Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date CouscousOn The Lamb
Growing up, we always had lamb for Easter. There may have been the occasional ham but I always associate lamb (and my grandmother’s purple water goblets) with Easter.

I have a very clear picture in my mind of my grandmother carving the leg of lamb with an electric knife (!) and with each slice she may or may not have encountered a whole garlic clove that she had stuffed into the meat. I also remember the tiny metal containers for the mint jelly. The leg of lamb was always tasty, the mint jelly not so much. Back then, traditional roasted leg of lamb or the occasional broiled lamb chop with rosemary was pretty much the limit of my exposure to lamb. Nowadays though, when I think of eating or cooking lamb my tastes run to the Middle East.

No matter the occasion, if I am cooking with lamb chances are the flavors are going to be North African or Middle Eastern in nature. Easter dinner is no different. Harissa has thankfully replaced the mint jelly on the table and potatoes have made way for the couscous. So, depending on how formal we want to be, dinner can be lamb kebabs with pita and hummus or a roast shoulder with couscous and date stuffing. And there is always this family favorite, Moroccan Lamb Tangine.

I think this year because I feel the need to make an effort, I’m doing the Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous. It’s been a while since I have made Moroccan food and this is the perfect time to dust off a favorite recipe!

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Serves 4 to 5

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Chicken and Garlic Fricassee with Sweet Garlic Confit

Chicken and Garlic Fricassee with Sweet Garlic ConfitFrench Roots
I feel like we have finally turned a corner. As I look out my window at the clear blue skies I actually think that, maybe, hopefully, please dear lord let it be true, the rain could possibly be over? The calendar says spring after all….

Spring is a welcome occurrence. Weather is probably the most important reason, with Baseball as a very close second. But, for me, it is also a time when I flip a switch on my cooking. As new spring produce comes into market my dinners get lighter and fresher. And consistently, they get French-er.

I always seem to circle back to French food in the spring. Maybe it’s that whole Spring rebirth thing. Cooking French food gets me back to basic techniques so that I can go forth and innovate. Kind of like a spring cleaning for my culinary mind. Clean out all of the winter recipes and start fresh.

I have a number of French cookbooks and one of my favorite authors is Patricia Wells. Since moving to France in 1980, she has become an expert in French cooking with an emphasis on the Provence region where she opened her acclaimed cooking school.

This Chicken and Garlic Fricassee is very French—and very garlicy—but in the best way possible. The garlic confit is a must, so you will need to plan ahead for this one. The original recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into 8 parts. I prefer to do this with bone-in chicken thighs

Joyeux printemps à tous!

Chicken and Garlic Fricassee with Sweet Garlic Confit
Adapted from The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells

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Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken

Bundt Pan Rotisserie ChickenTechnological Wonders
I had a plan to talk about Irish food this week—for obvious reasons—everyone is Irish this Friday.

That plan was blown out of the water by one of those ubiquitous cooking videos that pop up daily on my Facebook feed (sometimes hourly). Most of the time I kinda just glance at the video and move on to other things. Every so often, though, I spot that one video, and I drop everything to watch it. Because my mind is blown. (Or there is a lot of chocolate.) Today was one of those days. Total lightbulb moment…I’m still recovering.

If you’ve ever heard of Beer Can Chicken you will get why I was compelled to watch the video, and then immediately make the recipe. I mean it’s genius. Of course, this would be great, it’s Rotisserie Chicken in your home oven. Brilliant! And it looks weird which is always an excellent reason to make anything—if only to keep people guessing about your mad scientist cooking skills…

Adding this recipe to my weekly rotation was easy since we have roast chicken at least once a week. My only complaint is that you can only make one chicken at a time (unless you have two bundt pans). I like to use the second chicken as the base for some other meal later in the week. I know, first world problems!

Feel free to get wacky with the ingredients and the rub for the chicken. I left the carrots and onion out and went with all potatoes and then mixed a spicy dry rub with the olive oil and rubbed all over the chicken. That made for some tasty taters…

Have fun with this one!

Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken
Adapted from Delish

Ingredients
3 cloves garlic
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, quartered
1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
2 large bunches of fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 lb chicken (gizzards removed)
1 lemon, sliced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper Read more…

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and ParsnipsRainy Days and Mondays…

When the weather is as rainy as it has been the last week, I look to the things that warm me up. Usually, it’s something slow roasted or slow cooked in the crock pot. It could be pot roast or it could be a turkey breast but whatever the ingredients, it is a bowl full of warmth and comfort.

Last Sunday, while we contemplated lining the animals up two by two, I threw some beef chuck in the crock pot and made some tasty beef stew. And, it was the perfect answer to the wind and rain, especially served with warm crusty bread to sop it all up. Yum.

There is a multitude of recipes for beef stew you just have to decide which one is your favorite. That’s the hard part for me. Sometimes I want straight up stew with all that beef flavor. (Like my Batchelor Beef Stew.) Other times I like French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips and some red wine. And then there are the times when dark beer and onions make a great combo too. (Check out my Beef and Guinness Stew.) Depends on my mood…

So, this is the one I made this weekend. If you wish, it is easily done in the slow cooker. Just follow these directions. But instead of cooking in the Dutch oven, you put it all in a large crock pot on low for about 8 hours, or until the beef is falling apart tender.

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips
Serves 6 Read more…

Chicken with Tarragon and Mustard

Chicken with Tarragon and MustardJanuary, the good and the bad.
Well, we made it. We survived the holidays. Now it’s back to normal life—which is in some ways good and some ways bad.

I don’t think I could have kept up with the eating and drinking (at least not the way I was doing it), so to be back to normal is good. However, there is the post-holiday let down. The excitement, the parties and good cheer are gone. It’s just the daily routine. It’s kinda boring.

January can also be what I call the food doldrums. The cold winter months can be less than exciting ingredient wise. Sure there are plenty of good soups to battle the cold air and rain, but I get bored with that after a while. Yes, you can always throw together a roast dinner but again, meh. The produce offerings are tasty but limited. This is the time of year to get creative with your dried beans but even then, for me, there is just not that much excitement. On top of all that is the need to lighten things up and eat better…

January is definitely when my slow cooker gets the most use, mainly because I am worn out from all of the holiday cooking. So, I go looking for new ideas for the slow cooker. A few years ago I stumbled on a series of slow cooker cookbooks that are not the usual pot roast or pork shoulder. Each book is devoted to a particular cuisine. There is the French version, the Italian, the Mexican, Mediterranean and even the Indian.

I have tried recipes from them all, but I tend to reach for The French Slow Cooker the most. One of my favorite recipes is Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard and Cream because it’s uncomplicated and tres French. The original recipe calls for heavy cream (and it is good that way), but I usually lighten it up with 2% milk instead. And, just be aware that the sauce won’t be as rich, which is good…and bad.

Chicken with Tarragon and Mustard
Adapted from The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
Serve 4 to 6
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