St. Patricks Day Recipe: Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops!

A perfect recipe for a cool winter dinner, or to practice now for a St. Patrick’s Day feast!

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

2 shoulder chops

3 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, skinned and left whole

2 anchovies , oil-packed

1 tbs tomato paste

1 cup dry wine (red or white)

1/2 cup stock

1 bouquet garni (2 stalks of rosemary and 6 stalks of thyme)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Season the chops with salt and pepper. Pat dry. In a heavy skillet bring a heat a tablespoon of oil to smoking. Sear the chops until crisp and brown on both sides, about 1 minute on each side. Remove chops to a plate. Lower heat to medium. Add the carrot, onion, and celery to the hot pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add anchovies and cook for 1 minute until anchovies begin to melt into the vegetables. Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables

Add wine and stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring liquid to a boil, then return lamb chops and accumulated juices to the pan. If needed, add additional stock or water to ensure the liquid nearly covers the meat. Reduce to a simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce heat to low (or place in a 240degree oven) and simmer until meat is fork tender but not falling off the bone, about 1.5-2 hours.

Remove chops to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Skim fat from the surface of the braising liquid. Strain braising liquid through a fine strainer, discard solids. Return liquid to pan and reduce until liquid coats the back of a spoon. Serve chops on a bed of mashed potatoes, glazed in braising liquid and topped with gremolata.

Gremolata

Zest of 1 lemon (fine)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

Combine ingredients and chop fine. cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made up to six hours in advance.

Restaurant 101: Turns

The word Turn in a restaurant is more than a verb, it is noun. In restaurant speak, a Turn is the liminal space between one party completing their meal and leaving the table and the next party arriving to take residence at the same table for their meal.

When service is running smoothly, turns are seamless. A party that arrived at 6:00pm is sipping the dregs of their coffee cups and signing the credit card slip by 7:45pm. They clear off moments later under a chorus of warm goodbye and thank you‘s from the assembled dining room staff. The table is clear of everything other than a few stray demitasse spoons and water glasses, so a single busser can carry all the dishes away in one trip to the scullery, and the table is re-set before an 8:00pm reservation arrives to take residency for another two hours.

Turns are necessary to most restaurant’s survival. In order to keep the lights on and the water running, establishments must be able to turn tables. On popular nights (Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve, Saturday night), the turns enable more guests to enjoy the space on a holiday or special occasion. Attempting to accommodate turns is why, when you call at noon on Saturday the only tables available for dinner that night are 5:00 and 9:00. The restaurant may be empty at 5:00, but the staff knows that all of their tables are booked for 6:30pm, so they may not be able to seat those tables at 5:15, or may only be able to seat them with the condition that they party clears the table by 7:00.

Hospitality @ Home: Table Settings

It begins with a plate. One plate per person, set directly in front of her chair, about an inch away from the edge of the table.

Next, the entree fork and knife join the party. Fork on the left, knife on the right, with the blade opening toward the plate. The Gent was once a protocol officer in the Air Force, and he told me a story he learned at protocol school about knife blades. According to service mythology, there once lived a King who loved to feast. He loved to drink and tell stories almost as much as he loved feasting, and as a drunken storyteller is wont to do in the middle of a feast, the king flung his hand wildly as he regaled his guests with a tale of recent adventure. His hand brushed the the blade of his knife, which was pointing away from his plate, and the king sliced his hand open.

I have no idea if that story is true, but it is a good way to remember which way to set knives on a dinner table.

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Restaurant Etiquette: Pre Fixe Menus

On special occasions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve–and *ahem* Valentine’s Day–restaurants tend to rely on pre fixe menu.

This can be irritating. You have chosen a restaurant that you love based on the food you typically enjoy there! Why are they changing it up? Do they really expect you to order a $75 four course meal for your three-year old?

The main reason restaurants offer a pre-fixe menu on a holidays and special occasions is the same reason that they frequently require parties larger than twelve to select a set menu; it makes the service faster and more efficient so you and all the other guests filling the dining room can get their food in a reasonable amount of time.

Typically, the menu will include mouthwatering dishes from succulent pastas, unctuous roasts, cracklingly grilled steaks and seared fish…. It is in the chef’s interest to make everything tempting because she knows that if she doesn’t, forty-seven people are going to order the grilled ribeye simultaneously and her grill cook is going to get overloaded while the pasta cook’s lovingly handmade noodles disintegrate in a pool of congealing cream sauce waiting for the steaks that are on the same ticket.

If you have Pre Fixe Menu Anxiety (PFMA), here are some things to consider : Continue reading

Recipe: (Heart) Beet Wellington

When I was a kid, my mother treated Valentine’s Day with the same attention as most people give Easter. Valentine’s breakfast would feature heart studded socks tucked in my juice glass and conversation hearts in my cereal bowl. This was, of course, after sitting with me a few days prior to design and create an elaborate valentine’s box in which to stow all of the cards and candy I was sure to receive on the Big Day.

Now that I am a grown up, nothing says Holiday like a beautiful meal with an impressive culinary centerpiece. And nothing says ‘I Love You’ quite so well as ‘I made fresh puff pastry for you, with my very own hands.

I wanted to post this in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day, in case you ant to give it a test drive.

Buckle up, kids this one is an epic!

Recipes after the jump…. Continue reading

Hospitality @ Home: Coffee

When you are hosting a dinner party in your home, serving coffee is an excellent way to signal guests that it is time to find their galoshes and perform the skedaddle.

The best way to do this is to prepare in advance.

To some, coffee has a catechism. Only single origin beans are accepted! Only shade grown! Only beans that have been roasted in the last forty-eight hours, and ground thirty-seven seconds before they meet 179 degree water. DECAF IS AN UNNATURAL ABOMINATION.

It is fine if you are such an aficionado. As a host, however, I find it best to consider the level of your guest’s coffee observances and meet them on their level as closely as you can. Certainly curious guests will enjoy expanding their palates a bit, though few will be excited about a treatise on the Arabica bean at the end of a lengthy meal.

The best way to serve coffee at home is with the tools you already own, whether it is French press, Espresso pot, Chemex, Pour-over, electric basket brewer, percolator. Unless you are hosting a party of forty, in which case, call your local party rental company and rent one of those silver monsters, with plenty of cups and saucers.

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Restaurant 101: Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche– [ah-myooz boosh] — is a word you may have heard bandied about in restaurants. As it is French in origin, it can sound like a bit of secret code when it falls from the lips of a discreet maitre d’ or a waistcoated server , especially when re-purposed as a verb as in “Has table twenty-two been amused?”

While it is possible these theoretical staff are wondering how the maitre d’s starchy humor landed on a group of diners, it is more likely they are discussing a bit of service business.

An amuse bouche is simply a bite-size dish from the chef meant to stimulate your palate. An amuse bouche typically appears at the beginning of a progressive tasting menu with several courses.

A great amuse is true to the origin of the french word– to cause a person to muse, to ponder. Perhaps to ponder what is in store in the meal to come, or perhaps to be amused by a particularly stunning flavor combination that they would never have imagined enjoying.

An amuse need not be overly complicated. It can be more like Ikea furniture; well designed and easy to assemble. So easy, fact, that you can easily arrange some at home.

If, for instance, you are throwing a dinner party, you can elevate your game by arranging slivers of several elements from the meal in a stack, on a spoon, or threaded on skewer.

Think tiny, and think piquant flavors that will make an impression. Continue reading