Garlic Braised Lamb Shanks with Sweet Bell Peppers

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Rich, mellow, saucy, and supremely satisfying, this dish of braised lamb shanks make an impressive and generous meal.If you like, remove the meat from the bones to serve an extra person or two. The topping of sauteed sweet bell peppers adds a bright tangy, fresh flavor and color to each serving. The lamb can be braised a day ahead, making the meat extra tender and flavorful. Accompany with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes for a complete meal.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 to 6 lamb shanks
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
12 unpeeled garlic cloves
24 peeled garlic cloves (from 4 heads), divided
6 fresh bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 medium-size orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300°F.

Season the lamb with salt and black pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium until foamy. Add 3 shanks, all of the unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer browned shanks, unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to a platter, and set aside. Add remaining 3 shanks to Dutch oven, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over about 15 minutes. Return browned shanks, unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to Dutch oven. Cover and transfer to preheated oven. Cook, flipping shanks every 20 minutes, until very tender, about 2 hours.

Remove lamb shanks, and set aside. Pour chicken stock into Dutch oven, and bring to a boil over high, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven. Remove from heat; use a ladle to skim off fat from surface, and discard. Return stock to a boil over high, skimming surface often and discarding fat, until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Pour stock mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup; discard solids. Skim remaining fat from surface, and discard. Wipe Dutch oven clean; pour strained stock into Dutch oven.

Add peeled garlic cloves to strained stock, and simmer over medium-low until garlic is slightly tender, about 20 minutes. NOTE: The lamb can be cooked up to a day ahead. Refrigerate, covered; reheat before proceeding.

Scatter bell peppers and thyme leaves around lamb, and cook over medium-low, moving peppers around lamb occasionally, until peppers and garlic are tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb shanks to warm serving plates. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, salt, and black pepper to sauce, and stir until creamy. Remove from heat.

To serve, spoon sauce with bell peppers and garlic cloves around lamb shanks.

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Upside Down Blood Orange and Kumquat Pineapple Cake

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Brightened up your winter diet with seasonal citrus fruit season, And nothing has more flair than a blood orange. The sweet, sour, tangy and unbelievably bright blood orange is bursting with juicy flavor that is reminiscent of an orange, tangerine and lemon, all they while drenched in its own crimson uniqueness. This cake definitely lets the orange’s ruby flesh shine. We also kumquats. And the hidden surprise of pineapple to the batter. The result is a festive fruit dessert guaranteed to lift even the worst winter doldrums.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
3 blood oranges, thinly sliced
1 dozen kumquats, thinly sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup  water
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
Zest of one lemon, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).

Liberally spray the cake pan and line the pan with parchment paper.

To make the candied citrus fruits by whisking together the sugar and water in a large sauce pan. Heat on medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Gently add the sliced oranges and kumquats and simmer on low heat for an additional 3 minutes and then remove from the heat.

Layer the cake pan with the slices covering the entire bottom of the pan and gently pour ½ cup of the remaining syrup over the slices.

To make the cake batter, prepare your wet and dry ingredients. In a large bowl,whisk the dry ingredients, the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom together until well combined. in a second bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, the butter, olive oil,eggs and pineapple until combined into a homogeneous mixture, about 2 minutes. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients only until just combine, do not over mix.

Pour the batter into pan over the citrus fruit. Transfer to oven and bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then run a knife along pan’s edges to loosen it; invert onto a platter, remove the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving. Sprinkle with lemon zest, if desired.

 

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Fancy Fried Chicken Livers

I love chicken livers as much as I love oysters and frying them highlights all the best qualities of the common  grocery store staple, and this quick recipe will make you want to cook them regularly because they are so economical. Really, you can season the eggs and flour however you want, just be bold. Sometimes I use Thai Sweet Chile Sauce, and the hotter the sauce the better—the liver can stand up to it. I like to eat them immediately after frying, when the crunchy exterior gives way to a still-juicy center.

Salt is mandatory plus more hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon for lift. Fried chicken livers can be seasoned to almost any taste. You can swap the Old Bay for a combination of roasted sesame seeds and Korean red pepper flakes. Or try sprinkling them with crushed peanuts with a side of fish sauce and lime dressing and shredded cabbage.

Once cooked, fried chicken livers last in the fridge for up to two days, during which time you could simply snack on them cold with a dab of mustard. My favorite way to use leftovers is chopped in a hearty salad of arugula, ranch dressing, and roasted sweet potato, or you can tuck them into a roll with a spicy slaw and some sliced pickles.

Fried Chicken Livers

Photo Credit: TASTE, 2018

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 pint container of chicken livers
1 egg
¼ cup hot sauce, plus additional for serving
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
vegetable, oil for frying
McCormick’s OLD BAY® Seasoning
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions:
Rinse livers in cold water and pat dry with paper towels before trimming them of visible sinew, fat, and areas of green discoloration. Separate large connected lobes, but otherwise try keep the pieces as big as possible.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg with a fork until blended, then add hot sauce and mustard. Gently drop the livers in the egg wash and toss to coat. Let them marinate for up to 10 minutes while you prepare the breading.

To make the breading, mix the flour, cornmeal, and the remaining spices in a shallow pan or plate so you can spread the mixture out. Lay the livers on the seasoned flour and let them sit on one side for at least 2 minutes so the coating bonds well to the egg. Gently turn them over and repeat on the other side.

Heat half an inch of oil in a cast-iron or carbon steel pan. Fry the livers until dark golden brown before flipping, which takes about 2 or 3 minutes depending on the size of the piece. 5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to let them go longer than 5 minutes to insure a  perfectly pink interior, which is what you want. This is how you harness the elegant pâté qualities that are waiting to be unlocked, so keep an eye on the smaller pieces. When the livers are solidly golden brown on both sides, they are done on the inside, Be careful when cooking livers, the liver releases a lot of juice while frying on the first side. I like to wear sunglasses to protect my eyes and then sprinkle a pinch of the dredging flour on the top to absorb the moisture and prevent splattering. Flip the livers and continue to cook until they are uniformly brown, another minute to 2 minutes.

Drain on paper towels. Once the livers are fried, you would be almost negligent not to consider another layer of flavor for the exterior, so lightly dust generously with Old Bay. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce.