Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cranberry-Bacon Lamb Love

My third installment of '12 Days Of Christmas, Food ~ Wine ~ Fun' is in honor of the jolly man himself, Santa Claus by way of a familiar story, or is it...

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
Pappa in his ‘night shirt, and I in my 'kerchief,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on in the yard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash

To my surprise it was my cell phone
ringing, away on the front lawn
I dashed downstairs and flew out the door
I quickly answered in fear it was my son, who lives here no more...

"Hello Elizabeth", said an unfamiliar voice.

"Hello" I replied groggily. In shock, but listening I suddenly recognized the caller, "Mrs C is that you"? (eighteen years of celebrating Christmas at home with kids will do this to you!)

We talked for quite a few minutes, but as my tootsies were getting rather cold...back inside I ran. Climbing into my warm covers for a nights rest, I couldn't help but think of how my story would unfold.

I have been asked to blog for you know who during the busy holiday season by the 'anonymous' caller. Mrs. C She was kind enough to tell me about this lovely dish she wanted to share. Hearing about my '12 Days of Christmas' post she offered up these words of wisdom. Red is the color of hearts. The symbol of love, and as the preparers of meals, keepers of the kitchen, we bring much love to those in our care through our cooking. So, today I write about unconditional love for our families. This involves writing about one of her, and my own families favorite ingredients, cranberries! 

The 'anonymous' caller continued to explain how our spouses work so hard all year; it is only fair that we fill them with delectable goodies and treats in return. We also benefit ourselves! Have you ever wondered what Santa the boss man in the north eats during the holiday season? How to keep him happy, lean and mean for work; keeping the laughter flowing, and cheeks rosy red? Why of course in her words, one of many secrets, is to stash a few bags of cranberries in the freezer for those blah 'I need something to liven up a dish' days.

How about a little cranberry love for your health? They have a high nutritional value with antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties through fresh and dried alike! During the holidays cranberries are stacked and stored in markets everywhere, so stock up. They freeze perfectly, and can be used anytime up to six months, sometimes even longer if you are using them in dishes like this.

'Anonymous' mentioned her love for kitchen gadgets. She shared that Mr. C  her husband picked up a Tagine on his travels. Funny how it looks just like the one I received years ago, hmmm. Her hubby also demands loves gifts to get used, and not sit in storage. One day while reading many many blogs out there (imagine, she too keeps an eye on us all!) she ran across Marc @ No Recipes post on 'Braised Lamb Shanks in Cranberry' she realized being so busy with her own holiday activities some of those stored cranberries would be a great opportunity to duplicate his recipe.

She went on to explain, not having some of the wonderful seasonings that Marc mentions in the post, and no time to ask any elves delivery drivers to bring some from the market. She made due with what she had, but felt he would not mind if she just threw some olive oil in for prosperity, a splash of Burgundy for spirit (while enjoying a glass for herself!), along with the garlic and cumin. Making a dish of Cranberry-Bacon Lamb Loin Love.

The black cardamon (reminiscent of bacon) mention in his recipe was replaced with hardwood smoked bacon slices, and a using lamb loin over shanks as he had done. Wrapping each piece of lamb loin with a piece of the bacon, and insert a (soak in water for a few hours) toothpick to hold the two together. Hubby does not care for bacon, so I left his portion plain. The bacon however would flavor the sauce and surrounding ingredients.

Mrs. C  'Anonymous' went on to say, when it comes time to feed Santa  Claus her husband, serve just enough to fatten him up, but not to much; it will weigh down the sleigh plane if he eats more than his share. His red velvet bag luggage is heavy enough! Somehow she knows he will never learn how to travel light; it is her job to look out for his health.

Hinting that maybe some cranberry maple cookies for her spouses next return trip would be that right touch to help him recover from the traveling blues. Since his job is so demanding, she is always afraid he might storm in and say he is giving up to retire on the shores of sunny Florida. 'Anonymous' loves it up north, and would prefer he hang around there a lot longer.

I She hears the timer going off in the kitchen, so its off to prepare the lovely couscous for the cranberry lamb, and take the reindeer dog for a walk. What a nice person she is to call me and share this information!

Other 'Cranberry' Dishes-

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin (White Chocolate and Cranberry Stuffing)

Roasted Brussel Sprout Cranberry Slaw

Fig 'Cranberry' Cobbler

Good Things Catered- Cranberry Pastry Candy Cane

Go over to Marc @ No Recipes for his 'Braised Lamb Shanks in Cranberry', but I am posting his recipe according to my alterations...

3 lbs lamb shanks - 2 pounds of lamb loin, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
10 cloves
2 pods, black cardamom - 1 slice bacon per piece of lamb loin
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2″ knob of ginger grated
2 onions minced - 1 red onion, if you are using lamb loin pieces
3 Tbs sugar - 1 tablespoons of maple sugar
1 Tbs kosher salt (less if you use regular salt)
12 oz bag of fresh cranberries - half bag of cranberries, from freezer

Generously salt and pepper the lamb shanks - I lightly salted lamb loin pieces. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid on medium high heat until very hot, then add a splash of oil. Sear the shanks until golden brown on all sides. Turn down the heat if the oil starts smoking. When the shanks are browned, transfer them to a plate.

- I marinate lamb in seasonings below after I quickly brown the pieces, with 1/4 cup burgundy wine for two hours; transfer to Tagine to braise.

Add the cumin, cloves and black cardamom and swirl in the oil until you start to hear them pop. Add the garlic, ginger, onions, sugar, and salt and fry until soft and very fragrant. Add the cranberries, stir together, then nestle the lamb shanks into the cranberries and onions. Turn the heat down to low and cover with a tight fitting lid. Let this braise for 2-3 hours or until the meat easily pulls off the bone with a fork.

- Using bacon to wrap around lamb pieces, adding 1/4 cup beef stock, and about seven sliced grape tomatoes; then transfer to Tagine to braise for 45 minutes.

- I pureed some of the pan sauce, and spooned it onto the plate for party presentation, or individual plates.

Serve with rice. - I made couscous.

Next '12 Days of Christmas' post will be focusing on 'Traditions'...

Ginger Cranberries on Foodista