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Wolfert, "Slow Mediterranean Kitchen"


MatthewB
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I've been slowly cooking my way through this book since I got it as a hannukah gift.  We got some gorgeous asparagus last week from our wonderful CSA, Full Belly Farm, and made the pan-grilled asparagus and oyster mushrooms with pancetta/garlic puree.

First of all, lightly charring the asparagus on a hot iron skillet gave it a delicious, smoky, grilled taste.  As an apartment resident with no outdoor space, this is a great "grilling" technique to have in the arsenal.  The finished dish was delicious -- the pancetta/garlic puree gave the mushrooms an incredibly rich, unctous quality.

<snip>

... I'm planning on making the fall-apart lamb shanks for my mom's birthday next week (she appreciates great food and loves lamb, but is too intimidated to cook it herself).  The recipe recommends in a 7-quart enameled cast iron casserole.  I have access to two 5 1/2 qt. LC french ovens, but nothing bigger.  Would it work to put half the lamb in each casserole and braise them side by side?

Also, the recipe serves six, but there are only three of us.  Perhaps I could halve the recipe?  I know that can often have mixed results for more involved, complex, multi-part recipes like this one.

Any advice?

Thanks for that recipe recommendation and comment. That sounds really good.

I'm not sure you need to worry about splitting the braise between two 5 1/2 qt LC's rather than the recommended 7 qt LC. I suppose you could do that, but you'd have considerably less braising liquid in each pot than you would have in the one larger pot (proportions wouldn't be the same). Without having compared a 5-1/2 qt vs. a 7 qt side by side, I think they're similar enough in size that you could probably throw everything into one pot and get good results, unless you ended up overfilling the pot.

I would be inclined not to do halve the recipe. I think you'd have a distinct adverse result on the recipe: too few leftovers. :biggrin: Otherwise I think it would be okay.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I made a wonderful tabbouleh-type dish last night using my preserved lemons. What a great little flavor hit they added, mixed with fresh-from-my-garden parsley, lime mint, and chives. I'm really glad to have made them while the Meyers were still around.

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I would be inclined not to do halve the recipe.  I think you'd have a distinct adverse result on the recipe:  too few leftovers.  :biggrin:  Otherwise I think it would be okay.

That would be an adverse result. What was I thinking?

I'll try it in the 5 1/2 quart LC. My main worry is that with the same amount of meat and liquid in a smaller pot, the braising liquid would be too high. Am I right to guess that I don't want liquid more than halfway up the meat?

Edited to add: Can anyone recommend a good side dish/salad/accompaniment from the slow med book to go with the lamb shanks? Something that requires minimal last-minute preparation would be great.

Edited by Jesse A (log)
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I would be inclined not to do halve the recipe.  I think you'd have a distinct adverse result on the recipe:  too few leftovers.   :biggrin:  Otherwise I think it would be okay.

That would be an adverse result. What was I thinking?

I'll try it in the 5 1/2 quart LC. My main worry is that with the same amount of meat and liquid in a smaller pot, the braising liquid would be too high. Am I right to guess that I don't want liquid more than halfway up the meat?

Edited to add: Can anyone recommend a good side dish/salad/accompaniment from the slow med book to go with the lamb shanks? Something that requires minimal last-minute preparation would be great.

In general, you're right about limiting the amount of liquid in the braise so that the meat isn't covered. That might also be a factor in the pot size: if you can't put the meat in a single layer, then you need to split the meat between 2 pots, and split the liquid accordingly. How critical that is for something like this, where you're cooking it low and slow, and separating it, and then rewarming it, I really don't know.

As to the side dishes with minimal last-minute fuss: there are so many great-looking sides in this book that it's hard to pick. I'd lean toward the slow-roasted stuffed tomatoes, the asparagus baked in parchment, the melt-in-your-mouth green beans, or the leeks braised in olive oil. Or a gratin. Not much help in selections, am I? :laugh:

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Sorry to be following up on myself, but I want to give a report on the melt-in-your-mouth green beans. I made them yesterday. They really didn't look like much - looked remarkably like the green beans my grandmother made for holiday feasts, in fact, but without the bacon and with a bit more green color still. (My grandmother's holiday beans, by the way, broke every rule in the book - thoroughly deflated, army drab in color, but oh, they were tender and tasty and wonderful.) This dish is very easy to make, by the way; the hardest part is trimming the beans and chopping the onion. The second hardest part is remembering that it's there in the crock pot, since you just walk away and let it do its thing.

The dish may not look remarkable but the flavor is excellent. The dash of lemon for flavor is necessary. Today I'm using a vinaigrette whose chief acid constituent is lemon juice, and I'm having a mighty fine lunch of those beans. They're tender and flavorful, and the little touch of oil (present even without the vinaigrette) gives that extra little touch of...well, unctuous quality (sorry for being obvious) that really makes the dish.

I will make these again. Next time, I will not forget that they're in the slow cooker until dinner is over. :blush: Well, they're supposed to mellow overnight anyway. :laugh:

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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  • 1 month later...

This is the Salmon Poached in Olive Oil, made with Copper River Sockeye.

gallery_16307_1993_41333.jpg

The texture is utterly amazing, sous-videlike in its melting tenderness. It looks like sashimi, but it's cooked through, and hauntingly sweet. There are some home-cured tasso lardons on the salad, but the salmon totally outshines them, and that's saying a lot. That's freekeh it's resting on, and it's a nice complement.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've become a huge fan of Paula Wolfert's books over the past year, and I just received this one for my birthday. I'm really excited to make something from it, though many of the meat dishes aren't really great for summer time. I think I'm going to make one of the eggplant dips for the 4th, and I was wondering if anyone had a preference. I was leaning toward the one with the walnuts simply to avoid frying, but if the one with the tomatoes is vastly superior I will make it. The one thing that has me puzzled so far is the recipe for the club steak. It looks fabulous, but I have no idea what a club steak is. Can anyone enlighten me? I wish I had the book in front of me now so I could refer to page numbers, but perhaps people who are familiar with the book will know what I'm talking about.

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I made the zucchini stuffed with lamb and toasted chickpeas today.

It was fabulous. My zucchini (delivered to me yesterday, straight from my uncle's vegetable garden) were quite large, so I halved them before hollowing them out.

The spice mixture used to flavor the meat (cloves, cardamom, coriander, allspice, turmeric, nutmeg and cinnamon) is heavenly. The chickpeas add a lovely crunchy nutty-ness to the filling. And the joghurt with tahini, I had forgotten how good that is, I could eat that straight from the bowl (in fact, I did).

gallery_21505_2929_29699.jpg

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Lovely dish Chufi. I love much smaller zucchini for stuffing.

I never knew what club steak was either, Wikipedia seems to think it is the same as Delmonico steak and defines it as "The original Delmonico steak, is considered to be a boneless top sirloin that is almost 2 inches thick with delicate marbling". So a good sirloin should do.

Hope this helps

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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So I wound up making the eggplant jam with tomatoes to take to a party on the 4th. The dish turned out great, but I found the recipe very confusing. It says to start a day in advance, but then a day never elapses. I read the recipe over and over--I felt sure I was missing something. I soaked the eggplant for 30-45 mins as the recipe stated, and then proceeded to fry the eggplant slices and finish the dish. Also, the recipe does not give any approximate times for how long the final simmering takes. I think I made the whole thing in 1.5 hours including soaking time. It tasted great, but I have no idea what the dish is supposed to taste like. Perhaps I mutilated it. Anyone know?

BTW, thanks for the tip on the club steak FoodMan.

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It is the sort of dish that just gets better when made a day in advance.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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gallery_16307_1993_12069.jpg

This is the Tunisian Poached Fish with Olives, Preserved Lemons, and Capers. It was good, although a bit delicate for my taste. I didn't make the le tabil spice, just using the coriander, and I used sturgeon, which is a very subtle fish, so those might be the reasons it wasn't my favorite dish ever. However, it was gorgeous, and tasty, served with herbed salt-roasted potatoes.

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gallery_16307_1993_12069.jpg

This is the Tunisian Poached Fish with Olives, Preserved Lemons, and Capers.  It was good, although a bit delicate for my taste.  I didn't make the le tabil spice, just using the coriander, and I used sturgeon, which is a very subtle fish, so those might be the reasons it wasn't my favorite dish ever.  However, it was gorgeous, and tasty, served with herbed salt-roasted potatoes.

Great dish and photo. I like sturgeon and this is my favourite

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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I'm all set to make the pork coddled in olive oil for Sunday dinner this week. However, I need to increase the recipe as I'm having 12 people.... Should I put two layers of pork in the le creuset or should I make two separate batches in two pots so they stay in one layer in the oil?

I guess the essential question is... is it essential to the success of the recipe that the pork is in one layer, or is it just for saving the amount of oil used?

Abra, your coddled pork looks much more elegant than mine. Great idea to put the aragula on the bottom instead of on top, that makes all the difference to the presentation I think!

What did you do with the leftover oil? Coddled some other stuff?

coddledpork.jpg

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  • 3 months later...

I made the slow-cooked quinces yesterday. They were amazing. I put some of the peel and cores on top of the quinces (quartered instead of halved because I had already quartered them before I had read the recipe). I also put a chopped apple in, as suggested in the note.

They were in a low oven for about 4 hours, instead of the suggested 5-7 hours, because I needed the oven (on a higher temp) for something else, but they were so meltingly tender and gorgeously red that I don't see how a couple of more hours could have improved them.

This is the best way of cooking quinces I have ever used. Isn't it amazing how those drab looking pieces of fruit turn from this

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to this

gallery_21505_2929_18675.jpg

in a couple of hours? No foodcolouring, no Photoshopping :biggrin:

gallery_21505_2929_3531.jpg

I served them sprinkled with pistachios for color contrast, with Madeleines from Dax from Wolfert's Cooking of Southwest France, and honeyed creme fraiche.

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  • 1 month later...

I made the Pork Stew with prunes and Onions served over the Oven baked Polenta. The flavor was amazing, however I was a little surprised and confused by the browning steps. I did not understand why the pork is cooked with the lid on at first as this rendered a lot of liquid that then had to be cooked off in the next step in order to brown it. As you can see by my photo I gave up on browning it as I ran out of time. I would have been fine on time if I did not need to go out of for polenta as the pairing sounded so good. :hmmm: I also misjudged the timing a little.

Even my husband liked the polenta, it went perfectly with the stew. I loved this cooking method for the polenta. Next time I may skip the step with the lid on and just brown the meat.

Robin

gallery_14582_3987_722299.jpg

edited for clarity

Edited by RobinKateB (log)
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I hope this helps clear up the 'confusion' you experienced with the recipe.

The method used to brown the meat in this recipe is a very popular one in some parts of the Mediterranean when dealing with fatty chunks of pork or lamb.

First, the meat steams over high heat and the fat and some of the juices run out

Second, the cover is removed and the meat "re-absorbs" the juices and browns in the extruded fat over high heat.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Thanks so much for helping me understand the method. Now that I know the reasoning I will just allow more time the next time I make it. There will definitely be a next time. As expected the flavor was even better when I ate the leftovers the next night. Of course being the experimental cook that I am I will try both ways. I am also going to make my pinches of spice larger.

Robin

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a seemingly small item to rave about, but I made the Oven Baked Polenta for the first time last night, and it was amazingly good. Perfectly smooth and fluffy, it almost upstaged the beef ragout. I had my doubts after checking its progress after the first hour, it looked like a mess, but it seemed miraculously to come together at the very end. I don't think I can go back to the stovetop version now, the oven-baked results are so superior.


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  • 1 month later...

I made the fall-apart lambshanks with almond chocolate picada yesterday. I wasn't entirely pleased with them. The braising liquid (after reducing, before adding the picada) tasted very sour. The picada mellowed it out a bit, but not enough, and the endresult was a sauce with a decidedly bitter and sour flavor.

I've gone over the recipe a couple of times and I'm pretty sure I followed it exactly. I used a full-bodied Spanish wine, nothing fancy, but one we think is good enough to drink on it's own.

Here's what I think happened: I simmered the quartered lemon with the rest of the marinade, as stated in the recipe. When I fished out the lemon quarters the next morning, before braising, all that was left was the rind. The flesh had desintegrated into the marinade, so that means that all the flesh (and juice) of a large lemon was in the marinade. I'm guessing that's what made it sour. Any other ideas? Who has made these and what did you think?

I also made the potato and cabbagegratin, which was delicious! (and it's sweet mellow flavor went very well with the lamb)

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Chufi, I've never made that recipe but I have, long since, quit simmering or cooking fresh lemons with their rinds for any time. I've had too many fish recipes go bitter that way. I think there may be some lemon varieties whose rinds break down unpleasantly when cooked. (I haven't researched lemon varieties to know how plausible that theory is, but I know my empirical evidence.) I've had pretty good success with adding lemon slices late in cooking, and I've never had lemon juice go bitter on me, so I'm inclined to blame the peel instead of the flesh of the fruit for the bitterness you describe.

The sour note, on the other hand, might have been from too much lemon flesh (or too long cooking it).

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The lemon is used in the marinade for the lamb shanks, not in the general cooking. In fact, it is discarded while all the other vegetables are reserved.

I think the bitterness is due to the unsweetened cocoa or garlic in the almond-chocolate picada. I am leaning towards the garlic. In winter, you'll often find a green shoot protruding from each clove. It should be removed.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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I'm still inclined to blame my lemon, because the braising liquid was sour and bitter (more sour than bitter though) before adding the picada.

Maybe next time, as an experiment, I might add the lemon quarters to the marinade without simmering them with the rest of the marinade first.

Edited by Chufi (log)
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