Braised Lamb Chops & Asparagus Risotto

I’ve classified this under “Danielle’s Favorite Meals.”

There’s really not much to say about this dish: it was amazing, and it’s definitely a pairing I want to store in my virtual cookbook and bring out when I want to woo someone or prove to people that I am sophisticated…

Once in a rare while I will come up with an original “recipe” (i.e. I’ll throw whatever I have in the fridge together in a makeshift dinner), but usually I steal other people’s tested recipes for my kitchen. Sometimes they are fantastic, others are… well, not so fantastic. That’s where this blog comes in. I want to be able to remember the good ones and let the other failed recipes fade away like a bad trip to Souplantation.

In this case, both the balsamic reduction and risotto were recipes I found online, and both turned out amazing. I’ve just copied and pasted them here- don’t judge me. I’m way too tired and behind in posts to type out these recipe and  add my personalized notes to them, and since I didn’t change much of anything in either one, there’s no need to.

Lamb & Balsamic Reduction a la All Recipes:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 lamb chops (3/4 inch thick)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

  1. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the rosemary, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture onto the lamb chops on both sides. Place them on a plate, cover and set aside for 15 minutes to absorb the flavors.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place lamb chops in the skillet, and cook for about 3 1/2 minutes per side for medium rare, or continue to cook to your desired doneness. Remove from the skillet, and keep warm on a serving platter.
  3. Add shallots to the skillet, and cook for a few minutes, just until browned. Stir in vinegar, scraping any bits of lamb from the bottom of the skillet, then stir in the chicken broth. Continue to cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. If you don’t, the sauce will be runny and not good. Remove from heat, and stir in the butter. Pour over the lamb chops, and serve.

Asparagus Risotto a la New York Times

Adapted from Mario Batali

Time: 45 minutes

1 pound asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.

2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.

4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

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crème de la crème brûlée

I decided to make crème brûlée today, despite my better judgment. It’s not that it’s a horrible dessert for you, aside from the crippling cholesterol of 8 egg yolks, 3 cups of heavy cream and a cup of sugar… Back in the day I used to make crème brûlées for staff at my old high school, charging them $50 for a platter. I used to get a lot of raves over my crème brûlée, but not having made it in two years I wondered if I still could produce a decadent batch. Back then I used to use The Joy of Cooking recipe, but since I couldn’t find my good ol’ JOC I used Parisian chef Paule Caillat‘s recipe, sans real vanilla bean because TJ’s didn’t have it. You need 7 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, brown and white sugar for the sugar coat.

The endeavor was in short, sloppy.  I am a REALLY messy and impatient cook, which is something that must change because it makes the process chaotic and difficult. My small kitchen was filled with a day’s worth of dishes and all the pans and ramekins I needed were dirty. Odd papers, books and groceries cluttered the island, and stains from last-night’s pasta dish still clung to the counters. I should have prepped like real chefs do, but instead I just started separating egg yolks like crazy. I even forgot to cover the separated egg whites and they fell over in the fridge. It was a mess.

Crème brûlée is really simple though it has a lot of steps. People get intimated because it has three accents and is often listed in overpriced restaurants. In short:

1. Separate egg yolks from egg whites and save egg whites for a healthy scramble the next day.
2. Beat the yolks with sugar.
3. Heat up the cream with vanilla in a large pot until hot, but don’t let it boil. Pour the cream carefully and gradually into the egg mixture and whisk it together.
4. Let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour t let the flavors fuse together.
5. Put into a water bath of hot water.
6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350. It should be firm around the edges, but jiggly in the middle.
7. Let stand at room temp. for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours until cold and firm (this dish is best cold- not lukewarm, in my opinion)
8. When ready to serve, sprinkle with a combo. of brown sugar and granulated sugar and then place in the broiler for one or two minutes, close to the heat or flame. Alternatively, you can torch it with one of these.
9. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to cool off.

I am about to undo three miles of walking and a group yoga session from this morning, but it’s totally worth it.


A cookie is worth a thousand… calories?

I’ve finally mastered the art of the chocolate chip cookie after countless unreliable, burnt batches these past few months. I always thought that a perfectly crafted cookie was the result of finely measured ingredients and… luck. I never knew how to get consistently delicious, evenly-baked cookies. Well I’ve learned the secret, and it only cost $21 at Target: an AirBake sheet and an oven thermometer.

My Dad was the first one to suggest that I buy an oven thermometer. I guess I’m naive; when the oven said it was cooking at 350, I assumed it was actually cooking at 350. So I tested the oven at 350, and I came back and it was actually at 450! I was probably a little too excited about the discovery. (We now realize that we’ve been scorching our pizzas at a whopping 575 degrees each time… no wonder the fire alarm used to go off every time we made pizza…)

The AirBake sheet is AMAZING. The cookies are evenly baked and not burnt on the bottom. Everything I could ever hope for.

Here’s what I did to make an incredible cookie, tested three times for quality control:

The recipe is stolen from here.

1 cup butter (room temp.)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar packed down
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla (I use real vanilla- none of this fake imitation stuff)
2 1/2 cups flour (modified from 3 cups)
1 tsp baking soda mixed in 2 tsp of hot water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (USE AN OVEN THERMOMETER!)

2. Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Add the water with the baking soda along with the salt. Stir in flour (do not over-mix) and fold in the chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop a tablespoon amount on the pan (I greased the AirBake pan).
3. Bake for 15 minutes (check it often, but try not to open the oven because it’ll cause the temp. to drop)
4. Eat and/or share them with others.

PS: I’ve had three cookies while writing this entry.

Here’s a hilarious video to round-off the cookie segment. Notice how uncomfortable Martha is… LOVE IT!


“You know what? Me have no idea what you talking about.”

Phase 1: Day 2

Artificial sweeteners= digestive hell.

But at least I resisted Monica’s double chocolate dulce de leche cake and lots of pizza at Christian’s birthday party today.   I ate about two pounds of veggies and guacamole.  I’m too tired to post my food intake today, so instead it’s Recipe Time with Danielle at Nummy Nums.

Before my diet I made delectable 6 layer “Dream Bars” for a potluck.  They came out really, really rich but were a hit.  I’m a messy cook though– I literally thought I was retarded at one point because I kept opening up the packages of chips and graham crackers and each time they would fly across the room everywhere.  This happened about 5 times total.

Heat up one stick of butter in a large 9×13 baking tray.  Once melted, top with 1 ½ cups of graham crackers.  Add a bag of chocolate chips, a bag of butterscotch (or any other type of melt-able chips) and 1 ½ cups of sweetened coconut.  Then drizzle one can of condensed milk over it and bake for about 20 minutes on 350 or so.  Enjoy the heart attack and indigestion.

On a more healthier note, last night I made myself a delicious turkey “burger” topped with onions, tomatoes and Goddess dressing along with some grilled, seasoned turkey-wrapped asparagus.  I actually really, really liked asparagus.

God bless the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine.  This whole meal took about 15 minutes.