-2 anchovies in oil

Pat the lamb dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Brown over high heat in the oil on all sides in a large Dutch oven. Remove to a plate. Do in batches if necessary.

Remove most of the oil from the Dutch oven, and saute the onion and garlic briefly. Add the wine to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and let the alcohol burn off. Add the tomato paste, dried mushrooms, bay leaves, thyme, paprika, black pepper, anchovies, and stocks. Return the lamb to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, for about 2 hours. Add the vegetables to the pot, return to a simmer, and continue cooking until the vegetables are done and the lamb is falling off the bones.

Here's where I had a bit of a hiccup. The veggies were done, but the lamb wasn't. So I removed the veggies from the pot with a slotted spoon, and continued cooking the lamb for another hour or so.

When everything's done, and I hope you should be so lucky that the veggies and lamb are done at the same time, remove all the veggies and lamb from the braising liquid, and refrigerate separately. The next day, remove the fat from the top of the liquid, plunk everything back into your Dutch oven, and reheat gently. Salt to taste, although I didn't need any extra , given the initial salting of the lamb, the the salt in the beef stock.

Serve over buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, or, if your family insists, rice. (I made some barley to go with it, cooked in chicken broth & lamb braising liquid, and it was delicious.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eggplant Focaccia

Eggplant is one of those things that I try to like, but keep failing (Bloody Mary's are another). I only ever really like it in baba ganoush, and even then I'm not so sure about it.

Wait, I take that back. My friend Tony makes the best eggplant parmigiana sandwich I've ever had in my life. And an Italian antipasto salad with fried eggplant bits on it. That's tasty.

I guess what I mean is that I've never been able to prepare eggplant myself, eat what I've made, and said "hey! that's great! can't wait to make that again".

So here's another one on the list of "meh, eggplant". Not because the recipe has any problems. Think along the lines of "it's not you, it's me." I present to you: Eggplant Focaccia, from Culinary in the Desert Country.

[Aside: Ooh look, a paragraph with a period outside the quotes in one sentence, and inside the quotes in another. I blame the length of the enclosed phrases, plus the fact that the 2nd one can be a sentence in its own right. Yes, I'm a dork. Moving on...]

I bought the pizza dough from Trader Joe's, and replaced the oregano with basil from a barely-surviving plant I have in the back yard. (I kill basil better than anyone.) And I tried the whole heating one pan while making the focaccia on another thing, with the intention of transferring the rested/risen assemblage from the 2nd pan to the 1st (or the 1st to the 2nd, depending on how you look at it). But that was so not working. So on the pan it stayed.

Tasty? Sure. Dough and cheese is always good. I even ate the eggplant. On my first slice. But I confess, I did remove most of the offending vegetable from successive slices. But for a more unbiased opinion, Hubby said "Did you take pictures? You should blog this." So if you like eggplant, this is good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part III


What did you do today? I painted my house. Oh yeah? I was a virgin sacrifice for Jesus. Top that.


It wasn't even funny.

Then why'd you laugh?

'Cause it was funny.


I hope you fall in a hole.


Stop signing things as "Wang Chung".
[ed. note: Hubby's initials are WC]


Japanese women remind me of marshmallow Peeps.


What's the guy with the puppets whose lips don't move? Transfiloquist?


I got this big ol' piece of bread, and this itty bitty little pat of butter. How am I gonna butter that toast? It's up to you what corner you want to butter.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Google Tag

Browsing through my Reader, I came across Betts's Google Tag post over at Damn Yankee. It sounded like fun, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

1. Your favorite beverage

Red wine, preferably something light like a Sangiovese. If wine was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

2. Your hometown

Bolingbrook, IL. Typical midwestern suburb. CNN Money said it was 32 out of the 100 best places to live in 2008. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it was a good place to grow up.

3. Your favorite television show

Not having a television, I don't really have a favorite show. But when we had a TV, I never missed No Reservations.

4. Your occupation

I'm a Quality Assurance Manager for a medical device company. I won't bore you with details.

5. First car

1985 Chevy Camaro. Loved that car.

6. Favorite dish

Sushi, without a doubt. I could eat it every day if I could afford it.

7. A celebrity you've been told you resemble

People always tell me I look like Jodie Foster when she was younger. I don't see it. But it continues to happen, even with random strangers in the grocery store.

8. Celebrity on your "to-do" list

Rodrigo Santoro. He was Xerxes in 300, and Raúl Castro in Che. Please, click on the picture. You'll understand why he's on my list.

9. Favorite children's toy

My favorite, but I bet my parents hated what it did to the lawn.

10. Any random pic

Because they're cute. And I miss my hedgehog. I'd get another, but they're illegal in CA, and very hard to come across.

11. What are you doing tonight?

Reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Good book.

And watching the Bears game.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cantonese Pickled Vegetables

Months ago, I bookmarked these Cantonese Pickled Vegetables from Caper Berry. I finally made them, and boy am I glad I did.

Crunchy, a little sweet, a little sour, a little spicy. Perfect accompaniment for...well...everything.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Il Primo Giardiniera

Best. Giardiniera. Ever.

That is all.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cornmeal Crunch from 101 Cookbooks

Heidi at 101 Cookbooks posted this Cornmeal Crunch back in November '08. It looked delicious, so why am I just getting around to making it now? Because I currently have 890 recipes in my "Not Tried" folder. It's getting a little unruly, I think I need to weed it out a little. For example, I've got 4 recipes for birria. And nowhere have I ever found goat meat. But that's another blog post for (hopefully) another day.

Back to the Cornmeal Crunch. Basically, you cook polenta stovetop, mix in Parmesan and browned onions, spread into a pan, and bake until the top and edges get crusty. Top with more onions, slice and serve.

Very tasty. It's most definitely crunchy on the edges, creamy in the middle. I'm contemplating making a batch of red lentil soup right now, so I have something to dunk it in. Or maybe cutting it up into cubes and making stuffing.

Bottom line, if you like polenta and caramelized onions, you'll like this.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oxtail Stew

The weather has finally cooled down enough for me to cook the things I like to cook. Long, stewy, braisy things. Like Oxtail Stew from Simply Recipes.

<Aside: My "L" key isn't working properly, and it's seriously ticking me off.>

Recipe summary: S&P oxtails, brown. Saute onion, carrot, celery. Add garlic, seasonings, broth, wine. Simmer for hours. During the last hour, roast carrots, parsnips and turnips (I added celery because I love roasted celery with beefy dishes). Remove the fat, smoosh the broth veggies through a strainer into the liquid. Reduce the liquid. Put the oxtails back in, along with the roasted veggies. Heat through. Better the 2nd day.

If you don't dig on collageny hard-to-eat chunks of meat, I'm sure you could use another cut of beef, as long as it's got a bone in it. But the oxtails add a wonderful richness to the broth that you just can't get with another cut. Unfortunately, they leave you kind of sticky after you're done eating. But it's so worth it.

<Aside #2: I hate my camera. My flash is too flashy:

and no flash is too dark:


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Super Sesame Cookies

I found this recipe for Super Sesame Cookies over at Eating Out Loud, and just had to make them. One, I had everything I needed, and two, they sounded like my kind of cookie. Sesame seeds and tahini in a cookie? Yes, please.

So, here they are.

Delicious? Yes. Nutty, only slightly sweet, crunchy-chewy. Definitely a good cookie.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Doesn't it look delicious?

I can't take credit for it. My good friend Drita made it.

Good bye, Drita, and good luck in your new home. We'll all miss you.