Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Girl in the Kitchen

I’m delighted that our guest blogger this week is the incredibly talented Stephanie Izard, whom many of you will remember as Top Chef of season four of the Bravo series. She’s also the chef/owner of the restaurant that’s been the hardest reservation in Chicago since it opened, Girl and the Goat.

Her first cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen, features recipes to encourage the home cook to “Be creative. Feel inspired.” Having cooked numerous recipes featured in the book, trust me, it’s the real deal.

Take a look at this funny video trailer.

And if you feel compelled to leave a comment, you’ll be eligible to win a copy of the book that will be rewarded to one person selected at random.

It has been just about a month since the release of my new book, Girl in the Kitchen. As I write this, I am sitting in my 8th hotel room of the month – traveling around promoting the book and cooking with chef friends from around the country to raise money for a great organization, Share Our Strength. I have met and spent time with so many amazing people along the way that it makes the time dealing with airport security well worth it. I think what I have enjoyed most is meeting so many food loving home cooks who may not spend their nights behind the line cooking in restaurants, but enjoying cooking at home for friends and family. That is what the book is all about – cooking recipes in the home, enjoying fun flavors, and trying new things. For the novice cook there are tips and tricks to make some of the more complicated recipes approachable; and for the more experienced cook there may be some new flavor combinations and ingredients they have not cooked with before. At the very least, there are some fun stories and beautiful pictures from Dan Goldberg (including one of a cow sniffing my butt!). There’s a little something for everyone.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Cauliflower and Grape Gremolata
Serves 4

Growing up, I was not a fan of lamb. At all. That’s not to say my mom didn’t make some great food, but come lamb-chop night I looked to our dog, Dr. Pepper, under the table for a little help. I always thought of lamb as very gamey (even though I didn’t know what that meant at the time). So what did I do? The worst thing possible: I doused it with mint jelly, something my dad still does to this day. Whoever decided that bright green and overly sweet mint jelly should exist at all, much less cover up perfectly good lamb, must have had a broken palate. But the idea is based on the fact that mint does complement lamb, something I pulled from for this recipe.

Gremolata is a classic Italian condiment for roasted and grilled meats, traditionally made from chopped herbs, garlic, and lemon zest, and I decided to adjust that to include mint and roasted grapes to better pair with the lamb. And because so many cultures, especially Indian, use curry when cooking with lamb, I thought that a little hot and yellow curry powder in the cauliflower would help pull everything together. Both the gremolata and the curried cauliflower are versatile enough that I hope you start working them into your favorite dishes—especially if you have a lamb phobia like I once did.

Grape Gremolata
1 pound red grapes, stemmed
1/3 cup loosely packed mint, cut into chiffonade
1/3 cup loosely packed basil, cut into chiffonade
1 lemon, zested
1/2 orange, zested
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 lamb shanks (about 4 pounds total)
1 large onion, medium diced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups dark chicken stock or veal or beef stock
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds, toasted

Curried Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower (about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder

1. To make the gremolata: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the grapes on a silicone baking sheet or wax paper–lined baking sheet. Roast until the grapes are shriveled but not completely dry, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Leave the oven on.

3. Toss the grapes with the herbs, zests, and oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap to prevent browning and set aside.

4. To make the lamb: Heat the oil in a large roasting pan over high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. When the oil is very hot, add the shanks and brown on all sides, using tongs to turn. Remove the shanks to a plate and set aside.

5. Reduce the heat under the pan to medium. Add the onions and sweat by cooking until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, sautéing for about 30 seconds. Pour in a little of the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon as the liquid evaporates. Add the rest of the wine, the sherry, vinegar, and Worcestershire, and simmer to reduce by half. Add the tomato paste, stirring as it melts into the liquid.

6. Return the shanks to the pan, add the stock and toasted fennel and mustard seeds, and cover the pan. Braise the lamb until very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the shanks from the braising liquid and set aside.

7. While the shanks are cooking, make the cauliflower: Cut the head of cauliflower in half and cut out most of the stem. Cut the florets into 1/4-inch slices.

8. Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sweat by cooking them until the shallots are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat with the butter and oil. Sauté until the cauliflower releases much of its liquid and begins to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to sauté until the florets are just tender, an additional 10 minutes, tossing often.

9. Add the curry powders, tossing to coat the florets, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

10. Strain the braising liquid and simmer to reduce it by a little more than half for a rich sauce. Season with salt.

11. Divide the cauliflower among the plates. Top with lamb shanks, spoon the pan sauce over the top of each, and garnish with a generous sprinkling of gremolata.

Plan of attack
Day before: Make gremolata, cover and refrigerate (bring up to room temp before using).
Cook time: Start the lamb shanks. While they’re braising in the oven, prepare the gremolata. With about 20 minutes left to cook the lamb, prepare the cauliflower.

Drink tip
One of the most classic pairings ever is Bordeaux with lamb, although you could just as well go with a subtle American Cabernet as well. The robustness and the black currant notes go great with the braised meat gravy.

Purchase: Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats, and Drinks

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