Holiday Feast – Braised Lamb, apple bacon greens, soft polenta, cornbread dressing

Last minute Christmas feast!  I had the urge to cook…not knowing the who what and where…all that was certain was the WHY.  The WHY I wanted to cook. This was the first holiday season that I was not home with my family.  I spent the time with Daniel at his loft and cooked us endless meals.  It’s usually like that, I start cooking and can’t stop! My mind starts to move in a rapid pace, brainstorming the next flavor.  I just wanted to feed and nourish anybody that was around this holiday season with a warm and comforting meal.

This was the case for this last-minute feast.  I wanted to cook to feed but who? where ? and what would I cook? Luckily we had the fridge stocked with random ingredients.  Some leftover cornbread, fresh lamb shanks from the local butcher, and using what we had in the pantry we accomplished a very very very tasty meal.

Citrus Braised Lamb Shanks W/Herbs
♥Will Serve 4-6

3 Lamb Shanks – Cut into 1/3rds
Zest of 1 lemon – & its juice
Zest of 1 orange – & its juice
2 T. Paprika
1 T. Salt
2 Sprigs Rosemary – Fine Mince
3 Sprigs Oregano – Fine Mince
1 Cup Red Wine
1 Carrot – Large rustic cuts
2 Celery Ribs  – Large Rustic Cuts
3 Cloves Garlic –
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Bottle of Hefeweizen
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Directions:
Rub Shanks with the next six Ingredients.   Add the red wine cover and leave in fridge for about 3 hours.
Cut Celery Carrots Onions and Garlic cloves.  Set Aside.
Heat pan till fairy hot add oil and lamb shanks.  Sear all sides until nicely browned.
While those are searing, take out your cast iron skillet (or any oven ready pot) add the cut aromatics including 1 sprig of rosemary.
Transfer seared shanks into the oven ready pot.  Add the bottle of Hefeweizen (any beer will do) and Apple cider vinegar to the pan and deglaze.

Add ½ cup of H20 to the pan; add 1 T of salt and ½ T. of pepper into liquid pour deglazed liquid into other pan.  Cover with foil and slow roast in oven at 325 for another 3.5 hours.

The combination of wine and beer balances the richness of the lamb.   The light bright hefeweizen calms down the otherwise rich and heavy braising liquid and is a beautifully unites with the citrus notes of this dish.

Slow Cooked Greens w/Apples & Bacon
♥Works well with beet greens, kale, and chard.  For this recipe I used a medley of greens. Together about 1 medium bunch of each.

1 Apple
1 Bunch Chard
1 Bunch Kale
1 Bunch Beet Greens
½ yellow onion
2 Cloves garlic
3 slices of thick bacon
3 Rounds of a lemon 1/3 inch thick
½ cup White Wine
½ Cup Water
2 T. tomato Paste
Salt to taste.

Directions:

Cut the apple into each side to leave a square core.  Slice those sides to fairly thin (but not too thin) crescents.   Set Aside. Slice onions into thin wedges, thinly slice the garlic cloves set aside.  Cut greens into 1 inch ribbons.  Combine the 2 T. of tomato paste with the ½ cup of water and thin out the paste.   Cut bacon into 1/2 inch dices.
Heat pan and add the onions bacon and the garlic when aroma is released (do not let brown) turn heat to medium add the apples cook for 1 minute.  Add the Greens and white wine.   Lightly toss and add the tomato liquid and salt.  Cover and let wilt.  When volume is reduced to ½ add the whole rounds of lemon. Cook on med-low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Cornbread Dressing
1 Carrot
2 Ribs Celery
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Yellow onion
1 Leek
1 Shallow pan  6×8  (pre-made day old cornbread) Cubes
Chicken broth
4 T Butter
Oregano
Rosemary
3 T . Dried Herb Medley (marjoram, thyme, etc)
Salt
Pepper


Directions:

Set oven to 250. Cut the cornbread into small cubes put on a sheet tray.  Oil generously and sprinkle with the dried herbs.  Lightly salt and pepper.  Toast or dry out for about 1 hour.
Dice carrots, celery, onions, and leeks.  Make sure all are about the same size.  Mince garlic.  Heat up a Saute pan, add 1/8th of a cup of oil and the butter add the carrots, onions, leeks and garlic all at once.  Sweat the vegetables until onions become slightly translucent.  Add the chicken broth.
Transfer toasted cornbread into a large  mixing bowl.  Add the liquid mixture to the cornbread.  Add the fresh minced herbs, and a bit more black pepper.  Toss so liquids and vegetables are well incorporated with the cornbread.
Transfer into a baking dish, cover with foil and cook at 350 for another hour.

Let me show you my Cast Iron Skill(z)et

I love love love love love a good cast iron skillet.  It’s a great heat conductor, a great flavor inducer and an all around great apparatus for cooking.  From stove to oven, I find this heavy  item an ideal tool for ANY kitchen.

Here is an old article in the NY Times about the beautiful and versatile skillet:

Such pretty writing about such a manly and dark underdog of kitchen tools.  I think a smaller skillet is perfect for a fritatta too!

When I am at my boyfriend’s house I tend to gravitate towards his heavy and very well seasoned cast iron skillet.  I also gravitate towards it because he has an electric stove, and I find that when I use any other pan the heat to surface ratio is never balanced.  Example…when I boil water I find that rings form and bubbles rise where the bottom of the pan and the electric range meet, so to avoid that entirely I lean towards the handy-dandy skillet. Not that I boil water in the skillet.

One of my favorite recipes involves using short ribs and cherries.  Summer is almost over and the peak of cherry season has vanished. Before this happens I pulled out the cork from the bottle of Rose and celebrated the change with a BBQ version of Rose macerated short ribs in a smokey sweet tomato bath.  It starts on the stove and finishes in the oven.  It’s tender, sweet savory and smokey.

4 Short ribs (cut in half in order to fit the perimeter of the Cast iron Skillet), 1 1/2 cup Bing Cherries, 2 cups Rose, 1 whole large yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon Alderwood smoked salt, black pepper,1 stalk fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup IPA, 1/4 cup tomato purée, 1/4 cup tomato paste, flour, olive oil.

Prep: Cut the short ribs in half.  Do this because 4 good-sized short ribs would not fit a 12 inch skillet.  Cut whole onion in 1/4″ rings, Pit and halve your cherries, now lets slice the garlic into slivers.

Overnight: Macerate the pitted and halved cherries with Rose wine.  I find that even a bubbly rose would do well (beer or white wine would be a fine substitute.).  Pour just till the liquids cover the cherries.  If you don’t have the time to do this overnight then please at least an hour.

Heat your skillet on high.  Oil the pan. Flour and dust off  shortribs and add to hot skillet (the flour also acts as a natural thickening agent for the sauce). brown lightly and turn over do the same…about 1 minute on both sides.  Since we aren’t on the grill, I wanted the richness of a BBQ without the long coals and embers, I find that the rendered meat juices and browned goodness that are released during this process really give this sauce the meaty body that I want.  After the browning process remove and let rest

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Add the onions and brown a till they have picked up the color and the juices of the meat drippings, and until they have carmelized a bit themselves (you don’t want them fully carmelized, because you still want some crunch.  Add the slivers of garlic.  Add  1/2 the cherries without the juices and saute a bit longer (give or take 6 minutes total).

Add the smoked salt, pepper now add 1/2 the liquid from the macerated cherries into the pan and add the half bottle of beer, and the rest of the cherries (I do

n’t like all my cherries to be smooshed so I add 1/2 before for more concentrated flavor and the other half later for the texture).  I like using an IPA because of the hoppyness (SP?)  it’s floral and simple delicious when adding flavor and to deglaze the pan.  Now add the tomato paste, and tomato purée.  Here I use the combination of the two because the paste cuts the acidity of the purée and adds a bit more body to the dish, i.e a bit more sweetness.

Add the WHOLE rosemary (Optional). At t

his point simmer for a bit longer till everything has reduced to half.  Salt to taste and pepper to taste.  If Aleppo or Marash pepper is available I highly recommend you add a dash if you want a bit more peppery but not spicy notes to this dish, the Aleppo is super fruity so it really melds together well with the acidic and sweet characteristics of this dish.

About 15-20 minutes have now past, please now is the time to add your short ribs and all of the rested juicy bits back into the pan.  Make sure they are well covered in the mixture, add to the oven. Because you are using  skillet you can actually braise these short ribs on the stove top but be sure to turn down the heat to med so it’s still bubbling but not boiling.  If finishing on the stove cover and simmer 20 minutes.  If finishing in the oven cover and simmer at 375º for 20 minutes.

There are plenty of layers to this dish which is why there is the option for the Aleppo, and the Rosemary. Without them this dish is still great!  It revives the feelings of a delicious and thick BBQ sauce from an outdoorsy summer. It is sticky and gooey but a bit more classic but still rustic.  The meat is tender and fall apart and has really soaked up all the savory smokey bits of the browned onions and smoked salt.  The cherries have melted a bit but still parts and bits are meaty.  I love this dish for the many layers and how the personal perks of each ingredient complement one another.

If this lovely dark smoked salt is not available, green peppercorns would be pretty awesome with this dish, or simply salt and a good dose of black pepper.  Chomp Chomp Chomp!