Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine

lamb shanks red wine

All Posts, Dinner, Main Courses | September 30, 2014 | By

Lamb shanks are something that doesn’t sound all that appetizing. The reality is something just the opposite. Slowly braised lamb shanks are fantastic and pretty much foolproof. They’re also pretty impressive on a plate.

As with any braise, the secret is slow, low cooking in liquid. These cooked for at least five hours on a low simmer in a dutch oven (while Carol and I spent an afternoon visiting a local winery or two). For this recipe I used culinary lamb stock I found at the local Whole Foods, but beef or veal stock work just as well.

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Chicken and Corn Chowder

chicken corn chowder

The season for fresh corn is way too short. Six weeks and poof! No more. Worse, there is very little overlap with the season for soups, though I love corn in soup. This chicken and corn chowder being a perfect example of why that’s so. Flavors of corn, chicken, bacon and rosemary meld together and yet come at you in layers once you dig in. It’s a great starter for a multicourse meal, a superb lunch or a hearty dinner. Your choice.

But the corn. My answer is the freezer. When there’s good fresh local corn at the farm market, I buy as much as I can carry and what we don’t eat right away, gets sliced from the cob and frozen. That’s how it is that come the end of September and early October, I have corn for my soups and chowders. Freezing it after just a day or two from the field makes sure its got peak flavor well into November, in fact.

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Scallops Orecchiette with Pesto

scallops-orichiette

Some of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed are quick and easy to prepare and Scallops Orechiette is one of them. It takes just 10 minutes or so to get the pasta ready for the table and while it’s cooking, you’ve got plenty of time to pan sear a batch of scallops. Freshly made pesto can be made a day ahead of time, and even that takes no more than 15 minutes.

What makes this dish special is the quality of the ingredients, so let’s talk about that for a minute. To make the pesto, you’ll need pine nuts, good parmesan cheese, fresh garlic and especially fresh basil. And above all, the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford. If you have the time and the inclination, use a mortar and pestle to grind the pesto. A food processor is quicker and works equally well.

Good pasta also is important. Of course, it’s not necessary to use orechiette. I like it for this dish because the little cups are great for holding the pesto.

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Flat Iron Steak Frites with Espresso Balsamic Sauce

flat iron steak frites

Not so long ago, flat iron steaks were “a trend.” You were likely to see them on the menus of fine restaurants and roadside diners alike. That’s not so much the case anymore, but a nice flat iron is a fine and economical way to satisfy your inner carnivore.

Flat iron steak is really nothing more than a lean part of the beef chuck, the foreshoulder that also yields the familiar chuck roast often used for braises and stews. It tends to be leaner than a chuck roast but like chuck has a lot of connective tissue that can be tough when the steak is overcooked. The solution is a good marinade and a grill. It’s the same approach you might use for a flank steak, though a flat iron has better flavor, as far as I’m concerned.

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Grilled Grouper with Roasted Pistachio Lime Pesto

grilled grouper

When it comes to preparing most kinds of fish, I generally stick to the rule that simple is better. And this grilled grouper certainly adheres to that guideline. The grouper is grilled over a cherry wood fire, nothing more. What sets it apart is the pesto, which uses roasted pistachio nuts instead of the traditional pine nuts and lime, rather than the lemon I sometimes use.

Grouper, by the way, is the perfect fish for the grill. It usually comes in fillets that are thick enough (a half-inch or more) for grilling and it stays nice and firm throughout. It also flakes in a predictable way when it is done, which takes some of the guesswork out of timing. About 3-4 minutes per side is sufficient.

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The Ultimate Vegetable Beef Soup

vegetable beef soup

Every now and then, just about everyone gets in a groove. That’s what was going on the first time I made this vegetable beef soup. The recipe originated from a conversation with a friend, who recalled a vegetable beef soup served at a local restaurant in the small town where we both lived. The soup featured a rich tomato broth and was  chock full of meat and vegetables. It was a complete and filling meal in a bowl.

Naturally, following the conversation, I had to try to duplicate that soup. That first attempt nailed it, and over many years now, I’ve never changed the basic recipe. Not once. In fact the only thing that’s changed is that I now make it the day before I want to serve it and store it overnight in the refrigerator. That rest makes the soup so much better.

We frequently have this soup as a winter dinner, along with some good crusty bread. It also is a terrific lunch. You can freeze it for 3-4 months, as well.

You’ll notice the recipe has very little in the way of seasoning. Honestly, except for a couple of bay leaves and some salt and pepper, none is needed. The flavor of the vegetables comes through beautifully. If you decide to add seasoning, tread lightly.

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Easy Beef Pot Roast

simple beef pot roast

When I created Discovery Cooking, the main idea was to present food that Carol and I make in our home that’s the kind of food you might see in a fine restaurant. That’s still our main approach, but occasionally we want to bring you some classic recipes that are the kind of comfort food we grew up with. Beef pot roast is a good example of that.

You would be more likely to find this dish in a midwestern road food diner than a pricey fine dining establishment. And unlike many recipes that you’ll find at Discovery Cooking, this one uses some off-the-shelf processed grocery products. That’s because — try as I might — I have never been able to duplicate the flavor and textures in this dish without them.

Growing up, this kind of beef pot roast was a Sunday dinner staple. It’s mainly a braise of beef and vegetables. It uses inexpensive beef chuck roast, and produces a thick, rich gravy that’s just chock full of flavor. And should there be any leftovers, it makes a dynamite hot roast beef sandwich.

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