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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stinco di Agnello con Carciofi (Lamb Shanks with Artichokes)

I don't think I have ever seen such small Lamb shanks in any market in Memphis, TN.  As you all know, I have to drive at least 85 miles sometimes in a quest for something different.  I don't think a Mississippian would ever have had a Lamb shank on their dinner table or know how to cook one.  As an Italian girl, growing up in New York, it was a staple in our kitchen, especially around the Spring time.    I came across some large Globe artichokes  locally and thought, what an interesting combination of flavors.  Why
not give it a try. 
This recipe served 2.
The general rule is an artichoke and shank per person.

Ingredients:  2 large, globe artichokes, cleaned and quartered, in a bowl of lemon water and set aside
2 lamb shanks  (about 2 pounds or so)
1/2 large sweet Italian red onion sliced thin
(you can substitute 1/4 Spanish onion sliced thin)
2 cloves garlic diced (about teaspoon and 1/)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 cup of white wine
approx. 8 cups of Artichoke water (The water you will use to boil your artichokes)
1/3 cup minced parsley
optional fresh mint for garnish
Clean your artichokes by peeling away the hard outer parts until you see an uniformed light green, yellowish color.  Remove the spiny end and split in half.  Clean at the choke and split.

  Place quickly in lemon water until the rest of your artichokes are cleaned.  Meantime, add about 4 quarts of water to a pot with a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic and bring to a boil.  Add your cleaned, cut artichokes and bring to a boil.  Boil for approximately 15 minutes and drain, reserving your water. 

In an 8quart covered casserole dish with an oven proof lid, heat your olive oil.  Add your lamb shanks, a teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of pepper and brown on all sides.
Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add your cut up onion, garlic and saute until fragrant. Add your artichokes and split them again if you need to.  When it begins to sizzle, add some of your artichoke water again and let reduce.  Add your lamb shanks back to
 the pan. 

Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Give it a gentle mix.  Add the rest of your salt, wine and let reduce for about 5 minutes.
 Give it another gentle mix and add your liquid 3/4 up the pot. 

Bring to a simmer and add your lid. 
Place your pot into the oven for approximately 1 hour and a half.  Check it at the hour mark.  If you need more liquid, add more artichoke water. You can even add some water.  Gently give your lamb shanks a turn.  It is normal to see them begin to fall apart.  You will also notice the liquid slowly evaporating.  This is normal.
Gently remove your hot pot from the oven and remove the lid.
Remove your meat and place into your serving dish.   Turn your heat on under your pot again and reduce your liquid. 

Carefully remove your sauce and artichokes and pour over your meat.  Serve with plenty of crusty bread and a good glass of red wine like Chianti or Shiraz.  Buon Appetito. 

Special note:  When shopping for Lamb shanks try to find the shanks from Australia.  The American lamb can be quite large and very fatty at times.  American lamb is quite good for Leg of lamb or chops.   Australian lamb is much smaller and very tasty.  If you find the smell gamy, try marinating the shanks ahead for a few hours in some white wine.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pasta al Forno (Pasta baked in the oven with Ham, Bechamel, Asparagus and Mozzarella)

This baked pasta is so delicious you will find yourself making excuse's to cook again.  Pasta is pre-cooked for several minutes, drained and added to bowl where bechamel, mozzarella, parmigiano, cooked ham and cut up asparagus are added and mixed.  Poured into baking dish and baked in the oven.  This beautiful dish serves up perfect every time.  The tricky part is the bechamel but with a little practice and patience you can do it too.  A meal in a pasta bowl.  Buon Appetito

Preheat your oven at bake 350 degrees
One baking dish large enough to accomodate your assembled ingredients.
1 pound of cooked ham, sliced thick. You should be able to get pieces.  Cube into small pieces and set aside.
1 cup Parmigiana Cheese
8 oz of Mozzarella sliced thin
1 pound of asparagus, trimmed (woodsy bottoms thrown away), blanched in salted water with a pinch of baking soda. *The baking soda will help the asparagus retain it's bright green color after it's baked.  Cut into small pieces and set aside the tips for serving later. Set aside.
Additional tablespoon of butter/ cut into tiny pieces for the top

For the Bechamel: 
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
2 plus 1/2 cups whole milk scalded (until bubbles form around the sides while heated)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
One pound tubular pasta such as Rigatoni or Mostaccioli
Heat your milk in a pan.  In a 3 quart pan place your butter and heat on low. Let it melt slowly. When you butter is melted add your flour one spoon at a time and combine, stirring constantly.  Do not let you flour turn dark. If you see this happening, you will have to start again.  The idea here is to form a Roux that will act as a thickening base for your cream.  At this point, turn your heat off and begin adding your milk a little at time and combine.  You will notice as you stir that your cream will thicken.  Keep adding your liquid until finished.  Your result should be a creamy consistency that should coat the sides of the pan.  Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg and set aside to cool slightly
Cook your pasta for 5 minutes in boiling water.  You do not want to cook any further as your pasta will cook while being baked in the oven.  Do not overcook.  Drain and set aside.
Into a bowl: Ham, asparagus pieces,  3/4 cup Parmigiano and half the mozzarella slices. Add your drained pasta (still hot), and mix.  Add 1/4 cup of your Bechamel in the botttom of your baking dish and spread.  Add your reserved Bechamel to your bowl with your pasta and mix gently.  Pour into your baking dish.  Spread evenly and add sprinkle of  your reserved Parmigiano, evenly distribute  mozzarella cheese across the top and dab with your butter pieces across the top.  Bake in the oven covered for 25 minutes on 350.  Remove the cover and bake for 10 minutes more. Look for the top to turn golden. Be careful not to burn.  (The steam from the covered baking dish will cook your pasta).  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving in pasta bowls.  The dish is hearty and goes a long way. Add your reserved Asparagus tips and serve.   Buon Appetito.

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