Avocado, Mango, and Beef Risotto

Despite me pushing them on her many times before, my wife has recently (finally!) discovered the wonder that is an avocado. Served with simply a dash of salt, its a fantastic thing. Given how many more avocados I’ve suddenly found consumed in our house, it only seemed appropriate that I center a dinner around it. Many ideas came to mind, but it had been awhile since I’d made a risotto, and given how creamy and rich those tend to be, this seemed like a match made in heaven.

Avocado, Mango, and Beef Risotto

The tricky thing with avocados is I think they disappear into a dish very easily, becoming an indistinguishable source of creaminess and I really wanted their unique flavor to be at the forefront. They can also be a bit tricky in that you can’t really cook them. My solution? I began with a lemongrass… click to read more…

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Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank with Apricots

My starting point for this dish was simple: I wanted something kind of middle eastern in flavor, and I wanted lamb. Armed with pomegranate, apricot, and a bunch of spices, I figured I would be off to a great start for something that would be different from the usual dinner. I was thrilled with the results as this was a really tasty, full-bodied, seductively spiced stew, but not at all like how I originally envisioned it.

Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank with Apricots

I was disappointed that, despite using 3 cups of pomegranate juice, the pomegranate flavor was nowhere to be found in the final dish. On the other end of the spectrum, I was also a bit dissatisfied with the apricots–they tasted great, but were too sharp and loud flavor-wise relative to the rest of the stew and seemed out of place. On my next attempt, I would try to incorporate a few other changes: add pomegranate molasses to the stew roughly 20 minutes before… click to read more…

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Chipotle, Cheddar, and Chorizo Corn Chowder

I love when corn is in season. I tend not to cook with it all that much–I usually just grill it by the day and eat it straight off the cob. But after seeing this chipotle corn chowder, I knew I had to do something similar. I originally planned to replicate the recipe as is, but as I started making changes, I found I was tending to add a bit of a South American flare to it, so I ran with it.

Chipotle, Cheddar, and Chorizo Corn Chowder

Now I had no interest in making a soup–I wanted a chowder, and a chowder needs a bit more body to it. So to add a thick, starchy base, I opted for green plantains instead of the usual suspects like roux or potatoes (although I did add a bit of corn meal, but hey, its a corn chowder, so that’s different, right?). Melting cheddar into the soup towards… click to read more…

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The Best Damn Burgers

Whenever I’m entertaining a crowd, I instinctively fall back on burgers. There’s a lot of room to play and people’s expectations always seem low so it’s easy to blow people away. So I thought I’d try something new again, but a little simpler than the burgers I’ve made before. The goal: less “extra” flavors and something incredibly rich and beefy–more of a steakburger.

The Best Damn Burger Ever

This was my excuse to play with my new KitchenAid meat grinder. I started with two separate cuts of beef: chuck (for fattiness–keeps the burger juicy) and ribeye (also fatty, but much more intense beef flavor). You could certainly throw the steak in a food processor, but a real meat grinder won’t turn your meat into texture-free paste. The goal is to nicely emulsify the meat and fat so you have a somewhat… click to read more…

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Pomegranate Glazed Stuffed Leg of Lamb Roast

I love roasts–there’s something homey and comforting but classy about a nice roast. Plus, you get a bunch of food with minimal effort! I especially love roasting a leg of lamb–its simple and an opportunity to really appreciate what lamb has to offer as far as texture and flavor. This is one such dish that really lets you appreciate the unique flavor of lamb.

Pomegranate Glazed Stuffed Leg of Lamb Roast

For this version, I made a simple fig, apricot, and mint stuffing, rolling the leg roast tightly around it. Then, after giving the leg a good sear, the roast is basted with pomegranate juice to yield a delicious, tacky glaze. The tartness of the glaze is a great foil to the surprisingly complex, sweet stuffing. Plus, it just looks plain sexy.

The only downer was that the drippings from the roast weren’t suitable for sauce-making (the pomegranate juice takes on a burnt taste).

  • ~4.5

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Smoked Ham, Asparagus, Peas, and Swiss Chard Paella

Like I’ve said before, a strongly flavored stock is key to a good paella. For this one, I chose to go very porky and made a strong pork and garlic stock, accentuated with orange and saffron. Really, I just had pork on my mind and so it was bound to show up somewhere. With a strong porky backbone, I decided to let spring-time produce (asparagus, peas, Swiss chard) shine. Since I was smitten with this general flavor combo in the past, I thought I’d revisit it in paella form.

Smoked Ham, Asparagus, Peas, and Swiss Chard Paella

The flavor was incredibly rich and both the pork stock and smoked ham gave the rice an unctuous quality. In contrast, the more sharply and brightly flavored, crisp asparagus, peas, and swiss chard gave a wonderfully fuller flavor profile that kept this feeling light and springy, all… click to read more…

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