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The sheer culinary adventure of cooking a sublime dish from a top chef's cookbook can be an exhilarating challenge. Often, though, right around the point where you're faced with reducing a single component of one sauce for two hours, you begin to wonder if the challenge is just a bit too daunting. What's a home cook without a staff of sous-chefs to do?
Chef, Interrupted supplies an inspiring answer. Award-winning food journalist, cookbook author, and emerging food personality Melissa Clark takes complicated chef's recipes and whittles them down to the basics-miraculously, without sacrificing any flavor. These wonderful dishes-pastas like Eric Ripert's Spicy Linguine with Sauteed Baby Squid and Chorizo, vegetables such as Jimmy Bradley's Quick Saute of Zucchini with Toasted Almonds and Pecorino, and fish including Wylie Dufresne's Halibut with Smoked Mashed Potatoes and Red Pepper-transform mere ambition into real food on your table, with more success than you would have thought possible.
This recipe below for Tagine of Lamb Shanks with Prunes, Ginger, and Toasted Almonds inspired by Chef Andrew Carmellini of Cafe Boulud will begin your tour of some of the world's best restaurants from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Tagine of Lamb Shanks with Prunes, Ginger, and Toasted Almonds
Unlike the happily and decidedly French restaurant Daniel, where chef Daniel Boulud serves his take on the classics, Cafe Boulud, his more casual restaurant uptown, espouses a more global perspective. Former executive chef Andrew Carmellini used ingredients and techniques from around the world, which he melded with Daniel's refined European sensibility. For instance, in this tagine, Andrew uses a cross-cultural mix of Middle Eastern and North African seasonings, from herbaceous zahtar to sesame seeds and almonds, as well as the subtle, intriguing flavor of Earl Grey tea. He serves it with a rather French garnish of caramelized artichokes with carrots and onion, but it's not essential to the dish. However if you feel like making it, it is fitting and delightful, so I've included it in a sidebar.
Preparation Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus 2 to 2-1⁄2 hours braising
• 1-1⁄2 teaspoons Jordanian zahtar (see Melissa's Tips)
• 1 teaspoon ras al hanout (see Melissa's Tips)
• 1 teaspoon hot paprika
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
• 1⁄2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 lamb hind shanks (about 3 pounds total)
• 1 onion, coarsely chopped
• 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
• One 2-inch piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced
• Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1 large tomato, diced
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 3 cups unsalted veal or lamb broth, or low-sodium beef broth
• 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 2 Earl Grey tea bags
• 8 dates, pitted
• 24 pitted prunes
• 2 tablespoons golden raisins
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (see Melissa's Tips)
• 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
• Caramelized artichokes (optional)
Caramelized Artichokes (optional--serves 4)
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 fresh artichoke hearts, cleaned, each cut into 8 wedges
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 1 carrot, sliced on the bias 1⁄4 inch thick
• Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the spice mix.
2. In a roasting pan or Dutch oven over high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the lamb shanks all over with some of the spice mix. When the oil is very hot, add the shanks and brown well on all sides, about 20 minutes total. Transfer the lamb to a plate for the moment and lower the heat under the pan.
3. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in the tomato paste and tomato and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the flour and cook, still stirring, for 1 minute. Return the lamb shanks to the pan, pour in the broth, and add the thyme. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid or a piece of foil, and transfer the pan to the oven. Braise, basting every 20 minutes or so, for 2 to 2-1⁄2 hours, until very tender.
4. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Cover and infuse for 5 minutes, then discard the tea bags. Soak the dates in the tea until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain the dates, reserving the tea to use for the garnish. Puree the dates in a food processor or blender.
5. When the lamb is finished braising, stir in the date puree. Transfer the lamb shanks to a warm platter and place the pan over high heat. Reduce the liquid by half, about 10 minutes. Season with some of the spice mixture and salt and pepper, then strain over the lamb shanks.
6. To prepare the garnish, bring the reserved tea to a simmer and add the prunes and raisins. Let them plump off the heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and then roll the prunes in the sesame seeds. Serve the tagine topped with the prunes, raisins, and almonds. Garnish with Caramelized Artichokes, if using.
7. Caramelized Artichokes (optional): In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the artichokes, onion, and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are well caramelized and the artichokes are fork-tender.
Zahtar is a spice mix that varies in its components depending upon whether you are talking to cooks in North Africa, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, or Iran. The Jordanian mix usually includes sesame seeds, thyme or marjoram (or zahtar, an herb very similar to thyme), and sumac, a tart red spice, and it is used on meats. Look for it at Middle Eastern markets or order it from Penzey's Spices (800-741-7787; penzeys.com).
Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that includes a variety of sweet, savory, and hot spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, cumin, pepper, cayenne, and sometimes dried lavender. It can be found in Middle Eastern and gourmet shops or you can order it from Kalustyan's (800-352-3451; kalustyans.com).
Sesame seeds can be bought hulled or unhulled-the unhulled ones are a little bigger and browner and have more crunch, but you can use either here. Just make sure your seeds taste fresh, with no bitter, rancid aftertaste, since seeds are high in oil and can go bad after a few months. Store fresh sesame seeds in a cool, dry place and toast them to bring out their flavor and enhance their crunch. The easiest way to toast the tiny seeds without the risk of forgetting them for a second and burning them is to toss them continuously in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the seeds to a plate to cool.
At Cafe Boulud, this recipe is served in tagines, which are Moroccan lidded serving dishes with little chimney-type tops, traditionally used for stews.
Of course, you can serve this in any warmed dish. But if you happen to have a collection of tagines or other lidded dishes (even a soup tureen!) it's lovely to bring the covered dish to the table and open it with a flourish, releasing the fragrant steam to oohs and aahs.
If you prefer to make this recipe a day in advance, the flavors will benefit from resting overnight in the fridge, and you will be able to easily remove the fat once it has hardened at the surface. After skimming, reheat the pot in a 350°F. oven for about 1⁄2 hour or give it a gentle simmer on the stove, then proceed with the garnish.
Excerpted from Chef, Interrupted by Melissa Clark Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 6, 2005
This is a chef cookbook without the heartache. It's got at least two 'wows' going for it - it's a very broad sampler of of great chef recipes, and it makes innovative dishes accessible to those of us who don't have 2 days to build a sauce. Chef Interrupted is full of inventive recipes that an employed person, with a decently-equipped kitchen and a good supermarket, can make with total success. The recipes are startlingly delicious. Steak with spiced coconut sauce? Tomato and watermelon salad with ricotta?? Rosemary polenta pound cake??? I was attracted to the weird stuff first, and it was simple and delicious to make. I can tell you my girlfriend was delighted. I'm a decent cook though not an adventurous one, and this book's an inspiration. There are more conventional dishes too, and I'm getting new ideas from each one. I thought the shortcuts might dull the food down, but generally they allow the core idea of the dish to come through even stronger. I haven't found a clunker yet. It's such fun to try the new stuff that I'm cooking at home more just so I can see what happens next. When chefs do cookbooks they go to dizzy heights I can't always follow, and speak a language I only half understand. Clark teases out their passion and motives and translates them without dumbing them down. The notes are practical and amusing. She has a genius for catching the spark and essence of both the chef and the dish. Even the cover photo shows this (though you don't totally get it till you see the photo on page 265). If The Babbo Cookbook makes you the famished fly on the wall of Batali's kitchen, then Chef Interrupted flies you to forty kitchens where a charming and brilliant interpreter helps you get your hands on some real food. Yum!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.