Monday, May 28, 2018

Lamb shanks

IMG 9494
Eastside Road, May 27, 2018—

SURELY ONE OF the great recipes is Richard Olney's for braised lamb shanks. It is simple, complete, and inspired, and it never fails. We have followed it scores of times over the years, and both Cook and I could no doubt prepare the dish from memory.

We never do, of course; we always return to the book, Simple French Food . And I, at least — I don't know about Cook — always realize the procedure has long since been completely internalized. I wrote about it here, nine long years ago:

Ask the butcher to saw the lamb shanks into slices a couple of inches thick. Brown them on all sides in a little olive oil in a heavy pot with a close-fitting lid; then throw in a head of garlic, the cloves separated but not peeled, and let them cook very slowly — we use an asbestos pad under the pot and turn the flame as low as possible. The meat will form its own juice.

After an hour or two sprinkle dry herbes de Provence on the meat and let it cook as much longer as you like. When all the liquid's gone you might want to sprinkle a few drops of water on the meat; we've never found that necessary.

Remove the meat to a hot platter, deglaze the pot with a little white wine, and pass the glaze and the garlic cloves through a food mill to make a heavy sauce for the meat. Serve with noodles.

I just Googled "olney lamb shanks simple" and found a few adaptations of the recipe (along with my own 2009 post, quoted above). One cooks the shanks with Vermouth. Another serves the meat with cannelini. I can't think why anyone would do either of these things. Olney's recipe is perfect. Lamb, garlic, herbes de Provence, white wine. It's all you need, and you do want to serve it with egg noodles.

About those herbes de Provence: This is about the only time we use them, so they're getting a bit long in the tooth — I bought our current supply in the market in Nice five years ago. They're a little dusty, but thanks to Ziplock still aromatic. Lamb, Provence, red wine. Dinner on the patio with much of the family around us: marvelous.

     🍷White: La Ferme Julien; "Madam Preston." Red: L. Preston, Preston of Dry Creek IMG 9495

Friday, May 25, 2018

Split pea soup

Split pea soup
Eastside Road, May 25, 2018—

EATING AT HOME; domestically. By that I mean modestly, even frugally, something with lots of flavor, but substantial.

Cook buys dry beans, peas, chickpeas, and such — organic ones, of course. It doesn't take all that much time to cook them: they soak while she gardens; cook while we watch the depressing news or maybe a ball game.

This soup began with a slice or two of bacon sizzling in a black iron skillet, of course. When you cook and eat bacon rarely, and then only a slice or two at a time, it's neither expensive nor particularly bad for one's health, or so we tell ourselves.

Onion, of course; salt and pepper. A green salad afterward.

IMG 9480And dessert: an ice cream sundae, with toasted pecans and caramel sauce — because she is, after all, a pastry chef.

     🍷Vin blanc ordinaire, La Ferme Julien

Running out of steam

IMG 9445
Eastside Road, May 25, 2018—
MY FIRST POST to this blog was written a little over ten years ago, on March 25, 2008. Since then two thousand, seven hundred seventy posts have followed, not counting this one. For years I took the perhaps unwisely chosen title of the blog seriously — not until 2013 did fewer than 300 posts appear in a given year.

Last year, though, I began to run out of steam: only 155 posts. Eating every other day, the title should have been. And this year has been disastrous.

I won’t go into the reasons for this, which are personal and a little discouraging. What I am doing, as I type this, is wondering where to take the blog next. I know that over the years there have been a number of followers, and I like to think the blog’s presence, on line, has had its usefulness. Most of you must know about the search box up in the upper left corner: type in “pizza” or “Rome” or “anchov*” (the asterisk standing for either “y” or “ies”) will turn up posts with possibly useful or interesting content.

But to tell the truth I no longer trust my palate for day-to-day comments. We continue to eat well, of course; Cook always finds ways to tickle that aging palate, and there are pleasures both evolved and simple that might be reported.

IMG 9443Yesterday, for example: we’d gone to Sonoma, there to see a small exhibition of paintings by an acquaintance, and we stopped off at a favorite spot for lunch. I suppose I ordered unwisely: two pork tamales, twice as much as I needed. But they were delicious, muy sabrosos, as always here, and I washed them down with a bottle of Pacifico beer, because I haven’t had Pacifico for years, and wondered if it were as bland as recalled (yes).

So I’ll try to soldier on here, I suppose, when there’s something potentially useful, or at least pleasant, to share. Do in the meantime indulge my uncertainties.

•El Molino Central, 11 Central Avenue, Sonoma; 📞+1 707 939 1010