A spot of winter cooking

Part of my resolve for the year 2010 is to cook more, now that I’ve moved back to Chicago. And I have been, sort of. Simple stuff though, nothing adventurous, for the most part. Noodles with fishballs, dumplings, minced meat. I love my noodles.

But since we have some time this weekend (a very rare long weekend when I am actually in the city), we thought why not try to spice things up a little? Besides, I gathered these recipes from Food and Wine, so naturally they have great pairing suggestions.

Caramelized Onion and Toasted Bread Soup
Total; 50 min

2 slices of white sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch squares
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 large onions, thinly sliced
1 cup water
2 cups whole milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/8 cup fresh cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread squares on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until golden
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, for about 5 minutes. reduce the heat to moderately low and cook uncovered until the onions are deeply golden, 30 minutes. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water a few times during cooking to deglaze the pan.
3. Add the toasted bread, the milk, and water to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. simmer over very low heat just until the bread is very soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
4. Transfer the soup to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and pour into bowls. Garnish with the fresh cream.

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks
Active: 40 min, Total: 2 hour 40 min

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 1-pound lamb shanks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 garlic gloves, peeled
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
Half a bottle of dry red wine
1/2 cup water
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and brown them on 3 sides over moderately high heat, about 4 minutes on per side. Add the garlic, carrots, red wine, and boil for 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns. Cover the casserole tightly and transfer to the oven. Braise the lamb shanks, turning once, for about 11/2 hours, or until very tender.

2. Transfer the lamb shanks to an oven-proof serving dish. Using a fine sieve, strain the braising liquid into a medium saucepan, pressing on the solids. Boil the braising liquid over high heat until reduced to 11/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and pour about 1/2 cup over the lamb shank; keep the remaining sauce warm. Cover the lamb shanks with foil and reheat in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve the lamb shanks with the remaining sauce.

Serve with maple-glazed root vegetables.

Goes well with an intense, spicy Syrah.

Well, check here for updates if we actually go through with the plan; it is a lot of work, and we don’t even have the pans and casseroles needed yet. Heh.

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