It is not often that I review cookbooks but I have received a few this fall that I feel compelled to share with you. I am an avid cookbook collector. The piles in my dining room are threatening to topple over and the ones in my bedroom keep getting higher and higher. I read them like one reads romance novels, always on the lookout for the outstanding and surprising recipe or the gorgeous photo that will take my breath away.
Nowadays, quite a few cookbooks are not content with just sharing recipes and I, for one, am a great supporter of that trend. Those are my favourite kinds of cookbooks, the ones that delve into the stories behind the products or recipes.
I recently went to the launch of Made in Quebec, Julian Armstrong’s new book, which takes us on a journey through the seasons and picturesque towns of our belle province and regales us with stories of its outstanding artisans, farmers and chefs. Divided into seasonal chapters, each page of this book is to be savoured for its delicious content and outstanding photography. Armstrong weaves a colourful quilt of cheese makers, mushroom foragers, great chefs and farmers, salt cod fishermen, fruit scientists and growers to name but a few. Dozens more are highlighted, all playing an immeasurable role within Quebec’s culinary culture. With her extensive knowledge of Quebecois food, she delves into the history of some of the province’s most iconic eats like poutine and pâté chinois and goes beyond the obvious to unearth delicious tidbits and shed a new outlook on products and dishes that have become part of our everyday lives. I was mesmerized and couldn’t put the book down and I am sure you will be just as fascinated.
I chose this recipe to share with you because it’s a wintery dish that will keep you warm this season and because it’s from David Ferguson, one of Montreal best chefs and because I used to hate lamb shanks when I was a kid and now love them.
Braised lamb shanks with poblano peppers and pinto beans [Serves 4]
Recipe from Made in Quebec: A Culinary Journey by Julian Armstrong 2014, published by HarperCollins Canada. All rights reserved.
Quebec French cuisine “with a Latin accent” is the specialty of Montreal chef David Ferguson, Ontario-raised and a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School. Faithful to French culinary techniques at his midtown bistro, Restaurant Gus, David also adds flavours learned on his cooking sojourns in Mexico and New Mexico.
- 2 large onions
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
- 4 lamb shanks
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 leek, white part only, chopped
- 5 1/2 cups (1.375 L) cold water
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
- 1/2 ancho pepper, rehydrated (see below)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 can (19 ounces/540 mL) beans, preferably pinto or red kidney, drained and rinsed
- 4 Roma tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped, or 2 cups (500 mL) canned Italian tomatoes
- 1 poblano pepper, grilled, peeled, seeded, and cut in strips
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Finely chop 1 of the onions. In a 4-quart (4 L) heavy, stovetop-safe casserole dish with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the oil over medium-high heat and brown lamb on all sides. Remove to a plate. Reduce heat to medium and, in the same casserole dish, sauté carrot, chopped onion, garlic, and leek just until golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add ½ cup (125 mL) of the cold water to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Return lamb to the casserole dish and add 5 cups (1.25 mL) cold water or enough to cover. Add thyme and ancho pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover, transfer to the oven and roast for 1 hour and 45 minutes, until lamb is tender.
- Remove lamb to a plate. Season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper. Discard ancho pepper. Simmer cooking liquid until it is reduced to about 3 cups (750 mL).
- Meanwhile, cut remaining onion in half vertically, then slice finely. in a heavy frying pan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) oil over medium-high heat and cook onion until caramelized.
- Return lamb to casserole dish. Add beans, tomatoes, caramelized onion, and poblano pepper. Reheat mixture and serve on deep, warmed serving plates.
Note: To rehydrate the ancho pepper, cut it in half and roast in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and discard seeds. Place in a small bowl, add boiling water to cover, and soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Made in Quebec
A culinary journey
By Julian Armstrong
Published by HarpersCollins
You can purchase the Made in Quebec book via HarperCollins. It will surely make a great Christmas gift for the food lover on your list.