Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lamb Stew

Yes, I know it's August... and yes I realize I live in FL and I even know that it seems pretty weird for me to making lamb stew in August, but I did it anyway. Actually it worked out rather well as it was the perfect, comforting dish to eat through that nasty Tropical Storm Fay. It was windy and rainy and there was more water out there than I can even begin to tell you. Because I work for a 24 hour technical support call center I had to go to work in all that nastiness, and I came home rather soaked 2 days in a row... so this cold weather comfort food was more than welcome this week.

This isn't quite the most traditional Irish lamb stew out there (I use white wine in it), but it will certainly warm you up once the days start getting cooler. At first glance this may seem like a rather expensive recipe, but it costs me around $25 to make (check your local discount club like Sam's, BJ's or Costco for the lamb, it's usually MUCH cheaper there, I normally manage to pick up boneless lamb roasts for about $16) and feeds my hungry family of 6 for 2 days... AND it's one of those dishes that's even better the second day, so it won't seem like sloppy leftovers (ok, hopefully I'm done with the run-on sentences for now)! I like to make this on a Sunday and save the leftovers for a busy night when I need something quick.

1/2 lb thickly sliced bacon, diced
3-4 pounds boneless lamb leg, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
4 cups beef or lamb stock
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons white sugar
4 cups baby carrots
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups frozen green beans
1 can peas, drained

Saute bacon in large dutch oven until crisp, reserve fat in the pan and set bacon aside.

Put lamb, salt, pepper and flour in large mixing bowl and toss to coat meat evenly. Brown meat in frying pan with bacon fat. Add onions and garlic and continue to cook a few more minutes until onions begin to soften. Add wine, stock, water, sugar, thyme and bay leaves. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.

Add bacon pieces, carrots and potatoes and continue simmering, covered, about 20 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the green beans and peas just before the carrots and potatoes are done. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pastrami Wower

This is my entry for Snackshots #6

Ok, ok I know the title is hokey... but my kids came up with the name and I thought I'd humor them by actually using it.

This is probably my all time favorite sandwich. I was never a big fan of pastrami sandwiches when I was younger, mostly because the only way I'd ever seen or tried them was on rye bread with mustard... this was the way my Dad ate them. My husband, however DOES like pastrami and we occasionally had it in the house. I was really hungry for a sandwich one day and out of desperation decided to give pastrami another shot, but this time on MY terms. My husband, also being a pastrami with mustard kinda guy, was a little skeptical of my creation... until he tried it. Now I get asked to make these all the time, and to be honest... I don't mind :)

6 fresh kaiser rolls or 4 good sub rolls
1 1/2 lbs shaved pastrami
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 medium vine ripened tomatoes, sliced
provolone cheese slices, 1 or 2 per sandwich
Shan's "special" sauce (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Saute onions in olive oil over low heat until soft and lightly browned. Meanwhile, split the rolls and place cut side down on a hot buttered griddle to toast. When rolls are light toasted remove from the griddle and place the bottom halves on a large cookie sheet. Spread each of the cut sides of the rolls with special sauce. Equally divide shaved pastrami on the roll bottoms and top with sauteed onions and cheese. Place roll tops on the cookie sheet next to the sandwiches (don't top them yet) and place in the oven until the cheese melts, about 1-2 minutes. Top melted cheese with tomato slices and roll top.

Special Sauce

1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp Thai chili garlic sauce
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of onion salt
2 tsp grated parmesan/romano blend cheese

Mix all together and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My version of Carnitas

Carnitas are probably my favorite Mexican dish. I'm a little hesitant to order it at restaurants though, as it seems to be difficult to find a Mexican restaurant that makes them fresh. Half the time I end up with over cooked, charred bits of pork that would break teeth and other times the pork tastes as if it's been cooked the day before in old grease and then reheated. So, awhile back I set out to find a recipe I could make at home that I actually liked, after a few combinations and tweaks, this is what I came up with.

2 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered
4-5 lbs boneless country style pork ribs
1 jar Goya sofrito
4 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs dried cilantro
1 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbs hot sauce

Heat olive oil in a large, high sided, heavy skillet, or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add quartered onions and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add boneless ribs, sofrito, chicken stock, spice and hot sauce. Stir all together, cover and simmer for 3 hours or until meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450ºF. Cut the following into large chunks (seeds removed), place in a large roasting pan and coat ligtly with olive oil:

2 green bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
4 poblano peppers
2 medium onions

Roast vegetables until they start to brown slightly, about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and empty vegetables into a large bowl. Allow to cool slightly. With a knife and fork, cut vegetables into smaller chunks; set aside.

In the same roasting pan, add 1/4 cup of lard or shortening and place the pan back in the 450º oven until fat melts and is hot. Add pork to the hot fat and cook 5 minutes, stir and cook 5 minutes more, until edges of pork and slightly browned and crisp.

Serve with refried beans, roasted onions and peppers, and pico de gallo (my favorite is from The Pioneer Woman). Sometimes I serve this on warm flour tortillas like you would find in the restaurants, sometimes I like it by itself. Feel free to top it with guacamole, sour cream, cheese... whatever you like.

Chicken Marsala

I love this recipe. It tastes like it took all day to make, but it's easy enough to throw together for a quick weeknight meal.

1 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
4-6 boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2" thickness
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter
8oz package of fresh mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup marsala wine
1 cup chicken stock

In a shallow dish combine flour and salt and pepper to taste.

Add olive oil and butter to a large skillet and melt over medium high heat.

Dredge chicken in flour and brown on both sides in hot oil/butter mixture. Set chicken aside and keep warm. Add mushrooms to pan and saute until soft. Add wine and scrape up any brown bits in the pan, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. Add chicken stock and bring back to a simmer. Return chicken to pan, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.

Spaghetti Sauce

I never had jarred spaghetti sauce when I was a kid. In fact my Dad is somewhat famous in our (rather large) family for his sauce, and my Mom made a pretty darn good version of it too. When I moved out on my own and had to resort to jarred sauces, I was not a happy camper. Eventually I talked my Mom into showing me how to make the "real stuff", and with a few tips from my Dad I was on my way! It does take some work, but the recipe makes a LOT of sauce and freezes very well. We usually eat this for a day or two and then I freeze the rest in quart size ziploc freezer bags for later.

I'm going to warn everyone now, my measurements for this are approximate, so if something looks too much or too little for your taste, just use the amount you prefer. This is one of those recipes that really turns out well in many variations, so don't be afraid to make it your own!

Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
3-4 Tbs minced garlic
4 6oz cans tomato paste
1 can Campbell's condensed beef broth
28 oz can Progresso tomato puree
28 oz can Progresso crushed tomatoes
1 bottle of red wine (I like Merlot)
2/3 cup fresh flat leaf parsely, chopped (or a few Tbs dried)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (or a few Tbs dried)
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs accent (optional, don't use if you're sensitive to MSG)
3 Tbs dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp onion salt
black pepper to taste
2 tsp sugar
2 handfuls grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend
few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 lb beef soup bones
1 package sweet Italian sausage, links cut into 2-3" pieces

Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a 5-6 quart heavy saucepan. Saute onions, peppers and garlic over medium low heat until onions are transluscent. Add tomato paste and beef broth, stirring to mix well. Add tomato puree, crushed tomatoes and wine (yes, the WHOLE bottle, stir all together. Stir in remaining ingredients and allow to simmer covered over low heat for 3 to 4 hours being sure to stir well every 20 to 30 minutes. You can adjust seasonings to taste after 2 hours (give the flavors time to develop). When done, remove the bones and discard, set the sausage pieces aside to serve with your meal.

Shepherd's Pie

I think shepherd's pie is probably one of the ultimate comfort foods. I actually have two versions that I make, one that's a bit more involved and expensive (I'll show you that one soon), and this more traditional, budget friendly version. This is a great dish to make on a Sunday and have for leftovers on a busy weeknight, I think it actually tastes better after a day or two.

You can use any mashed potato recipe you like for this, but for mine I put in a lot of shredded sharp cheddar, half and half and REAL butter. It's worth it, give it a try :) Also, I use a mix of ground beef and lamb, but you can use one or the other.

3-4 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 - 3/4 lb ground lamb
1 clove garlic, minced
4 green onions (white & green parts), sliced
3-4 tablespoons flour
onion salt and garlic salt to taste
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can green peas, drained
mashed potatoes
grated sharp cheddar

Make mashed potatoes the way you normally would, add about 1 cup of the cheese to it, mixing well; keep warm.

In a large skillet, saute the onions and carrots in a little olive or vegetable oil until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the ground lamb and beef and cook until browned. Drain off most of the grease, leaving a little in the pan. Add the flour and continue cooking over medium heat for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Stir in wine, stock, tomato paste and seasonings until well mixed. Add green onions and peas, contiue cooking until mixture thickens to a consistency you like. Pour into a 13x9" glass baking dish, top evenly with mashed potatoes. Bake at 350ºF for 30-40 minutes, or until potatoes begin to brown slightly around the edges. Top with additional cheese for the last 5 minutes of cooking time if desired (or sprinkle with paprika before baking).