I wrote a version of this book which was published by Simon and Schuster in the 80s. It is a small, basic inventory of old standards that made a great gift for a novice cook. Not as comprehensive as the biggies like Joy of Cooking, it gives just enough help to get a cook inexperienced in old-fashioned American cooking started. It also garnered me my most long-lasting fan in Lou Carmona far away in Hawaii. He keeps encouraging me to rewrite and publish, but I’ve yet to do so. And, it is the one book of mine that is still used most frequently by friends and family. Here are a couple of recipes that I think you all might enjoy.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Green Olives
In the late 1980s, lamb shanks suddenly became the comfort food of the moment. In the beginning of their resurgence, they were simply braised in a rich, well-seasoned stock but they went on to embrace all sorts of additions to the pot. Lentils, artichoke hearts, baby vegetables and a combination of tiny red pearl onions and heirloom potatoes were just of few of the newcomers. This really is a basic recipe to which the cook can add almost any ingredient of choice.
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 whole lamb shanks
1 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chopped leeks, white part only
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups homemade unsalted, defatted chicken stock or canned chicken broth
4 cups chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes with their juices
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup green olives, pitted
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Toss the lamb shanks with the flour and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Heat the seasoned shanks and sear, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned. You will probably have to do this in batches. Using tongs, lift the browned lamb shanks from the pan and set aside on a platter.
4. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the carrot and celery and continue sautéing for another 4 minutes.
5. Add the red wine and raise the heat. Bring to a boil and boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to release all of the brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan, for about 5 minutes or until the wine has begun to evaporate.
6. Stir in the chicken stock and again bring to a boil.
7. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, basil and parsley and once again bring to a boil.
8. Return the lamb shanks to the pan. Taste and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper. Cover and place in the preheated oven and bake, uncovering and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Uncover and add the olives and continue to bake for about another hour or until the meat is almost falling off of the bone.
9. Remove from the oven and serve over mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or creamy polenta.
NOTE: Lamb shanks may be stored, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days or tightly sealed and frozen for up to 3 months.
This is a basic diner-style potato dish that calls out for a personal touch. You can cube or slice the potatoes – start with raw or cooked – use butter or any oil – add bell or chile peppers – add herbs or spices – or whatever strikes your fancy. They are great on the breakfast table as well as a side dish for grilled or roasted meat or poultry.
6 large all-purpose potatoes (see Note)
3 tablespoons corn or olive oil, clarified butter or bacon fat
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
¼ teaspoon paprika
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Peel the potatoes and, as you peel, place the peeled potatoes in a bowl of cool water to cover to prevent them from discoloring.
2. Cut the potatoes into small cubes – no more than ½-inch – and place in a bowl of ice water. Let stand for 30 minutes; then, drain well and pat totally dry.
3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 3 minutes or just until soft. Add the potatoes and stir to blend into the onions. Cover, lower the heat and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes begin to take on color.
4. Remove the cover and season with paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to fry, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until golden-brown and crispy. Serve immediately.
Note: Allow one medium to large potato per person and, if you wish, an extra one or two thrown in for those who might want seconds. The exception to this rule is for Baked Potatoes when only 1 large Idaho per person will do the trick and new potatoes where the per person portion depends upon the size of the potatoes. For tiny potatoes, allow at least 3 per person, always with a few extras for seconds.