Patriots AFC Lasagna

Go pats!

ronilovescooking

Anyone can put together a nice lasagna.  I’ve been doing variations on the theme since my early years as a novice cook, most memorably preparing a giant pan of lasagna as part of the two-day celebration for my husband’s graduation from law school.  Each time, a tweak here or there in the choice of meats, lasagna noodles, sauce or cheese has led to  another better outcome than those that preceded it.

A few years ago when our beloved/much maligned Patriots (depending on where you’re from) were once again playing in the AFC Championship game, I created this recipe for a lasagna that would sate our adrenaline-charged appetites.  As we look to yet another AFC Championship game coming this weekend, this will be on the menu.

The first key to this lasagna is the Trader Joe’s No-Cook made-in-Italy noodles.  No more hassles with those ridiculous curly-edged noodles of yore that would stick…

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Braised Lamb Shanks Cleopatra with Beans

Those of you who have been following my posts know how huge a fan I am of lamb, the other red meat.  From ground lamb to a whole leg and everything in between, I gravitate to the richness of this meat, especially when prepared with a Middle Eastern or Moroccan flavor palate.

Today’s preparation of meaty Australian lamb shanks is my adaptation of a recipe from “Cooking with Daniel Boulud”, for his Leg of lamb Cleopatra.  I use most of his spices and aromatic vegetables, and added pre-soaked dried cannelini beans to the dish to soak up all that meaty flavor.

It’s key to lay your lamb shanks in one layer, and for this my 9-1/2 quart oval Dutch oven is perfect for four.  If you’re preparing more, bring out that large high-sided roasting pan you use for your turkey and keep it very tightly covered with heavy-duty aluminum foil once it goes into the oven.

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS CLEOPATRA WITH BEANS

INGREDIENTS:

4-6 lamb shanks, preferably Australian or New Zealand, weighing 12-16 ounces each

3/4 lb. dried cannelini beans (white kidney beans), soaked overnight in 6-7 cups water and 1 tbsp salt; rinse and drain before adding to your pot

Spice Paste Rub

1-1/2 T cumin

1 t cinnamon

½ t allspice

½ T coriander

¼ t nutmeg

½ T cardamom

½ t ground ginger

½ t ground anise

pinch of ground cloves

1 t black pepper

1 t kosher salt

1 small shallot minced

About 3 T extra virgin olive oil, enough to make a paste when combined with above spices, plus more for browning the lamb

Aromatic Vegetables – all coarsely chopped

2 medium sweet onions

1 very large shallot

3 large carrots

1 small head fennel

1 stalk celery

6 medium sized garlic cloves, or 3 very large

Braising Liquid

1 cup full-bodied red wine

6-7 cups beef broth

1 drained 14.5 ounce can diced or crushed Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, or 1 cup chunky marinara sauce

PREPARATION:

Combine spice paste ingredients in large bowl and add the lamb shanks, rubbing the paste all over.  Transfer to a large ziploc bag or other container and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350.  Heat about ¼ cup olive oil in very large Dutch oven or roasting pan, as described above, on medium high heat and brown the lamb shanks, in batches if necessary.  Remove to a plate.

Browned shanks

Lower the heat to medium and add all aromatic vegetables, sauteeing about 10 minutes.

Aromatics

Add the wine gradually to deglaze the brown bits from the pan.   Return the lamb shanks to the pot, laying them in one layer over the vegetables.

In the pot

Add the drained beans and cover all with the beef broth and tomatoes.

Covered with broth

Bring to a boil and bake tightly covered about 2-1/2 hours – lamb and beans should be very tender.

Remove all solids to a large bowl and reduce sauce over medium high heat to concentrate flavors.  Then return everything to the pot.  Serve immediately or refrigerate after cooling to serve the next day.

Finished dish transferred to roasting pan for serving – the shanks are smothered under the blanket of beans and aromatic vegetables.

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Organic Pork Osso Buco

Osso buco with lemon risotto is a meal that I first enjoyed at Mamma Maria in the North End around 1992, and has ever since been at the top of my list for company fare or special occasions.  It can, however, be an expensive undertaking when made with humanely raised organic veal.  But since I discovered Du Breton organic pork osso buco at Whole Foods a couple of years ago, I became an instant convert  to this more affordable and just as delicate alternative at a fraction of the cost.

Spending Christmas alone with my husband, this was the entrée I planned when I found this perfect meaty 2.2 lb. package at WF for just over $15.

25550386_10215077506681195_3879081192534026363_nTo complete the menu, we began with jumbo shrimp cocktail with my kick-ass spicy cocktail sauce, then home-baked artisan crusty bread, lemon risotto, sauteed broccolini, and apple-pear-cranberry turnovers, adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe.

Usually made for company, I cut my recipe in half – which means you may revert to full recipe by doubling it.  This is adapted from a favorite Epicurious version.  Allow for one meaty portion per person – even with the bone, there’s enough there to satisfy a hearty appetite:

ORGANIC PORK OSSO BUCO 

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INGREDIENTS:

4 cuts of Du Breton organic pork weighing about 2 lbs, each tied with kitchen string

1/4 cup all purpose flour for dredging

S&P

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 medium sweet onion halved and sliced thinly

1 small carrot, 1 celery rib, and 1 clove garlic all finely chopped

1/2 cup each dry white wine and chicken broth

half the tomatoes from a 28-ounce can whole Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup halved calamata olives or other brine-cured olives pitted and halved

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

2 stems Italian parsley

2 strips lemon peel julienned

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/3 tsp black pepper

GREMOLATA GARNISH:

1-1/2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley mixed with 1 small minced garlic clove and 1 tsp lemon zest

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 325º.

Sprinkle tied pork pieces with s&p and dredge in flour, shaking off excess.  In 3-4 quart Dutch oven large enough to hold the pork in one layer, heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp butter ovefr medium-high heat.  Add the pork and brown well on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate.  Lower heat to medium, add remining 1/2 tbsp butter and sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring until onions are pale golden.  Add remaining stew ingredients, bring to a boil while stirring, and add the pork in one layer, turning once to coat with the sauce.  Cover pot and braise in middle of oven about 2-1/2 hours.  Remove strings and plate with the risotto, some of the sauce, and garnish with gremolata.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montreal-style Bagels

My effort at producing multigrain bagels two weeks ago was less successful than I’d hoped (I deleted that blog post) so my challenge last Wednesday, before Thanksgiving, was to perfect a chewy bagel that would rival those from the best bagel bakeries of my youth.

Once again I turned to a recipe from the NYT Cooking site for inspiration, and found a recipe for Montreal Bagels, chewy and with a hint of sweetness.  I was surprised to find the dough contained elements of a challah – sweetener and eggs – albeit in lesser proportion to the flour – and required only two very short rises before their boiling bath and baking.

I made several adjustments to the NYT recipe, making 9 large bagels versus 18 small ones, reducing the baking time to prevent burning of the undersides, using less honey in the dough  From start to finish, this took about 1-1/2 hours, and the verdict was unanimous – best bagels we’ve ever had.

 

MONTREAL-STYLE BAGELS

adapted from NYT Cooking site

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INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups room temperature water

14 grams SAF Instant yeast (or 2 packets other instant yeast)

1 tsp sugar

2-1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk

1/4 cup vegetable oil + a bit more for greasing bowl

2/3 cup honey divided

5-1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour (or other bread flour)

3 quarts water for boiling

sesame and/or poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

TOOLS:

Stand mixer with 5-quart bowl and dough hook

A separate large bowl

Heavy wooden spoon or spatula

2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper

5-quart pot

A bread board or similar work surface

Kitchen scale – very helpful if you have one to make the bagels equal size

Large slotted spoon

PREPARATION:

  1. In the large mixing bowl of stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, sugar and salt.  Stir in the egg and egg yolk, oil and 1/3 cup of the honey and mix well by hand.
  2. Add 5 cups of flour one cup at a time, stirring by hand, and then knead with the dough hook to form a soft, supple dough (about 8 minutes).  Add remaining 1/2 cup of flour a couple of minutes into the kneading.
  3. Lightly grease another large bowl with oil and use a spatula to turn the dough out into it.  Cover tightly with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring the 3 quarts water and remaining 1/3 cup honey to boil, then reduce and cover to keep simmering until you’re ready to use. Preheat oven to 450º.
  5. Punch down the dough and remove it to bread board.  The dough should weigh about 1300 grams.  Divide it into 9 equal pieces, about 145 grams each.
  6. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten slightly and poke a hole through the middle with your thumb.  Work the dough around the whole with your fingers to enlarge it and place the shaped dough on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving room between.  Only 6 will fit on one sheet, place the remaining 3 on the other.  Let them rest about 15 minutes.
  7. Return pot of water to gentle boil and drop 3 bagels in.  They will float.  flip them over with a large slotted spoon and continue to boil for a little over a minute.  Remove with the slotted spoon, place them back on the parchment-lined baking sheets and immediately sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.  Repeat this process for all nine.
  8. Bake first batch on center rack of oven for 20 minutes, to a deep golden brown -then repeat with second batch.  Remove to a cooling rack as soon as each batch is done.

These keep well in a plastic bag in your breadbox for 6 days, or can be sliced and frozen.

 

 

Loaf-Pan Challah

This is something I’ve been wanting to try ever since discovering Trader Joe’s gorgeous brioche loaves.  Why not bake challah in a loaf pan so the slices can be uniform – for sandwiches, for French toast, or just for the sake of consistency.

Last week I experimented with one loaf – half the usual recipe I use from Silver Palate – in an oversized Dansk Kobenstyle loaf pan.  The result told me that the traditional braiding would not work – as it rose in the pan for an hour, the ends plumped while the middle stayed lower – and while still delicious, the loaf resembled the silhouette of an oil tanker.

Today’s called for a rethink.  I made the full recipe, which usually produces one enormous loaf (a small braided loaf laid upon a larger one to simulate a 6-braid technique).  This time, I also divided the risen dough 1/3 – 2/3 for a smaller and a larger loaf done in two separate loaf pans – the big Dansk pan, and a smaller (8×4-1/2) from Williams-Sonoma.  And to ensure even rising within the pans, I did a very crude braid, keeping the dough-snakes thick, and working from the middle towards both ends.

After an hour rising in the pans, I got just result I’d hoped for (larger pan lined with parchment, since it is not non-stick and I’m not taking any chances here):

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After brushing with egg wash and sprinkling with poppy seeds, these baked at 350º for 30 minutes, side by side with room in-between.  I did rotate the pans after checking on them at the 20-minute point, just to ensure evenness.  And then, once I took the internal temperature and found only about 185º, I removed them from pans and baked another 7 minutes to reach 200º.  This also helped brown the previously unexposed areas of crust.

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The original Silver Palate recipe is in my blog-post The Comfort of Challah.  The only difference is in the set-up for baking in pans.  I’m tempted to freeze one for our French toast after Thanksgiving, but freshly baked stays fresh for a week, so no-need!

Tsibele Kuchen (Onion Rolls)

My Nana Pearl baked her onion rolls, which she called tsibele kuchen, just about every Friday to have with a roast chicken dinner.  She never measured or weighed, she just knew by handling and observing exactly how much of everything to use and how long each step would take.  When you can still remember how those looked and tasted more than 50 years later, you know they were something special, and the desire to replicate them becomes an imperative.

Over the past several weeks of my bread-baking frenzy, I’ve become addicted not just to the superiority of home-baked breads and rolls, but also to the tactile and olfactory experience of baking.  During this process, some of Nana Pearl’s instincts have been awakened in me, but still I weigh and measure to ensure uniformity of size and baking outcome.  Today I applied the taste memory of her tsibele kuchen to my experience of baking brioche buns and challah.  I also wanted these rolls to be onion-filled, not simply onion topped as hers were, and am feeling a little pleased about how these rolls turned out:

PEARL’S 21st CENTURY ONION ROLLS 

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup lukewarm water

14 gram SAF instant yeast or one package other quick-rising yeast

4-1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour or other bread flour

2 large eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

1 medium sweet onion finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 egg white whisked with 1 tbsp water

poppy seeds

PREPARATION:

In large bowl of stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water and immediately add 4 cups flour, the 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1/4 cup of the oil, the sugar and salt.  Use paddle attachment to combine thoroughly, and then switch to dough hook and run on medium-low speed for 10 minutes, adding additional 1/4 cup of flour once a sticky dough begins to form.  Lightly grease another large (5 quart) bowl and turn the dough out into it.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours until doubled.

Meanwhile, lightly sauté the onions in remaining canola oil until just softened and remove to a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 375º and place a shallow pan filled halfway with water on bottom rack.*

Divide into 6-8 equal pieces (I made 7) and roll each into a ball.  (Dough will weigh about 1 kilo (1,000 grams).  Flatten each ball into a disk about 5″ and place about 1 tbsp of the onions in center of each, leaving a little bit of the onion mixture to sprinkle on top.  As you’re working, the dough will continue to puff up a bit.  Flatten out the edges a little more and pull the edges over the onion fill to completely encase, cradling in your hands to form a spherical bun.

Place the buns on a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, press down gently to flatten a bit, brush all over the with egg wash, and sprinkle each with a bit of the remaining onions and some poppy seeds.  Let rest about 15 minutes, then bake on center rack of oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool on a rack at least an hour.

*NOTE: the pan of water creates steam in the oven which helps the rolls rise again and gives the crust a light texture.  If you prefer not to do this, they will bake somewhat flatter and denser.

 

 

 

 

Our Birthday Veal and Mushroom Ragout

Today my husband and I celebrated our joint birthdays.  Born just one year apart, we have been sharing this birthdate since we first started dating as teenagers hundreds of moons ago, and for several years we also shared the occasion at a favorite restaurant. with my mother, who was born on November 13.

Today I did not feel at all like eating out, but rather inclined to prepare a special breakfast and dinner for a fraction of the cost of fine restaurant dining.  We started our day with challah French toast – made with the challah I baked on Friday – crispy bacon, Vermont maple syrup, juice and French roast coffee.  For dinner, my plan was to develop a richly flavored veal ragout incorporating the beautiful veal stew meat and portobello mushroom caps I found at our market on Friday.  It turned out exactly as I had hoped, the sauce layered with flavor, the veal fork-tender, and the meaty chunks of mushrooms an excellent counterbalance to the meat. Served over egg noodles with just some bright steamed broccoli and another slice of that challah alongside, a restaurant-quality meal by the fire in our dining room.

VEAL AND MUSHROOM RAGOUT WITH MARSALA

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INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs. veal stew cut into 1- to 1-1/2 inch pieces

Flour lightly seasoned with S&P for dredging

1 large onion and 1 large shallot chopped (about 2 cups total)

1 medium carrot chopped and 1 celery stalk chopped  (about 1 cup total)

2 tbsp each unsalted butter and EVOO + 1 additional tbsp butter

10-12 ounces cremini or portobello mushrooms halved and sliced thickly

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried sage

2 cups chicken broth (Better Than Bouillion)

¾ cup sweet Marsala

1 tbsp honey

½ tsp truffle oil

chopped Italian parsley for garnish

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in 4-5 quart Dutch oven.  Dredge veal in seasoned flour and brown in batches, removing with tongs to a plate. In same pot, sauté the onions, shallots, carrot and celery until softened, scraping up any browned bits from veal on bottom of the pot.  Add the mushrooms and additional tbsp butter and continue to sauté until they just start to brown.

Add the Marsala to the pot, deglaze briefly, then add the oregano, sage, chicken broth and veal, and bring to simmer.  Bake about 1-1/2 hours until veal is very tender.

Remove solids to a plate, add truffle oil and honey to the sauce and reduce briefly over medium-high heat.  Return everything to the pot and keep warm until serving time.  Serve over egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley.