Thursday, November 18, 2010

fudgy brownies with sweet pumpkin topping


I made these in honor of fall--and chocolate. They are rich and delicious. I do love pumpkin so...

Chocolate Jacks

adapted from Joy of Baking's Fudgy Brownies


12 oz chocolate, dark
1/2 C pumpkin puree from a can (make sure there aren't any added spices! You don't want pumpkin pie mix, you just want straight pumpkin)
1/4 C cocoa
3 eggs
1 C brown sugar
1/2 Tb vanilla
3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

2 C pumpkin puree (see note above)
1 C brown sugar
4 eggs
1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder

12 oz. chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt chocolate, pumpkin, cocoa and butter together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar, then add cooled chocolate-butter and vanilla to the bowl. Mix in dry goods.


Beat 2 C pumpkin, 1 C brown sugar, eggs, 1/4 C flour, and baking powder together, then pour over brownie batter. Drizzle prettily with melted chocolate--or let your chocolate seize, like I did (um... on purpose? Sure, yeah, of course I did...), and drop uneven delicious little blobs down in a random pattern.


Bake 40-50 minutes. Eat warm, cold, room temperature... I have an inkling they might even be good frozen--they didn't last long enough for me to try, but maybe next time.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

braised lamb shanks in a red wine and root vegetable reduction, on a bed of parmesan risotto


This was the main dish for Mum's 50th. (Most of the desserts have been posted-- you see where my priorities lie?)

Actually, there I go lying again, as this was quite delicious. The main reason I've waited so long to post it is because I don't particularly like the images. The lamb was tender and tasty, the vegetables soft, roasted-sweet, and complicated in flavor, the risotto cheesy. Everything melded well together.

And, however these images lie (I was rushed, snapping photos as I plated up food for little sis to take out food to the back garden), the lamb actually looked quite stylish on the plate, with a steaming dollop of parmesan risotto topped with aromatic roasted vegetables and pearl onions. Also, you can't smell anything from these photos, so let me tell you, you're missing out.

Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine
8 lamb shanks
2 shallots

2 Tb butter

1 C pearl onions, skins on

1/2 large carrot
2 leeks
3 cloves garlic
3/4 C mushrooms

1/2 C tomato paste

1 C red wine
1 tsp sugar


salt and pepper to taste


Slice the shallots roughly. Everything but the lamb is going to get cooked to rather an oblivion here (a delicious oblivion), so don't worry to much about prettiness.

Brown the shallots in butter in a large Dutch oven--one of those big heavy cast iron pots. If you haven't got one, I recommend getting one. They're terribly useful and a lot of fun.

While the shallots brown, boil a small pot of water. Drop the onions (unpeeled) in and boil for 3 minutes. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water.


Chop the stem end off each onion and then squeeze the other end. The onion will pop out, nicely, according to the packaging. Mine sometimes took a little coaxing, or lost a few outside onion layers on the way out, but it wasn't terribly stressful. Reserve the onions and set them aside.

Leaving the shallots still browning in the pot, chop the carrot, leeks, garlic, and mushroom roughly, like you did the shallots. Add them to the pot and stir them into the tasty caramelized onions. Let them cook, stirring occasionally not not neurotically for 5-10 minutes, until they've got some brown on them for taste.
Then add the tomato paste and stir in. Let that cook 1-2 minutes, stirring, to let some of the raw flavor cook out. Then add the wine and sugar. Let the wine simmer out for about ten minutes. It will thicken some.


After the wine has reduced, add enough water to cover the soft vegetables. Let the water heat up, then lay the lamb shanks on top of the vegetables. They do not need to be full immersed; you're more cooking them in the steamy air of the Dutch oven than simmering them. Lid the Dutch oven and keep the liquid at a very low simmer for 1-2 hours or until the lamb is cooked to your desired end.

(While the lamb is slowly simmering, make the risotto: see recipe below). 

When tested with a meat thermometer, the thickest part of the lamb meat should be 150-160 degrees F. (Rare is 140). (I don't like rare unless it's sushi; personal preference).

Remove the lamb to a separate plate and cover. Turn up the heat under the Dutch oven and let the by now very soft vegetables thicken into a deliciously caramelized, red wine tinted sauce. It's done when it's thick enough for your liking.

Return to lamb to the pot, turn off the heat, and lid the entire contraption until you're ready to plate.

Parmesan Risotto
1 chicken carcass
6 C water

The night before, boil the chicken in a big pot of water for 3-5 hours. It's very low maintenance. Just make sure it's got lots of water, and then go watch a movie or something in the next room. Check it now and then and add more water if it's getting low and not covering the chicken.

I like to buy one of those roast chickens at the closest supermarket, strip the meat off and bag it and use it for something later.

Strain the broth through into a container and refrigerate overnight. I get 2-3 C. It doesn't really matter for this application; you'll be watering it down with H2O in the risotto anyway.

2 C Arborio rice
2 Tb butter
1 Tb olive oil

1/2 C wine (white won't die your rice vaguely pinkish; red might fit better for the taste of this dish. So, taste or looks, your choice).
1 C grated parmesan

The next day, while the lamb shanks are cooking (see recipe above), saute the rice in the butter and olive oil in a large flat pan. Stir to keep it from browning. Warm the wine and chicken broth in the microwave, or in a small pot on the stove.

When the rice is golden and toasty (~10 minutes), add the wine, stirring constantly. There will be a lot of stirring constantly here, as a warning. Stir until the rice has soaked up all the liquid, then use a ladle to splash in some warm chicken broth, Keep stirring. When the rice has soaked up all the new liquid, splash in some more... and so it continues. Keep stirring and ladling and stirring. When you run out of chicken broth, ladle in warm water. When you've been doing this about fifteen-twenty minutes, start tasting a few grains every few minutes. If they're hard in the middle, they're not done. (If it's gummy, you've gone too far). Once they're tender all the way through, remove the pan from the heat and dump in the cheese. Stir. When the cheese has melted, it's time to plate, serve, and eat.

For plating, I suggest a ladle of risotto, a ladle of vegetable reduction over that, and a lamb shank laid over the reduction.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

buttermilk pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup


My father's mother, my Gram, lives about three hours away from my family's home. (So does my mother's mother, my Granny; my parents are one of those high school sweetheart stories). Over the course of my childhood, we've driven up many times to spend weekends with either grandmother. One of my recurring childhood memories is waking up early in Gram's red-tiled two story house and sitting on the kitchen counter while she whipped egg whites and measured flour, making buttermilk pancakes for her numerous hungry descendants, and whoever else was going to end up, with an empty stomach and an empty plate, at her kitchen table. (Neither stays empty for long).

These pancakes are legend, and not just in my stomach's memory. One friend of the family has said to my grandmother, "I have to hold my fork down on them to keep 'em from floating off my plate!"

I made four batches of this on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Friends devoured them with blueberry syrup, raspberry and peach syrup, cherry jam (made by the lovely Biscuits), apple butter (from Gram herself), and almond butter (from the Snark). We ate and talked and laughed and did homework (and did dishes! <3). It was a lovely morning. I wish you one, too--and these pancakes are a decided step in that direction.


Gram's Buttermilk Pancakes
2 C flour
1 Tb baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

2 C buttermilk
1/4 C sugar1/3 C oil
3 eggs
dash salt

Separate the eggs.

Mix the dry ingredients. Beat the yolk, buttermilk, oil, and sugar. Mix with the dry ingredients.

Beat egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold them gently into the batter.

Heat up a large frying pan or griddle until hot and lightly grease with a little butter. Ladle on batter into whatever size you'd like. If you want chocolate chips or fruit in your pancakes, add them now, just by dropping them on top of the batter.

Now, let them cook! Don't fuss at them.


As you watch (impatiently, if you're me), little bubbles will form in the white gooey top of the unflipped pancake. When the little bubbles pop on the surface and STAY popped (as in, there are now small permanent tunnels in your pancake), it's time to flip.

What the bubble-tunnels mean is that the pancake has cooked enough that the batter doesn't just flow right back in to the hole the bubble has created. It (if you're relatively careful) won't fall apart on your spatula when you try to flip.

Flip on cook a few more minutes on the other side or until brown and cooked through.


blueberry syrup
1 C frozen berries
1 C sugar
1/3 C water
lemon zest
lemon juice

Put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and mix to combine. Bring to a boil. Boil til thick. About 45 minutes-1 1/2 hours. It take forever, I know. But it's worth it, trust me! And it's not like you can't multitask. The only thing you have to pay attention to is keeping it from boiling over.

You can do this with other fruits, too. The sugar ratio is about the same for most of them. But I like blueberry.


Thank you for sharing you recipe, Gram, and for many pancake mornings. I love you.