Chili-Cinnamon Braised Lamb

After a hectic and seemingly long week, I needed a night in. Last Friday, I was going to send off my friend Scones in proper party style, but Friday was so frustrating, trying to write cover letters and meet deadlines, making several calls, and in the midst of that, that adorable bastard jerk face kitten of ours, Hector, chewed through my iPad cord and my laptop cord. I just didn’t have it in me to go out and be surrounded by loud people drinking. I made dinner at home instead, watched a movie, and went to bed early. Oh, the riveting life I lead.

I decided to make Thai fried chicken and sticky rice again. The chicken came out great, although the batter comes out differently every single time I make this. And this time, to avoid sending my boyfriend into allergic shock, I used the vegan “fish” sauce I made as a replacement. It wasn’t quite the same, but it was still good. I marinated the chicken all day in garlic, oyster sauce, ‘fish’ sauce, ginger and chili, and rice wine. I made a batter with equal parts flour and rice flour, baking powder, a dash of chili and paprika, and water. Dredged the marinated chicken wings in batter, deep fried them in a wok of hot soy oil, and in the meantime, steamed the sticky rice and sauteed diced cucumber with a few dried chilies for a veggie side.

Saturday was another day of class with my wonderful kiddles. We talked about observations and the five senses. They were mostly better behaved then last time, although there were definitely moments I wanted to tear my hair out, and by the end of three hours my voice hurt from talking. Afterwards, I met up with some friends for a late brunch. I had a leisurely Saturday afternoon, working a little on my cover letter and watching a movie, before taking Sawyer out to dinner.

Tavola was recommended to me by a friend and reviews are largely filled with praise. I made reservations, although because the guy had so much trouble with my name he ended up writing nothing down. No matter, they were able to seat us right away. Everyone raves about the cheese. We ordered Parma ham wrapped buffalo mozzarella for an appetizer to share. Everyone was right. It was amazing. Delicious. Melty, fresh, flavorful cheese, crispy Parma, a little bit of tomato based sauce….the cheese was better than anything I’ve had in china, more like I just stepped out of an old nonna’s shop in Little Italy.

Crispy Parma Ham Wrapped Melty Buffalo Mozzarella

We couldn’t settle on one plate each, so we ordered two pastas and a pizza to share. Their main courses looked amazing too, but we felt like the pastas were more their signature dishes. After much deliberation, we narrowed it down to snow crab and crayfish risotto and a parpadelle with eggplant, pancetta and tomato sauce. They were both good, but the risotto was by far the star of the evening. Just the right amount of fresh shellfish flavor, creamy cheesy risotto, topped with a cracked open crayfish and two legs of crab ( the portions are not precisely generous). We ordered a salsiccia pizza, sausage with pepper and zucchini and cheese. Again, amazing. The sauce was perfect, the cheese was amazing, the crust was crispy and the perfect texture. I saved the last piece for breakfast the next morning, but otherwise we ate every bite, and still had room to share the ice cream cake drizzled in chocolate syrup, and I sipped a cup of Lady Grey tea (I haven’t even seen Lady Grey tea anywhere in China, it was amazing.) Although this may have been the most expensive dinner I’ve had in Beijing (Â¥968, including a bottle of very nice pinot noir), compared to American prices, it was about equivalent and totally worth it.

Snow Crab and Crayfish Risotto, Eggplant and Pancetta Parpadelle

All-Dolled-Up Robot and More Importantly, An Amazing Pizza

Came back from teaching on Sunday morning to find Sawyer making us cheese and egg sandwiches for lunch. I love walking into a house with the smell of food being cooked for me. We decided to have a little adventure and went rock climbing at Ole. We found our way there via cab, and although they were having a competition that closed off the bouldering section and part of the wall, had a pretty good time. It’s been about a year since I’ve been, and my forearms hurt after just a few climbs (although I definitely jumped onto way too challenging paths too early).

We went to Sanyuanli market again (known by cab drivers as Xinyuanli). Bought a boatload of stuff to make for dinner. I knew I wanted to make lamb shank but the shanks were kind of small and meatless, so we went ahead and bought a whole leg. It was 80 kuai. I had them saw through the bone and cut it into chunks. I had looked at several different recipes and decided to combine the elements I liked together.

Pre-Assembly Dinner

Braised Lamb
1 lamb leg, or 2-3 shanks
1 cup baby potatoes (or one large potato cut into chunks)
3 ribs celery, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, diced, garlic and ginger minced.
2 carrots and 1 tomato, cut into chunks
1 can tomato paste.
2 sprigs rosemary, 1 heaping tsp chili powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cinnamon, salt and pepper, some cloves

After washing and chopping all the vegetables, I heated some oil in a stockpot, and browned the lamb on all sides.
I removed the lamb from the pot and softened the onion, garlic and ginger. Once softened, removed the veggies with a slotted spoon, and deglazed the pot with some red wine and stock, really scraping up all the browned bits.

Lamb Leg and Baby Potatoes Braising in Chili-Cinnamon, Red Wine and Stock for Two Hours

I put back the lamb and potatoes into the pot and poured in stock and wine until covered. Mixed in the can of tomato paste, then seasoned with salt, fresh ground pepper, the rosemary, and spices. I brought this to a boil, then reduced heat to a simmer and added in the softened vegetables and tomato. I let this simmer for two hours. After two hours, I removed the lamb and vegetables and put them in a big baking dish. I boiled the remaining sauce in the pot until it had reduced and thickened, then poured it over the plated lamb and veggies.

Chili-Cinnamon Braised Lamb, Cheddar Cheese Pureed Cauliflower, and Orzo

In the meantime, I decided to serve it with orzo pasta and pureed cauliflower. I did a quick boil (just about six minutes) on two chopped up heads of cauliflower. Melted about 2-3 Tbs of butter and sauteed chopped up garlic and shallots in it, then mixed it in with the cauliflower florets. I put all of this into a blender, with a little bit of stock to thin it up (milk would also work). Once smooth, I emptied it into a bowl and folded in shredded cheddar, salt and pepper. The braise sauce was flavorful, with a nice complex kick from the cinnamon and chili, and went well with both the cauliflower mash and the orzo, and the lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender. Both Sawyer and our dinner guest were fans, which was great because I made so much we’ve been eating it since then. Living with the boys has really thrown off my sense of portion size.


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