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Posts Tagged ‘lamb’

Yesterday was our 4th Anniversary. Somehow, Yuki’s been able to tolerate being married to me for 4 years. Not sure how, so I’ll just roll with it. With a 7 week old we are not able to go out for fine dining to celebrate. No worries, I prefer to cook anyway. Even though it’s not a pricey cut, I’ve always thought of lamb shanks as being a special occasion piece of meat. If done right, it should be fall-off-the-bone tender with a rich lamb taste uncomparable to any other part of the animal. I’ve never braised a lamb shank before, but since I’ve done my share of braising with other cuts, I knew I’d end up doing it right. For this recipe I made two portions of lamb, but 4 portions of accompanyments.

I used 1/2 bunch of arugula, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, 5 garlic cloves peeled, 1 carrot roughly chopped, 1 rib of celery roughly chopped, 1 leek sliced, 2 lamb shanks that each weighed about 3/4 lb, 1 cup of red wine, 3/4 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced roasted tomatoes.

When I braise large quantities of meat I use  my big Le Cruset stock pot, but I have a skillet that’s large enough for 2 lamb shanks. So, I heated it up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and browned the shanks. That took about 3-4 minutes on each side. Then I set the shanks aside.

I put the carrot, celery, leek, and garlic in and let them sweat down for about 7 minutes. I wanted them to just start carmelizing to add their sweetness to the braising liquid.

Then I poured in the wine and let it reduce by half, scraping up the little burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. That’s where all of the flavor is. Once the wine was boiled down I added the tomatoes. After they came up to a boil I poured in the chicken stock and added the thyme. I seasoned with some salt and pepper and then put the shanks into the liquid. I covered the skillet, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 1.5 hours.

While the shanks were braising I threw together the sides. One was simmered chickpeas. I used a 14oz can of chickpeas, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1 rib of celery diced, 1 carrot diced, 1/4 onion diced, 10oz cherry tomatoes, a couple of thyme sprigs, and 1/4 cup of chicken stock.

I simply threw it all into a pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Before serving I removed the thyme and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I also made some mashed potatoes. I used 5 yukon gold potatoes skinned and chopped, 3 cloves of garlic skinned, 1/2 cup of milk, and 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan.

I put the potatoes and garlic into a pot with cold water, brought it up to a boil, and let it boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes were soft. I poured out the water, added the milk and parmesan along with some salt and pepper, and mashed it all together.

With the sides ready to go I finished up the shanks. I removed the shanks and put them into a smaller pan. Then, I strained the braising liquid. I discarded the solids and poured the liquid in the pan with the shanks. I brought it up to a boil and added the tarragon. I let it boil for about 15 minutes. This allowed the tarragon flavors to infuse into the liquid as well as reduce it by half.

Then I plated everything up. After placing the shanks on the plate I removed the tarragon from the liquid. I added the arugula and let it boil down for another 5 minutes. I checked the seasoning and then covered the shank with it.

I have to say, even though this is a time-consuming recipe, it’s absolutely delicious! The meat was extremely tender and flavorful. While eating this Yuki commented that I could charge $40 for this dish. Not sure about that, but it’s definately a $28 dollar dish, at least better than most lamb you get at restaurants. Well worth the effort for a special occasion.

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Saturday night I got a free pass from diaper duty to go out for a few hours. Ever since doing the Playboy Pilot and meeting my new friend Melody there I’ve had a hankering to give DMK Burger Bar a whirl. You see, she works there and talked that place up to no end. I figured that Saturday would be a great time to go since that’s one of her work nights. I had a buddy all set to join me up until the last minute when he bailed. That wouldn’t deter me though. When I have a burger in my sights nothing is going to stop me! So, I headed up to Lincoln Park all set to sit at the bar and fill my belly with beef…and beer. Happily, Melody was able to join me at the bar. When I eat a burger alone, I prefer to be by myself. But, I prefer to not eat a burger alone. It all worked out.

French fries with parmesan and truffle cream started the meal off. Good starchy potatoes home-cut, fried to a nice crisp with pillowy innards, and topped with some parmesan cheese. A thing of truffle cream on the side. Funny, that’s exactly what the menu said it would be. The truffle cream was pretty good. Just enough earthy truffle oil mixed in to let you know that it’s there. Honestly though, I love that expensive swine found fungus and would not have minded a little more truffle oil. But, you do get what you pay for (except for in Lincoln Park usually) and the price was right for the amount. Good french fries.

We also got deep-fried okra with herb ranch. Again, exactly what we were supposed to get. The okra was fresh and there wasn’t too much coating allowing the okra flavor to stay in the forefront. Simple, but tasty.

We split two different burgers so that I could enjoy two different flavors and see just what DMK had to offer. The first was number 1 on the menu. A grass-fed piece of ground up cow topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, charred balsamic red onions, and Rufus Teague’s BBQ. First, the good. The quality of the ingredients were fantastic. I’m a big fan of the real beef flavor of grass-fed bovine. Nature did not create any of the multiple stomachs to digest corn. With grass-fed you get a more natural flavor from a usually healthier animal (one that does less damage to Mother Earth as well). The toppings were high quality as well. I have a Rufus Teague sidenote for you at the bottom of this post. The bad, the patty was a little bit too thin. I’m a believer that you don’t need a 1 pound patty, that’s just way too American and unhealthy. But, a little more beef wouldn’t hurt me at all. I mean, I did have some beer to thin my blood and counteract the cholesterol intake. Honestly though, that’s my only gripe as the burger was damn tasty.

The other burger was the number 11, grass-fed lamb with sheep’s milk feta, olive tapenade, greek salad, and tzatziki. Again, really high quality ingredients full of natural flavor. However, this one tasted a bit too much like a gyro for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good gyro as much as the next guy (sometimes even a bad one will do). But I wanted something a little more creative than a gyro with olive tapenade smeared all over it. That’s not a huge complaint though as I’d eat this burger any day of the week. I’m just pickin knits here.

Overall I will say that DMK Burger Bar does serve up some tasty grub, as well as a really nice beer list. If it were closer to my humble abode I’d probably make it over there on at least a semi-regular basis. As it is, with my friend Melody working there, I will probably make it back over there anyway. They are pretty much true to what they try to be and I applaud the use of grass-fed animals. It’s also not overpriced like much of its surrounding neighborhood. Even though the burgers aren’t ginormous, at $8 a pop you’ll be satisfied. That is unless you’re one of the 63% of Americans who are obese (only 30% of you were in 2002!).

Now, on to my Rufus Teague story. Way back before Binny’s corporate take-over of Sam’s Wine and Spirits I used to get little birthday gifts from Sam’s. They’d send me a card before my birthday telling me to stop by their meat counter. One of those gifts was a little jar of Rufus Teague Blazin Hot BBQ Sauce. Binny’s doesn’t do that, one of the many reasons I miss Sam’s. The hot sauce was fantastic though! I slathered that all over chicken and shrimp before grilling ’em up. I never thought about using Rufus on beef though. It did work pretty well, probably because of the smoky bacon. Whatever the reason, there’s a soft spot in my heart for my boy Rufus. Plus, Rufus is just a fun name to say.

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The other night Yuki and I used up another Groupon that was about to expire. We were intrigued by the $30 savings from an all-you-can-eat Brazillian steakhouse, yet one that’s different from the Brazzaz’s and Fogo’s of the world. This Groupon was for Al Primo Canto. At the time they had two locations, one at 749 N Clark and one at 5414 W Devon. The Clark location would have been a quick busride for us, but for whatever reason they closed that one down before we used the Groupon. Oh well, what can you do? So, we drove up to Edgebrook.

The location looks very generic on the outside. It’s a small little strip of storefronts right on the intersection of Devon and Central. The Metra rolls by about 1/2 block to the west. When we saw the facade we weren’t real excited about going inside. Once inside though, it was a different story. I wish I had a good pic of the interior, but it was the complete opposite of the exterior. It was very warm with lots of wood and really was a comfortable atmosphere. They do need a little better exhause system though as we both smelled like smoke when we left. The grills are in the back, but somehow the smoke fills the entire place. It’s not too bad, but will absorb into your clothes and hair, especially if you have a thick Jew-fro like me (and I’m just talking about my tuchas!).

The main difference between Al Primo Canto and other Brazzilian steakhouses is that there are no gouchos walking around with huge skewers of meat and there is no mile long salad bar. You can either order a la carte, or all-you-can-eat. We opted for the all-you-can-eat option in order to try out the various cuts of meat.

The meal started off with cheese pop-overs, flat bread, and eggplant caponatto. The eggplant was great, it tasted very similar to baba ghanoush.

Then they brought out three pasta dishes, all with fetucini. One had a mushroom sauce, one tomato sauce, and one garlic and herb. The pasta was all very simple, but tasted pretty good. The noodles were nicely al dente.

Next came the meats and starches. Fried potatoes with a blue cheese sauce, fried polenta with parmesan cheese, a plate with lamb and beef both grilled on large skewers typical of Brazillian steakhouses on top of sauteed green beans and pearl onions, and a couple pieces of grilled chicken.

They also brought out a mixed green salad.

The beef and lamb were a little dry due to overcooking on the grill, but not so much that it ruined the dinner. The flavors and quality of the meat were pretty damn good. I will say that the chicken was outstanding! Crisp skin and juicy meat they covered it in fresh sage. I liked that a lot.

I washed everything down with a couple of caparinhas. Not too sweet, but could have used a little more cachaca.

We split a flan for dessert. It was served with a raspberry couli, powdered sugar, and a blackberry garnish. It was ok, a little dense for our tastes. Don’t quote me on this but it didn’t taste homemade. It wasn’t terrible though.

As for the service I will say that the server and bussers were extremely attentive and on the ball…for the most part. We had actually commented a few times to each other at how good the service was until we asked for a box to take our leftovers home. That’s where the wrench was thrown. Appearantly they do not allow you to take home leftovers from the all-you-can-eat menu. I told them how ridiculous it was that they were going to throw away all of that perfectly good food that we were paying for. The server brought the manager over who, again, wouldn’t allow a box to be brought over. He said he’d have to speak with the owner and I told him to let me speak to the owner. So, the owner came over and explained the reasoning behind this. I guess people used to take advantage and would order more dishes just to take home. While I can understand that we were never even aware that we could order more meats or pasta. We were under the assumption that what was brought out was the meal, plain and simple. A little back and forth and finally he agreed to let us take our food home since the server never explained how they operate. I would have won even if the server did just because I’m an argumentative bastard who doesn’t give up. Plus, how can you throw away all of that food? This world is on the brink of a major food crisis. People in Japan right now would love a full meal to eat, not to mention all of the 3rd world countries or even a lot of people in America (Yuki even brought up Japan’s crisis).

In the end though, the owner did do right by us. We didn’t order any refills of any food so he didn’t feel cheated. Because of that we got our lunch the next day.

Overall, I would say that Al Primo Canto is a very average restaurant. The food is good, the service for the most part is good, but nothing is special. If we lived in Edgebrook we’d probably go there every once in a while. It is not worth a drive though. There are way too many places much closer to us that serve better food at similar or even lower prices. So, while we’ll probably never be back, I can’t say that the place isn’t worth a stop, it’s just not worth going out of your way for.

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Punjabi Bolognese…sounds kind of weird, right? Well, it isn’t, its delicious! Basically, all I did was take a classic Punjabi dish called Masaledar Chholay (spicy tomato sauce with chickpeas) and add a few things, take away some of the heat, and smother some pasta with it. It really worked out well and is a nice change from regular bolognese.

I had already started my prep when I realized that I need to take a photo. So, here are the ingredients all chopped up and ready to go. I had a handful of cilantro that I ripped up at the last minute of cooking, a bunch of rapini chopped up (not an Indian ingredient, but I thought the mustardiness would match real well, I was right of course), 1 medium sweet potato diced, 2 medium carrots diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1 inch of ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 3/4 pound of ground lamb, 1.5 tablespoons of cumin, 1 tablespoon of garam masala, 1/2 tablespoon of turmeric, 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes, and 1 14oz can of chickpeas.

In a hot pan our poured in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and added the ginger and garlic. I let them go for a minute until the oil was very fragrant. Then, I added the onion and carrots. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes before adding the lamb. It took the lamb another 5 minutes or so to cook through as I broke it up. Once cooked through I added the spices and mixed them in.

With the meat spiced I poured in the tomatoes along with the juice in the can and let it come up to a slight boil. Then I added the rapini and sweet potato, stirred it all in, covered the pot, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

After that I added the chickpeas, seasoned with salt and pepper, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Since I used canned chickpeas I only needed them to heat through.

While the chickpeas were heating up I boiled a mix of regular and wheat spaghetti in salt water according to package instructions. To serve I simply put the noodles in the bottom of a big bowl and ladled some of the Punjabi Bolognese on top. I garnished with the cilantro.

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Friday night Yuki and I took advantage of another Groupon we had purchased a while back. Gotta love Groupon, great opportunities to try new places at a discount. This one was for an Ethiopian restaurant we haven’t tried yet, Demera. We love Ethiopian food and had read good things about Demera, so it was one of those things that had to be done.

Apparently we weren’t alone in our love for Ethiopian food. We didn’t have a reservation and when we got there, about 6:30 or so, we were told there was a 15-20 minute wait. No worries, we had just driven all the way up to Lawrence and Broadway, no way were we going to turn back. A few minutes of waiting and the manager came by and said there would be a 35-45 minute wait. Eh? How’d it get longer? It ended up only being about 15 minutes, so I’m glad we stuck it out.

Typically a beer drinker with Ethiopian food I saw that they have house made honey wine. Had to give that a try. Not so sure I’m glad I did. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say it was good either. Honey fermented with hops. It was like a honeyweiss without the bubbles. Not a big fan of honeyweiss. Oh well, it was tolerable. Next time I’m sticking with beer though.

We started off with the Sambussa Sampler. Basically it’s one each of their sambussas…beef, chicken, tuna, lentils, and spinach. Served with a spicy little chili sauce they were all very good. Simple, but delicious and homemade.

For the main course we had to go with the Messob, traditional communal dining. That way we could sample a bunch of different items instead of each of us ordering 1 dish. Plus, it’s the Ethiopian way to eat. Why eat American-style at an ethnic restaurant? Starting at the top and going clockwise we got the quosta (spinach), ye-shimbra assa (ground chickpeas), michetabish (ground beef), ye-salmon dulet (salmon with homemade cottage cheese), doro wat (chicken and hard-boiled egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish), lega tibs (lamb with rosemary), and a salad in the center. Of course, everything was served on top of a piece of injera with plenty of injera on the side to grip and scoop our food. We couldn’t finish everything, but we expected that. Gotta love Ethiopian leftovers the next day, yet another similarity between Ethiopian food and Indian food (simmered food, communal dining, similar spices, same upset stomach, etc.).

In all honesty, we probably could have finished our dinner, but not only would we have missed out on leftovers, we would have missed out on dessert! We decided to split the hibist volcano. I’ve never had hibist bread before. It’s very much like a thick sweet roll. If it weren’t for the refreshingly cold ice cream on top I don’t know that we could have eaten it all. The spiced lemon sauce was really good as well.

Overall, everything we ate was delicious! Would I call Demera the best Ethiopian food in Chicago? I don’t know about that. Ras Dashen and Abyssinia are right up there as well, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three. I think it all depends on what you are looking for. If I were in the mood for doro wat I would go to either Ras Dashen or Abyssinia. If I wanted seafood I’d come to Demera (the salmon was fantastic with the jalapeno and cheese). It’s really a toss-up. I’m sure I’ll be back at all three at some point in my life, and my digestive system will be all the better for it.

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Ground lamb was on sale at the store, so I picked a pound up and made this Indian-style curry with it. Usually, curry is made with chunks of meat, I improvised since ground lamb was cheaper.

First thing I did was make the meatballs. I put the lamb in a glass dish, sprinkled 1 teaspoon of ground cumin on top, then grated in 1/2 a red onion,  2 garlic cloves, and 1/2 inch of ginger. A little salt and pepper and I mixed it all together.

After letting the mixed meat sit for about 10 minutes I rolled it up into quarter-sized balls. I let them sit in the fridge to hold shape while I got the curry sauce ready.

For the curry I used 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 carrot rough chopped, 1/2 red onion rough chopped, 1 medium-sized yam skinned and diced, juice from 1 lime, 1/2 inch ginger chopped, 4 garlic cloves chopped, about 3 ounces of baby spinach, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of chickpeas, 1 teaspoon each of garam masala, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and coriander, and the seeds from 4 cardamom pods.  There’s a big juicy orange bell pepper in the picture, but I decided not to use it for the curry.

With my pestle and mortar I ground up the coriander seeds and cardamom. I added the rest of the spices to this mixture.

I threw everything except for the yam, chickpeas, lime juice, and spinach into my blender and let her rip until I had a nice smooth sauce. I decided to add 1 tablespoon of flour while it was blending to help thicken it up while I cooked it.

I heated 1 tablespoon of ghee in a large skillet and browned the outside of the lamb balls. Once they got some color and I was sure they’d hold their shape I removed them with a slotted spoon leaving behind the ghee and lamb fat.

I poured in the curry sauce and let it come to a slow simmer for about 10 minutes to take the rawness from all of the veggies that were in it.

Then I added the diced yam, chickpeas, and meatballs. I let them cook in the curry for about 15 minutes to make sure the meatballs were cooked through and the yam not too hard. Just before taking the curry off the heat I added the spinach and mixed it in so that it wilted slightly. Then I turned off the heat and mixed in the lime juice while seasoning with salt and pepper.

I served it with white rice and garnished with some fresh cilantro.

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So, my little brother took us out to eat at Essence Of India last night, so no Meatless Monday. We did get vegetarian samosas and a chickpea and spinach dish though, so we did partially do Meatless Monday (not inlcuding our lamb and chicken). Since I’ve already blogged about that joint a while back here’s what I made for dinner this past Friday, kefta kabobs.

I used a 1/4 onion, a piece of ginger, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, and 3/4 pound of ground lamb.

In a glass bowl I plopped the lamb meat and grated the onion, ginger, and garlic on top. In a small sauce pan I heated up 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put all of the dried spices in. I let them cook in the oil for about 1 minute. Then I turned off the heat and let the spice mix cool for about 5 minutes. After that, I poured it on the meat and seasoned with salt and pepper. That all got mixed together in order to mix the flavors evenly throughout the meat. I formed 4 oblong “sausages” out of the meat and then put it in the fridge for about a half hour to let the meat firm up.

On the side I made some chickpeas with vegetables. I used 3 plum tomatoes chopped, 2 garlic cloves minced, the other 1/4 of onion diced, 1 red bell pepper diced, 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, 1 large handful of baby spinach, and 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, cayenne, and turmeric.

In a heated pan I poured about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then tossed in the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. I let them sweat for about 6 minutes and then added the garlic. About a minute later I added the tomatoes with all of their juices and let them break down for about 4 minutes. Then the chickpeas went it along with the spices with salt and pepper. Once the chickpeas were heated through, about 4-5 more minutes, I added the spinach. I turned off the heat and covered it. The residual heat wilted the spinach and keeping it covered gave me enough time to grill the kefta.

While the grill was heating up I took 4 bamboo skewers that were soaking in water for an hour and pushed them through the cold kefta. I oiled the grill and then cooked the kefta for about 4 minutes on all four sides.

Instead of regular white rice to go with everything I used basmati rice. I used chicken stock instead of water along with a pinch of turmeric for color. I would have used saffron, but I’m out. I chopped up some cilantro and garnished the plate.

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