Lamb Shoulder For Those Who Love Lamb But Don’t Want To Spend The Money

The meat section at my local Gelson’s is pretty spectacular: if you name a cut of meat, they probably have it. And on Friday night I was craving lamb and, studying the lamb options there, I saw a giant leg of lamb for $70 and a rack of lamb for $40. Those prices would seem to make lamb prohibitively expensive, yet there was another lamb option there for a measly $10.

Pot Roast

When I think pot roast, I think Americana, I think 50s sitcoms and a beleaguered housewife who intones: “Oh, darn it, I burnt the pot roast!”

It’s not a dish that I ate much growing up, eating–as we did–most of our meals out. My first real pot roast memory, actually, comes from Atlanta. I ordered pot roast at one of my favorite, kitschy restaurants there–Agnes & Muriel’s–and got very sick afterwards. I don’t blame Agnes & Muriel’s, but I did blame pot roast. I avoided it for years.

Braised Lamb Neck Proven├žal

First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due: look at the “c” I put in the word “Provencal” in this post’s title. That “c” has the appropriate squiggle in it; I copied it from the Wikipedia page for Provencal. What does that squiggle denote? I have no idea, but the squiggle is there and who do you have to thank? Me, that’s who.

Second of all: lamb’s neck. Are you grossed out? You really shouldn’t be. I first ate lamb’s neck at the offal dinner Chris Cosentino cooked at the Astor Center last year (watch video here). Unlike the raw venison liver I consumed, or, for that matter, beef heart tartare, the lamb’s neck was the least forbidding of the dishes served; on the plate, it looks no different from a braised lamb shank (except for the shape) and it tastes twice as good. Why? It’s a fattier cut of meat.

Molly Stevens’ Braised Monkfish with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

“Now is the winter of our Molly Stevens,” I wanted to say at the start of this winter. I wanted to say that because Molly Stevens’ book, All About Braising, is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I love this book because the recipes are flawless and, not only that, the results always exceed my expectations. Craig will never think of parsnips the same way again after Molly’s Chicken Breasts Braised with Hard Cider and Parsnips–Molly can transform anything with the flick of her magical wrist. So this winter I wanted to Molly out; I wanted to braise the whole winter through, browning, deglazing, and simmering until our kitchen itself was a braise. Only it never really got that cold and, truth be told, I was often so tired from Food Network meetings and tapings that a long braise didn’t really appeal to me when I came home. (Hence the popularity, I suppose, of 30 minute meals, etc etc.)

But recently at the Chelsea Market, where Food Network is located, I met a monkfish. There’s a fish store there and sitting on a counter, extravagantly arrayed, were fillets of monkfish–a truly ugly fish–and suddenly my mind leapt over the rooftops back to my bookshelf in Brooklyn where Molly’s book rested. “Molly has a recipe for monkfish!” I recalled. “Monkfish braised with cherry tomatoes and basil.” I bought 1 1/2 pounds of monkfish fillets and brought them home and sure enough Molly’s recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of monkfish fillets.

The recipe was a cinch to put together–the whole thing was prepped and cooked in approximately one hour–and the results, as expected, were tremendous. As I placed the plate before Craig, I felt like I was serving restaurant quality food. And, essentially, I was. “The fish is so moist and tender,” said Craig, digging in. “And the sauce is so flavorful.” Monkfish is called the poor man’s lobster, but we didn’t feel like poor men eating this. We felt like kings.

Let Molly work her magic in your kitchen after a hard day’s work. Here’s how you make it…

The Milk-Braised Pork Test

You know those tests where they determine whether you’re gay or straight and they attach electrodes to your genitals and flash images in front of you to see whether naked men or women arouse you more? Well this post is like one of those tests, only there’s only one image and it’s the image you see above. We’re testing to see how hardcore you are when it comes to eating. So please attach electrodes to your genitals and stare at the picture: are you aroused? You are! Congratulations: you passed and can click ahead to learn the secrets of a fantastic dish.

A Pork Shoulder To Cry On (With Blue Potatoes)

In case you were boohoo-ing over my fish feast debacle from the other day, fear not. I have redeemed myself, ladies and gentlemen. All because of a trip to the farmer’s market with Diana.

On Saturday it was nice out so I said, “Let’s go to the farmer’s market.” We hopped on an N train and rode to Union Square and got out and milled around for a while. “You know my problem,” I said, “is I come to the farmer’s market but then I never know what to buy.”

Just as we were about to go home empty handed, I saw the Flying Pigs farm stand and I remembered Ed Levine talking about Flying Pigs farm at lunch the other day. “He says it’s owned by a husband and wife,” I recalled, “and they raise pigs as a hobby.” I also remember him saying the pork there was truly excellent.

Well we studied the bin of meats, all of which were quite expensive, and were about to give up when I found the pork shoulder you see above.

“Pork shoulder,” I said. “We could braise this.”

But did I have a recipe? I didn’t remember. So I did something very natural, something more people should do at farmer’s markets across the country. I asked the man behind the stand (who was not the owner) if he had a recipe for pork shoulder.

“Actually,” he said. “We do.”

He opened a drawer and pulled out a piece of paper with two pork shoulder recipes on it, both by Amanda Hesser. The recipe I liked best was for “Braised Pork Shoulder with Garlic and Thyme.” We purchased the pork shoulder and then, just before getting on the subway, we spotted a table of blue potatoes.

“Let’s get blue potatoes,” said Diana. “We need something to serve with the pork.”

So we bought them also and headed home.

Babe, I’m on Fire: Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Gremolata and Pumpkin Orzo

Damn, I’m good. Well: either I’m good or I choose very doable, readable recipes. Or I have really good cooking equipment. Or maybe not: maybe I’m just smokin’, I’m so hot. Check it out:

I made this. This is not something I got from a restaurant, I got this from me: from my cutting, braising, stirring and slicing. Ok, there was a little help from Diana (she came over Saturday to eat this and to watch “Crash”) but by the time she got here, the short ribs were already in the oven.

At the risk of being too humble, let me say it like this: if you have a Dutch Oven or a heavy-bottomed skillet you can make this too. It’s so easy. And it’s NOT expensive. Two beef short ribs from Whole Foods cost me $8. The rest of the ingredients were all cheap vegetables with the exception of the bottle of red wine which, hopefully, you have laying around somewhere. The recipe comes from the Babbo cookbook and the results are as good as anything I’ve eaten at Babbo which is saying a lot because I consider Babbo the best restaurant I’ve ever been to ever so do not take that statement with a grain of salt. Take it with a box of Kosher Salt and dump it on your head. It’s really good for the roots.

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