cooking (andante)
January 21, 2006

I had big plans for today. I was going to polish off phase one of this website and tell you about it. I got up this morning really excited about it. Took a shower, got a cup of coffee, fed the cat.

No Inernet access. (Pirated wifi, nothing I can do about it.)

Well, now what am I going to do today? Cook? I've been so intent on teaching myself to build a website, snacking on almonds and pickles, that the thought seems peculiar. But it's been cold again, and I've been thinking of my roommate's slow cooker. The more I mull it over, though, the more I realize how slow cooking is not going to keep me entertained all afternoon. The point of the slow cooker is to throw some things in a pot and then be able to relax until it's done. Well, I've never been very good at relaxing. I decide I want to cook andante, as opposed to largo.

Mom made Lamb Shanks osso buco–style last weekend, so I dig up that recipe from my Bon Appétit archives and head to the grocery store, where I find that I'm just not in sync with the butcher. More ground lamb than you could ever want, but no lamb shanks. I buy some very meaty stew meat that's still in big chunks on the bone and hope for the best.

This recipe cooks about two and a half hours, both on the stove and in the oven, but I lower the oven temperature and make it last about three and a half (I want some semblance of the slow-cooked meal, and Brenton says you should cook lamb all day). The meat that stays attached to the bone is wonderfully tender; the meat that has fallen off is a litte tougher, so I think lamb shanks are probably the way to go (although I may have struggled with browning the shanks without a skillet at least one size larger). The "stew" boils down to a very intense sauce and really needs your carb of choice to sit on. (When I ate this alone as stew for lunch at work, the sauce was really too strong to eat by the spoonful.)

Bon Appétit recommends this over potatoes or pasta. Mom's still anti-carb, so she put hers over whipped cauliflower and swears the cauliflower soaked up the flavors better than any real carb. Since culinary trendiness has finally caught up with my Southern heritage, I decide to eat my lamb over grits. (I overcook them so they stand up by themselves and are really like polenta.)

The richness of the sauce is cut by lemon, so I throw lemon juice, mustard and olive oil together over Bibb lettuce. It seems like I ought to be sampling another Rioja, but I already have the white wine from the recipe open, a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, so I drink that. I tend to think of both sauvignon blanc and Bibb lettuce as grassy, sometimes harshly so, but both are actually perfect with this dish as richness-reducers.

So the day's okay after all. I can fiddle with my stew on and off all day, and Tracy even manages to get in a slow-cooker casserole while the lamb is in the oven.

It's 8:30 pm and I haven't checked my email in 36 hours. -->