Braised Lamb Shanks

Its finally cold here in Arizona, it only took till December this year. I was so sick of the heat, and missing winter comfort food. As soon as the temperatures started to drop all I could think about was braised lamb shanks, cooked low and slow for hours. Partially because I wanted to use the oven to heat the house, which doesn't have a good heater. These lamb shanks are super easy to make, and since its a cheaper cut of lamb, very affordable. We always cook ours with root veggies to stretch the dish.

This meal was also served with saffron rice (from a packet, we were trying it to see if it would be good for captain insane-o's mom because she was looking for a good, easy, quick saffron rice) and brussel sprouts cooked with bacon and port wine.

Lamb Shanks:
Ingredients - 2 lamb shanks, carrots, celery root, shallot, garlic, leek, potato (or turnip), salt/pepper to taste, and if you have it lying around...a good sprinkling of herbs de provence. A red wine of some sort, we usually use a Pinot Noir but a Syrah works well too.

Place the lamb shanks in a roasting pan (you can brown them if you want but we were feeling lazy and skipped it) and then pour in the wine till the shanks are at least 3/4 of the way covered.

Next the carrots, celery root, potato and get put in the roasting pan.

Quickly saute the shallot, garlic and leek. They dont have to be cooked till translucent, just enough to start releasing their flavor.

Add the saute'd vegetables into pan, sprinkle with salt/pepper and herbs de provence. Cover and place in the oven at 250-300 for three to four hours.


12 hours in Vegas

This past weekend we were in Vegas for roughly 12 hours, just enough time to go to a wedding. I like to think of it as Vegas on an extremely tight budget. While doing some reading about Las Vegas dining I quickly realized that we would be able to afford very little, but there was one place that caught my eye as tasty and affordable. The Jean-Philippe Patisserie at the Bellagio, which not only served pastries (savory and sweet) but crepes, sandwiches, and gelato. It was more of a shop than a restaurant, with scattered tables around the corner. Neither one of us are decisive so it took a while to pick out a pastry for us to share. I gave up and let him decide since I don't really have much of a sweet tooth anyway. And so the Opera was chosen, full of coffee chocolaty goodness, but to be honest it was a bit underwhelming. So while it wasn't the best dessert I'd ever had, it was definitely the prettiest.


And we're back...

Every Thursday we have friends come over dinner, and this one was no different. With the weather finally starting to get cooler out here in Arizona we decided it was time to make Shepherd's Pie. The recipe that we use is one I found on the BBC's website, which calls for a layer of leeks between the meat and mashed potatoes. It's a small detail that really adds to the overall flavor. As you can see we cooked them and served them in little loaf pans, it was the perfect serving size.

And in case your wondering Shepherd's Pie calls for ground lamb, Cottage Pie is ground beef. We like to use a mix of both lamb and beef, call it a Shepherd's Cottage Pie if you will.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
560g/1¼lb minced beef
1 x 400g/14oz can tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
290ml/10fl oz beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
knob butter
2 leeks, chopped

For the mash topping
4 large King Edward potatoes
splash cream (to taste)
large knob butter (to taste)
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oil in a large lidded pan. Add the onion and carrot and fry over a medium heat for five minutes until soft.
2. Add the minced beef to the pan and fry for a few minutes to brown the mince all over.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, beef stock, bay leaf and thyme to the pan.
4. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. In the meantime, for the mash topping, chop the potatoes into quarters and boil in a pan of boiling salted water for about 10-15 minutes, until tender.
6. When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and mash the potatoes well.
7. Add cream, butter and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
8. After 30 minutes cooking time, taste the meat, and add ketchup and Worcestershire sauce if desired. If the mixture is too wet, cook for a few more minutes to reduce the liquid.
9. In a separate pan, heat a little butter. Add the leeks and fry until softened, but not coloured.
10. Transfer the meat into an ovenproof dish and layer the leeks on top.
11. Arrange spoonfuls of the mash on top of the meat and leeks and use a wet spatula to smooth out the edges. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the potato is crisp and golden-brown around the edges. Serve hot.

/*captains comments: Ok so I didnt follow this recipe exactly. When you start dealing with agricultural products their flavors can very, so you have to taste it and modify. Like tonight the tomatoes were not super acidic so I splashed in some french red wine vinagar. Also if you can tell, this is a brirtish recipe so good luck finding the king's potatoes. HOWEVER if it's possible, go out and try to find real british Lea and Perrins Worcestershire. It is sooooooo much nicer than the american stuff. Flavors are brighter but overall it is milder and more pleasing. Think earl grey vs oolong tea, and is worth at least $10. This recipe is also awesome if you want to double(or tripple) and freeze them in little tins for later dinners on the run!*/


Dont think I've abandoned this blog. I've just been busy and working out how exactly I want this thing to work. I'll be back with recipes and fun within a few days.


Nem Nuong Burgers

These burgers are a variation of the Vietnamese Banh Mi that the Captain and I love so much. We usually make these burgers on a torta roll because we can find them cheaper and fresher than hamburger buns. Then is your standard burger patty, and next is where things get different. Nem Nuong tossed on the grill then sliced, Taiwan Cabbage, pickled Daikon and Carrots, tomato, and finally cilantro. Some of the condiments that usually go onto the burger are: Japanese Mayo, Siracha, Banana Ketchup. We got the recipie for the pickled Daikon and Carrots from Wandering Chopsticks.

The Captain likes pickles on his (as you can see in the picture), but I think he's just weird.


It came from isle 3

sodium much?

ingredients: where's the cock?


Buddhas Hand

Today Captain Insane-o and I went to Magic Garden Nursery in search of a Calamansi tree, a type of Southeast Asian citrus. I received a tip that these trees were available to purchase in Arizona and after a bit of googling I decided I wanted one. I had a very pleasant experience and will be happily going back on Thursday to buy a Calamansi tree, because instead we came home with a Buddha's Hand Tree. I've been fascinated with Buddhas hand since battle citrus on Iron Chef America, the fruit that the tree produces is all pith and peel, it is also very fragrant. The tree has one piece of fruit and if it survives till Fall when it ripens half of it will be turned into Buddhas Hand-cello and the other half will be turned into marmalade by the Captain.


/*Captain Insane-o's comments: In the picture with the fruit, yes those are thorns, very sharp very big thorns. The poor guy who took it to the car for us ended up bleeding all over our brand new terra cotta pot and he's a professional. I look forward to cooking the fruit, but not to picking the fruit.*/

buddah's hand


tini time

Due some unfortunate events this week I decided today was a good day to stop at Plaza Liquors, my favorite local liquor store. I walked out with more than expected, and then as the day unfolded I realized we were heading toward martinis. He threw together three martinis, two variants of apple-tinis one sweet, one dry and a dirty lemon olive martini.

/* Captain Insane-o's comments: For starters these drinks were not wasted they were given to thirsty freeloaders, the recipes are as follows

Dirty lemon,
1 pt(thats part) vodka, 1 pt gin, 1 pt vermouth, 1/2 part brine from lemon stuffed olives, pour the stuff in a glass with ice and stir. strain into a chilled glass

2 pt vodka, 1 pt apple schnapps...
2 pt apple schnapps to 1 pt vodka, pour in a glass with ice, stir, strain (into a chilled glass), and serve

I like to mix by parts with Martini variants as they can be made in pitchers for bulk service.
Also if you shake a drink you make it cloudy, overly cold, and watered down. The chilled glass is the real trick to a good martini, as no one wants to drink 2-3 oz of room temperature booze.*/