Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rustic Lamb Stew, Crock pot style

Mmm, Lamb. I love lamb, always have. I remember my mom making baby lamb chops for me as a birthday present, a great present, as they certainly weren't cheap and we certainly weren't rich. But damn, they were good. I hear people say about lamb today, "modern lamb", that it's not as gamy tasting and not as strong smelling as it used to be. Personally, I liked the odor, liked the strong, strong flavor.
I recently found that the grocery store I frequent carries "Lamb for stew", cubes of pretty lean lamb. I bought a package and went in search of recipe. I found this one on recipezarr and gave it a try, changing up a couple of things (Mushrooms! We must have mushrooms!). I was very impressed. It has a deep woodsy flavor, hearty and very satisfying. I have made it twice more since, including once with a combination of beef and pork instead of lamb.

1 1/2 lbs boneless lean lamb stew meat, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed dry thyme leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 cups of water
1 cup bite sized carrot chuncks (about 1/2 pound or more or as much as you want)
2 cups diced potatoes
1 pound Crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1. Sprinkle the lamb with 1/2 t salt and the pepper.
2. Dredge the lamb in the flour to coat.
3. Heat the olive oil in a 2 to 3 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
4. Brown lamb a few pieces at a time in the hot oil. Be sure not to crowd it while browning.
5. Remove the browned lamb to the crock pot with a slotted spoon.
6. Reduce heat under the Dutch oven to medium.
7. Add the sliced onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
8. Stir in the water scraping up browned bits on bottom of pot.
9. Transfer the onion mixture to the crock pot; add carrots, mushrooms and potatoes to the crock pot, too.
10.Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, adding peas during the last 30 to 45 minutes (or earlier if youlike them a bit more mushy!).

As mentioned above, I made it once with beef and pork instead of lamb, but only because I was craving a hearty stew and Kroger was out of lamb that week. That version was pretty good, also.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Italian Meatballs

Last Friday was the office holiday party and due to so many budget cuts, there's no money in the department budget for going out or catering or much of anything at all. Kinda stinks, but we sucked it up and had an Italian potluck. The result was a real good lunch of antipasto, salad, fruit, lasagna, a most excellent cheesecake, and my contribution, meatballs in sauce. It's been a long time since I made Italian meatballs, so I went looking for recipe in my old cookbooks and I found this one for spaghetti and meatballs in my 1980 Betty Crocker International Cookbook. I didn't make the spaghetti, just the meatballs. They were good - no pictures, though, sorry. I'll post them next time. And there will be a next time.

1 1/2 pounds ground round
3/4 cups dry bread crumbs *(make your own)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan**
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

* Make your won breadcrumbs - I toasted some 2 day old Italian bread, let it cool, then ran it through the food processor to make the bread crumbs.
**2 Tablespoons? Really? No. I added a little more, about a 1/2 cup.

1) Heat oven to 350.
2) Mix all of the ingredients together and use the very best mix mixer you've got, your hands!
3) Shape the mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls. (For easier shaping, dip your hands into cold water from time to time.)
4) Place on an ungreased jelly roll pan (I lined mine with heavy duty foil for easier cleanup).
5) Cook uncovered 15-20 minutes. (I "sacrificed" one to make sure they were done. Yummy.)

As for the sauce, well, I went easy and cheap. Once at work, I put the meatballs in a crockpot, and added a 26 oz can of Hunt's Garlic & Herb Spaghetti Sauce. I gave it a quick stir and let it sit in the crock on low from about 0900 until lunch at 1130.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Quick Dinner - Mock Lasagna

Back in October, we picked out a recipe from one of our old cookbooks that looked like a quick easy meal and wound up with a quick tasty meal that we've made a couple of times since. We love a good lasagna (who doesn't?), but don't ever take the time to make one. This has become a easy substitute.

Mock Lasagna
From "Hearty Family Favorites" (Time-Life Books).
1 Medium Onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 Italian sausage
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 pound Farfalle (aka bow tie pasta)
15 ounce can crushed tomato (or diced in juice/puree works, too)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups grated part-skim mozzerella

1) Preheat the oven to 400.
2) Bring a large pot of water to a boil (for the pasta).
3) Coarsely chop the onion.
4) Remove the sausage form the casing (if using link sausage).
5) Crumble the sausage meat into a medium skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink.
6) Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, 3-4 minutes.
7) Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente per package instructions.
8) Meanwhile, Add the tomato paste, crushed/diced tomatoes (including juice), bay leaf, basil, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to Low, cover it and simmer for 10 minutes.
9) Drain the pasta.
10) Remove the bay leaf from the sauce.
11) Assemble the dish - Cover the bottom of an 8-inch baking dish with 1/3 of the sauce. Top the sauce with 1/2 of the pasta and half of the mozzarella. Top the cheese with 1/2 of the remaining sauce and all of the remaining pasta. Top the pasta with the remianing sauce and cheese.
12) Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

I like to let the cheese brown just a bit. I also add some seasoning (basil/oregano) to the top layer of cheese.

Step 6: Browning the sausage, garlic and onion

Step 8: added the tomatoes and seasonings
(yup, that's the bay leaf in the center)

Step 11: first stage, sauce and pasta layers

Step 11: Assembly complete and ready for the oven

The end of step 12: Out of the oven and ready to eat!

Quick and easy - a decent meal in under 40 minutes.