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Posts Tagged ‘mashed potatoes’

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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Another year means another Passover Seder. Well, that’s not entirely true. Since Yuki is about 2 weeks from her due date we decided that it’s not a good idea to spend the holiday with my family. Being 3 hours from our OB/GYN at this point isn’t the best thing we could do (or at least that’s what we tell my family!). What makes it easier is the fact that I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination. So, if I missed another recital of the 4 questions or the 4 sons or Elijah I wouldn’t lose any sleep. I do, however, love a good matzo ball soup and brisket. I decided that I would make a few of the traditional Passover delicacies for the first night. My younger bro also lives in Chicago and did not go to the Quad Cities, so he came over for dinner last night.

To keep with tradition, I started the dinner off with some matzo ball soup. You can ask Alpana Singh my thoughts on the perfect matzo ball. I made my typical chicken soup on Sunday and then put it in the fridge overnight. In the afternoon I took it out and let it come to room temperature. About 20 minutes before my brother got here I made the matzo balls.

I used 2 eggs, about 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup of matzo meal, a few cracks of white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

In a small glass dish I mixed together all of the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl I beat the eggs with the olive oil and parsley. Then, I poured the egg mixture into the dry mix until it was evenly mixed. I covered it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

With the soup boiling I took the mix out of the fridge, wet my hands, and dropped walnut-sized balls into the soup. I let them boil for about 20 minutes to make sure they cooked through. That’s all there is to it, soup is ready. I will say that these were by far the best matzo balls I’ve ever made, and some of the best I’ve ever eaten as well.

While the rest of dinner was heating up I brought out some charoset and matzo. Side note, everything we ate was prepared ahead of time so that all I had to do was re-heat for dinner.

For the charoset I used 1 gala apple, 1/3 cup of walnuts, 1 tablespoon of red wine, 2 tablespoons of honey, and a few dashes of cinnamon which didn’t make it into the pic. In a bowl I crushed the walnuts into small chunks then poured the wine and honey in. Then I grated the apple into the bowl, seasoned with the cinnamon, mixed it up real well, covered with plastic, and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the entrée I made a horseradish brisket (the recipe was adapted from a Gail Simmons recipe), wilted spinach with raisins and toasted soy nuts, olive oil mashed potatoes, and roasted radishes.

I made the brisket in the morning to make sure it got enough time in the braising liquid. I used 2 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of prepared horseradish, 3 carrots chopped, 3 celery stalks chopped, 7 garlic cloves minced, 1 small onion sliced, and a 3.5 pound brisket.

In a large heated skillet I poured in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and browned the brisket. I gave each side about 7 minutes.

Then I transferred the brisket to a foil braising pan and scattered the carrots and celery around it. In the hot skillet I added half of the garlic and the onions and let them sweat down for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the wine. I let the wine boil down for about 7 minutes and added the beef stock. When the liquid came back to a boil I poured everything around the brisket.

I mixed together the rest of the garlic with the horseradish and spread that on top of the brisket. I covered it tightly with foil and put it into a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours. The one thing I did forget was bay leaves. I would have liked 2 of them in there. Oh well, still tasted great.

After 3 hours I let it sit for the rest of the day. While we were eating the soup I removed the foil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and put it under the broiler for about 30 minutes or so to not only re-heat, but also to give the horseradish a nice crust. To serve I just lay a couple sliced on top of the onion, carrots, and celery.

For the spinach I used 1/4 cup of raisins, the zest and juice from 1 lemon, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 onion diced, 1/4 cup of toasted soy nuts (this dish would typically use pine nuts, but at $24 a pound I found the soy nuts price of $3 a pound a little easier to digest), 1/4 cup of red wine, and 2 bunches of spinach chopped.

First I poured the wine into a bowl and soaked the raisins for at least 15 minutes. Then, I heated up a large pot and poured in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat down the garlic and onion for about 5 minutes. Handful by handful I added the spinach until it was all wilted down. I poured in the wine and raisins. Once the wine had boiled down for a few minutes I added the lemon juice and zest. I stirred that all in and then added the soy nuts. A touch of salt and pepper and the spinach was ready to go.

I skinned 5 yukon gold potatoes for the mashed potatoes. Since the laws of the Kashrut don’t allow dairy to be eaten alongside meat I decided to use olive oil in order to try to make them creamy. I know, I don’t believe any of that crap, but since I was making a pretty traditional meal I thought I’d keep with tradition (all kosher wine as well). After boiling the potatoes I mashed them with about 1/4 cup or so of olive oil. Actually, I probably used more, I just kept adding it until the potatoes were the right consistancy. A little salt and pepper and they were all set.

For the radishes I simply halved them and roasted them with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I did not have enough time to make any dessert last night. We were pretty full anyway, but a little dessert is always a nice thing. I guess life could be worse than not having dry, matzo meal cakes sit in your stomach on top of brisket. Plus, you’re all probably tired of this post by now anyway. Happy holidays!

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This is actually what I cooked last Thursday night for dinner. I had a couple of huge strip steaks that I cooked up. If you go back, you’ll see that I sautéed some red kale with onion the night before. I made way too much, we still had leftovers after Thursday’s lunch. To get rid of it I turned it into a soup to go with the steaks. I also made some garlic mashed potatoes, roasted tomatoes, and sliced some avocado.

For the soup I used the leftover kale, a can of canelli beans drained and rinsed, and one carrot chopped up. I put all of the ingredients in a soup pot along with 3 cups of water. I brought it up to a slow boil, covered the pot, then turned the heat down to low and let it simmer for 45 minutes or so while I prepared the rest of dinner.

For the potatoes I peeled and cubed 4 yukon golds and added them to a pot of boiling water along with 5 garlic cloves. I let it boil for about 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes were soft enough to mash-up. Then I drained them, put them back in the pot (garlic included), and poured in 3/4 cup of milk. I mashed it all up with salt and pepper until it was nice and creamy.

For the tomatoes I slivered a clove of garlic and speared on sliver into each tomato. I drizzled some olive oil all over and roasted them at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I salted both sides of the steaks and then coated them heavily with black pepper. In a really hot ovenproof skillet I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and then set the steaks in to sear them up. I let them sit for about 4-5 minutes until the bottom were nice and brown. If they are sticking to the pan, then they’re not quite ready. Once they release with ease, they’re to be flipped. I only let the side sear for about 2 minutes and then I put the skillet in the 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes. When I took it out I let the steaks rest on a plate for about 7 minutes while I made the sauce. I turned the burner back on and deglazed the skillet with about 1/4 cup of red wine. Once that reduced down I poured in 1/4 cup of milk. I let it reduce for a few minutes and then turned off the heat. Since I used milk, the sauce separated a little, that’s where cream would have been better. The sauce would have turned out nice and smooth with cream. Oh well. After the steak rested I sliced it and served it up.

I put a big dollop of mashed potatoes on one side, laid some avocado slices down on the other. I laid some steak on to of the avocados and spooned some sauce over the top. Then I put a couple of tomatoes on the plate and ladled up the soup.

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This past Friday night Yuki and I had dinner with our friends Nick and Andrea. I was charged with finding a place that none of us had been to before. Yuki had mentioned a taste for tamales so I thought I’d find a Mexican joint. Since Nick and Andrea have travelled extensively through Mexico I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convince them to try Don Diablo with us. I believe Nick’s response was, “you had me at tamales”. So, we headed over the former Fonda Del Mar current Don Diablo, and we’re all damn glad we did.

It’s a little out of any gentrified neighborhood so there aren’t many people who know about it yet, but I think that will all change soon. Especially since it’s BYOB, keeping costs down.

The interior is very quaint. It has an exposed kitchen and the tables aren’t to close together that you’re bumping up against strangers. Music wasn’t too loud so you don’t have to shout in order to converse. The service was also pretty good. There was only one waitress, but with only 4 tables we never got antsy waiting for service.

Of course, we started with the tamales. Chicken filled and topped with a green sauce and some melted cheese. They put a lot of whole kernels in their masa which gave a little bit more sweetness to the dish. It took a couple of bites to get used to it, but after those couple of bites I found that I really enjoyed them. With two tamales per order we got two orders so that we each got our own.

The other appetizer we tried was the Quesadillas De Huitlacoche. You almost have to order huitlacoche whenever you see it because it’s such a delicacy with a great earthy flavor. That said, I don’t think they really showcased the huitlacoche all that much in these. With chihuahua cheese, epazote, and guacamole on the side the huitlacoche almost got lost. Don’t get me wrong, they were very good, but I wanted more huitlacoche flavor.

Nick and Andrea each ordered the Enchaladas De Pollo. They did so for the mole. It had a very deep chocolate flavor, but was smooth and delicious. Not an outstanding plate, but a very very good one.

I ordered Puerco en Mole. Really soft and perfectly cooked pork loin served in a green mole with pumpkin seeds. The mole was very light which was nice because it didn’t overpower the pork flavor. It also came with garlic mashed potatoes with melted cheese. Another very very good dish.

Ah, the piece de resistance! Yuki ordered the Cochinita Pibil. Slow cooked pork shoulder cooked in a banana leaf and served with black beans, pickled onions, and a spicy habanero salsa. This was one of the best pork dishes I have ever eaten in Chicago. If it were socially acceptable I would dress myself in cochinita pibil and prance about town. The pork was fall-apart tender full of flavor. The pickled onion just explodes in your mouth. The beans add substance. The habanero salsa was the perfect level of spice, a slow burn that coats your mouth but isn’t overpowering and makes you want to come back for more. This dish was truly impressive.

We kind of shared three desserts. Coconut Flan was one of them. It was a little thick, but had a great flavor.

Mango sorbet, nice and light with a great natural sweetness.

And a Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream, not really what I think of when I think of Mexican dessert, but a delicious one nonetheless. I’m not sure if the desserts were homemade or brought it, but they were pretty good.

Overall, I find Don Diablo to be one of the best kept secrets in Chicago Mexican dining. Every dish was cooked perfectly with nice balance and quality ingredients. Service was efficient and friendly. The price point was excellent, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for a Mexican meal like this. Cochinita Pibil is a true masterpiece. I would crawl on my hands and knees in the middle of January to get a taste of that again.

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The only other meal worth blogging about from our trip last week was our final dinner. We used Las Vegas as our start and stop point simply because the cheapest flights were to Vegas and we were able to make a nice circle out of there. Anyone who knows me has heard me tout the brilliance of Mike Mills’ ribs. He’s the owner of 17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL. When my mom and step-dad attended law school at SIU they turned me on to his ribs. He’s a 5 time rib champion of the Memphis in May BBQ contest, 2 of those times also taking the Grand Champion trophy. Bon Appetit Magazine has him ranked right at the top of BBQ Ribs. For whatever reason, he opened up 3 locations in Vegas and named them Memphis Championship BBQ. I was looking forward to those ribs to close out the trip ever since we booked the flights.

We started off with a jar of beer each and some rolls with honey butter.

Slabs and half slabs of ribs each come with two sides. We quickly realized that it’s cheaper to share a slab and then order two extra sides, which still turned out to be a bit too much food for us. Also, the sides aren’t all the same price. So, we included fried okra and steamed vegetables with the slab since they were the two most expensive and then added an order of mashed potatoes and, what BBQ meal is complete without them, baked beans. The okra came with a dipping sauce made with Mike’s famous Magic Dust, a spice blend recipe handed down to him from his grandmother. The vegetables were simply a mixed bowl of steamed vegetables. The potatoes had bacon them as well as Magic Dust in the gravy. And the baked beans also had bacon as well as his BBQ sauce.

On to the ribs. A nice full slab of slow-smoked baby backs. We got there at about 9:30 at night and our ribs were probably at their peak about 6:30-7ish. They were slightly dry, but still fantastic! Still better than any other rib you’ll get at a restaurant. We devoured those meat popsicle about as well as any vulture could. MMMMMMMM!

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It’s starting to get cold here in Chicago, that means less grilling and more braising. My first braise of the season was a batch of beef short ribs. One of the most flavorful cuts. Nice and fatty, lots of bone marrow, what could be better?

First, I browned them in a big pot with some olive oil to get some nice color then set them aside. Then I added onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. After about 5 minutes, when the veggies were translucent, I dumped in two cups of red wine and let it boil for a few minutes. I added three cups of beef stock, a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar, two bay leaves, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, and a bunch of thyme. Let it come to a boil and added salt and pepper. Then I returned the short ribs, covered the pot tightly, and put into a preheated oven at 250 degrees.

After 5 hours in the oven to took the pot out and removed the short ribs. The meat was tender that the bones fell right off, it sent tingles down my spine. I put the meat in a dish and tented it with foil to keep it from losing moisture and strained the braising liquid into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature allowing the fat to rise to the top. I scraped off the fat and returned the liquid to a pot and boiled for about 45 minutes so it could reduce. Then I added a little corn starch slurry to thicken it up to a more velvety texture and added a bunch of chopped parsley. There was my gravy.

I made some creamy garlic mashed potatoes along with quickly stir-fryed carrots, onions, and haricots vert to serve alongside.

Once everything was ready I put the short ribs back into the oven at 400 for 10 minutes to reheat them and then plated everything up. It was one of the best short ribs I’ve ever eaten in my life! The perfect thing for a chilly night.

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