Thomas Keller of the “World Famous” French Laundry wrote an article in the Los Angeles Times today about the simple, perfect omelet. Don’t read it! Not that Mr. Keller has not mastered the bistro art of the classic french egg dish – on the contrary. The problem is that professional chefs often miss the whole joy of cooking for the rest of us. Granted, the headline of the article was “Master Class” so I guess anyone just starting out should know to skip it. But all last week I spent writing about and presenting simple recipes with the emphasis on simple to prepare but delicious to eat. This is the key to cooking. After a long day of work or play, the last thing that you want to do is stand in the kitchen and be frustrated and give up because your omelet did not come out picture perfect.
Ironically, I learned to cook a perfect omelet from Sally Schmidt, former owner of the French Laundry. You want to know the most important thing to know about cooking an omelet (which was nowhere in Mr. Keller’s article): if you screw it up then scramble. I cannot tell you how many times I set out to make an omelet for one of my kids and they enjoyed a tasty plate of scrambled eggs instead. BFD! Oh, and the omelet that I got to make with Sally was the best I had ever tasted, and it was certainly not because of my technique. It was because the eggs came from the chickens just outside her kitchen door. Simple is simple, chef.
Here is a wonderful and simple to prepare meal that will impress your significant other.
- 2 Large Lamb Shanks
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 2 Large Carrots, chopped
- 1 Fennel Bulb, chopped
- 5-6 Small Potatoes, cut in half (to the same size)
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Cup Red Wine
- 1 Cups Chicken Broth (or water)
- Mint and/or Rosemary
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Lemon
- Olive Oil
- Dutch Oven or Ovenproof Casserole Dish with Lid
- Chef’s Knife
- Pre heat the oven to 350.
- Squeeze the lemon over the shanks, then salt and pepper and let sit for a few minutes. (Note: Make sure you call ahead for the shanks. Not all stores have them all of the time.)
- Chop the vegetables. You can add any other root vegetables that you have. Parsnips would be great.
- On the stove top, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the dutch oven. If you don’t have a dutch oven you might look for one on sale. The massive cast iron vessel cooks the meat really well and will last for years.
- Add the shanks and let them brown on all sides.
- Remove the shanks to a plate.
- Deglaze the pan with a little wine.
- Add a bit more oil and a pat of butter, scrape the left over shanks’ brown bits off the bottom.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté. This is a wonderful smell, btw.
- When the onions are translucent add the other vegetables.
- Salt and Pepper and sauté for a few minutes..
- Place the shanks back on top and add the rest of the wine and other liquid to cover.
- Spoon a few of the vegetables over top.
- Add a few springs of rosemary or other herbs and the bay leaf.
- Put the cover on and place in the oven. Be careful. It’s hot!
- Let this cook for about 3 hours. The meat should be falling off of the bone when they are done.