Archive for November, 2011

Braised Shank of Lamb

26 November 11
my own photo

Dutch Oven Image via Wikipedia

The shank, or shin, is usually some of the toughest meat on a critter. Think about it – this is the part between the knee and the foot that does a great deal of the work of holding the animal up and moving it around. Lean muscle, as it were. This means that there is lots of connective tissue (collagen), which means tough meat with lots of flavor potential.

What we want to do is cook long and slow so that the connective tissue becomes dissolved, tender, and yields all the flavor back in to the pot. The French, as usual, have a better way – braising with flavorings. Now braising – from the French “braiser” – combines both dry and moist heat. Beef Bourguignon is world famous for its delicious flavor, yet it is only simple braised beef with wine. Here the same technique is applied to the lamb shank – with wonderful results.

2 lamb shanks
salt and pepper
10 cloves of garlic
12 white mushroom caps
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tsp salt
4 Tbs olive oil
1 bouquet garni – thyme, basil, and rosemary
1-1/2 cup Burgundy or other hearty red wine
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with the racks set such that you can get your Dutch oven in about the middle of the oven. Yes – you can use something else – but a good cast iron Dutch oven is best. You’re on your own where other utensils are concerned. There are also people who do this in a crock pot – I’m not one of those. Anyway, dress your shanks with salt and pepper and sauté in hot olive oil until well seared on all sides. Reduce the heat and add the garlic. When the garlic is nicely golden – about a minute or so –
add your wine, salt, pepper, and the bouquet garni. If you’ve got fresh herbs, just tie them up with a string. If all you’ve got is bottled then you can wrap them in cheese cloth or –easiest of all – put them in a tea caddy and drop that into the mix. Advice: use a separate caddy for your garni’s or really get it clean after. I don’t think that lamb flavored tea would be quite right. Anyway, slow simmer things for 8 to 10 minutes.

I guess we need to talk about salt somewhere, and here is as good as any. Go easy on the salt – you can add more later, but taking it out can be fun. In fact, if your beef stock is not salt free then don’t add any salt, other than sprinkling the meat before browning.

Add the beef stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and slow simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the oven to 325°F, and cook for 90 minutes. This is called cooking in a falling oven. Quite traditional with the old wood-fired stone ovens.

Turn the lamb over, add the mushrooms and a bit more liquid only if needed. Don’t drown the meat. The liquid does not cover it. Cook for another hour.

Remove the lamb and mushrooms to a covered dish and strain the liquid through a sieve. Add the tomato paste and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pull the lamb off the bones – it should just about fall off and serve with mushrooms covered with sauce.


What’s in a Name?

19 November 11
Apple Cobbler.

Apple Cobbler Image via Wikipedia

Herself wanted to know what the difference was between a cobbler (which I make fairly often) and a grunt (I seldom do those).

Well – here are a few definitions:

Betty: A Betty is made with buttered bread crumbs. The one we’ve all heard about is the Apple Brown Betty, and this is the real way to make one:

4 slices white sandwich bread, tear into

large pieces or 2 cups coarse bread crumbs

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
6 apples peeled & cored & sectioned

into 8 pieces (Galas or Fujis do well)

2 Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream

Oven to 375°F.

Chop up the bread by pulsing in a food processor until you get coarse crumbs.  Spread out the crumbs on a jelly roll pan (you really want those rims). Bake until a nice light gold brown – maybe 10 minutes. Cool completely, put into a bowl, add butter and toss or mix until completely coated.

Put apples, lemon juice (which keeps the apples from browning), sugar, spices, and half the breadcrumbs. Put into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Cover with the other half of the breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until breadcrumbs are brown, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on things. Stage 1 is over when the apples are fork tender and stage 2 is complete when the top is golden brown.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon if you like.

Buckle: The buckle is a kinda layer cake of a sort. The bottom layer is a cake. The middle layer is some kind of fruit filling, the top layer is crumbly. Some combine a couple of the layers together. Here’s a genuine Pennsylvania Blueberry Buckle:

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter

Oven to 375°F.


Use a good mixer unless you are a manual nut. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg. Mix in the rest. Gently fold in the blueberries. (This is one of those that combine the first two layers.) Pour into a buttered square baking pan – about a 9 incher.


Do the topping by hand. Mix up the sugar, flour and cinnamon, then cut in the butter until you have a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the topping over the mixture. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Use the toothpick test near the center. Cool it on a wire rack before cutting.

Cobbler: The cobbler is filling and crust melded together into a single layer. Here’s a peach cobbler:

500 g peaches
210 g sugar (1 cup)
150 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
8 g baking powder (2 tsp)
4 g salt (1/2 tsp)
245 g milk (1 cup)
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
Cream, whipped cream or

ice cream, if desired

Over to 375°F

—– Fruit —–

Blanche peaches for 1 minute, ice bath for 1 minute, slip peeling off fruit. Pit and cube. In a saucepan simmer with sugar and 70g (1/3 cup) water for 10 minute, stir often.

—– Crust —–

Mix together everything except the melted butter. Mix in the butter last. Spread in an ungreased 2 quart shallow pan. Spoon crust batter into the pan, then spread the fruit mix over the crust.

Bake 375°F 45 minutes or until the dough rises above the fruit and is golden brown.

Whipped cream or ice cream and a little cinnamon are good.

Crumbles and Crisps are pretty much the same animal. The technique resembles the topping of the buckle. The crumble can be sweet or savory. The sweet is the more common. A layer of stewed fruit has a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar sprinkled over it. For the savory variety (not usually seen outside England) use a base of meat and a topping of butter, flour and shredded cheese. Crumbles are a very recent invention – as in WWII – because the flour needed to make pies and such was so heavily rationed. By putting a crumbly crust on the top the amount of flour needed is cut by about 70% or so. I’m not going to bother with a recipe. If you want to make one just stew some fruit until it develops a bit of syrup, about 10 minutes. Put it in a buttered dish and sprinkle a crumbly crust make from cutting cold butter into a little flour and sugar until it is mealy.

Grunts are another upside down variety. A biscuit crust is put over a stewed fruit base. Similar to any of the rest. {{Herself Sez: I did some Google searching myself. The thing that tickled my funny bone is the description of the Grunt: “thought to be a description of the sound the berries make as they stew!” There is also a “Slump” which was simply another name for the Grunt. Very confusing until you let your research sort of cook down in your fevered brain!}}

Pandowdy – another one of the crust on top variety. Standard pie type crust is placed on top. Winds up being kind of like a standard covered pie without the bottom crust.

You may get the feeling that I don’t fool much with the last few since I didn’t bother to give you a recipe. You would be correct. They are very easy to do and you can either figure them out with about 5 seconds thought or look up a recipe on the net.

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