Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Osso "Buko" and My 4-Hour Chef Experiments

So I've taken on a challenge to read 100 books this year, which is nothing really extraordinary for me, and to keep track of what I read, which is almost unheard of, because I generally consume books the way I consume potato chips--in unrecorded binges. Can't eat or read just one, and eat and/or read (the two activities not being mutually exclusive, you understand) so fast that I don't remember how much I've read or eaten. In one rather memorable all-day reading binge I read 8 romance novels. Not that I ate much that day, and I don't think I even got out of my pyjamas, but you get the point.

Speed reading classes are something I've never felt I needed.

After reading The 4-Hour Work Week, and trying to read The 4-Hour Body,both by Timothy Ferriss, I reserved The 4-Hour Chef from the library. It being a new book by a very popular author, it took nearly three months for my name to come up to the top of the list. It was worth the wait, if only to finally find a cookbook that understands that a beginning cook doesn't necessarily want a book that tells her to go out and buy thousands of dollars worth of top-of-the-line equipment (can't afford it, and wouldn't spend the money on it if I could), or that uses ingredients she's never heard of (I will try ONE new ingredient once in a blue moon). Especially if the new ingredients are expensive, which they almost always are.

Some reviews on Amazon pan this book because author Timothy Ferriss put a whole section at the beginning discussing meta-learning. And he's undeniably self-centred and somewhat boastful about his many feats of said meta-learning. If you have a linear brain, and you only want to learn how to cook, do yourself a favour and just read the much smaller section on basic domestic cooking. But he says that at the beginning of the book, so no-one really has an excuse to pan the book because they have to wade through a lot of preliminary material before they get to the meat. Personally, my brain is (very) non-linear, and I found the material rather fun to read.

The book has five sections: the aforementioned introduction to meta-learning and domestic cooking, a section called "Wild" on catching, cooking and killing wild foods which I found interesting and informative, although I doubt I'll ever eat crickets, a "Scientific" section, where he goes in to some of the science of food and the lessons are experiments, and a "Pro" section, which will take you from the level of good domestic cooking to the next level.

I've read through the first section, glanced at the last three, and am going to work through the domestic cooking section, recipe by recipe. Monday we had Osso "Buko". The word "Buko" is in quotations and misspelled, I believe, because real Osso Buco is an Italian dish that uses veal shanks, not lamb. Which is fortunate for my family because my ex doesn't like veal, and my daughter won't eat meat unless it's pasture raised, which lamb is. So we had lamb shanks, and I had two willing tasters other than myself.

The recipe calls for cooking in a dutch oven, which I don't have, so I put it in the slow cooker for 8 hours instead. It worked, but next time I make the recipe, I'll use less liquid. There was a lot of juice in the pot when done.

The verdict?

Ease of prep: Very
Cost of ingredients: About $35 for six servings, but that's only because lamb isn't in season right now and I didn't have white cooking wine in my pantry (I do now)
Number of ingredients: 4 + pantry staples
Taste: "All right"

It should be noted that two out of three testers weren't feeling particularly well tonight, so "all right" might actually be a ringing endorsement. That being said, the cost will prevent this from being served on a regular basis at my house, but I wouldn't hesitate to try the recipe again if I got a deal on lamb shanks. It's a good trick to have up my sleeve for a "formerly" hard to cook ingredient that I actually like to eat. Below is the recipe as I actually cooked it. If you want to see the original, you'll have to read the book. :)

Osso "Buko"

6 lamb shanks (the book called for four, but the grocery store had packs of three...)
3 large carrots
2 cans of plum tomatoes (the book calls for a specific kind, which I couldn't get)
white cooking wine
garlic powder, EVOO, salt & pepper

Scrub the carrots and cut off the tops and bottoms. Snap in half and put them in the bottom of the slow cooker. Put the lamb shanks on top. Add the cans of plum tomatoes (next time, I'm only going to add the juice from one can, though) and poke a finger into each tomato to release the juice. Add enough cooking wine to bring the liquid up so that it covers 1/3 of the shanks (I went for half, and as I said, it was too much). Sprinkle 1 or 2 three-fingered pinches of garlic powder over the food (I always go for more garlic than a recipe calls for, and I haven't been disappointed yet, unless it was because there wasn't enough garlic). Drizzle 1 "glug" (about two tablespoonfuls) of EVOO over the lamb, 2 three-fingered pinches of kosher salt, and one three-fingered pinch of pepper, or the equivalent in milled pepper. (I don't know where my pepper mill wandered off to...)

Cover. Cook on low for 8 hours. Put on plates. Eat. Burp. Enjoy.

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