Cooking with ...
- This was forwarded to you by Jamie/Your ListMom. It first appeared in Hot CoCo, http://www.hotcoco.com/, the online edition of the Contra Costa Times.
Comments from Jamie/Your ListMom:
Published on May 5, 1999
Cooking with ...
Good food determines the meal
Personal: John Amlin, a plant manager, is married and lives in Benicia with his wife, Judy, and their cat Pestaphor.
Culinary history: Amlin grew up in Southern California on a basic American diet. He learned to cook at age 10, he says, because he wanted to eat more of his two favorite dishes: lasagna and chicken and dumplings. He realized that if he could cook them, he could have them more often. His mother taught him how to make those dishes and from that point on, he was comfortable in the kitchen.
As a college student with roommates, Amlin became the chef by default, he says. His cooking back then consisted chiefly of stews and casseroles, because they fed a lot of people.
However, he was expanding his palate even then by going to ethnic restaurants and reading cookbooks. He attended the California Culinary Academy when it opened and went on to work in a French restaurant in England. There he learned general skills such as cooking fish, making sauces, cooking vegetables, making salads, even a bit of pastry-making. When he returned to the United States, he landed a job developing low-fat recipes and now works at a firm that produces protein powders.
Signature dish: My lamb chops with carrots has gotten emphatic votes of confidence from French people I know. They say it's really good.
Cooking style: I would call it very provincial. It's basically something that would feed a family easily and satisfy them.
Favorite cooking: I love making any kind of stew or soup. My wife likes anything with pork and especially a dish I call pork marengo but which really isn't. It has tomato sauce, green olives and mushrooms. I love smoked and slow-cooked roast beef, pork and chicken cooked in the Weber. And Sunday roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy is a tradition throughout the year.
Everyday cooking: I don't make a plan. Usually I see what's in the fridge. We will typically have a vegetable, a starch and a meat course. I like to go shopping on Sunday and see what's good, that's how I decide on a menu. I make the rounds of the farmers markets, but I always buy a lot more than I could ever hope to use up.
Pantry: I always have pasta, beans, lentils, potatoes and lettuces for salad. I always have lots of whatever vegetables are currently available and are good. There's always lots of fruit in the fruit bowl. There's usually some sort of sherry wine and brandy to help with sauces, a cabinet full of spices, butter, olive oil and flour. That's the backbone of my pantry. With these things you can knock a meal out no matter what.
Prepared foods: I use canned tomatoes and canned beef stock like Swanson's.
Necessary tools: Good knives, a cutting board, sauté pans, stew pots and a colander are absolutely essential.
Shopping: I like going to any of the little farm markets in Cordelia and the Suisun area. If I feel exotic, I go to the intersection of San Pablo and University in Berkeley. There's so much there: a kosher meat market and Middle Eastern stores. It's a great spot.
Raley's in Benicia is excellent and I go to Monterey Market in Berkeley when I'm willing to fight the crowds.
Favorite cookbooks: I just got 'Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings,' by Edward Brown -- it's good and everything in there is very doable. I love all that Tassajara stuff and anything Julia Child has ever done is perfect.
Who cleans up: Whoever does not cook. That goes back to when I was a kid and whoever helped cook didn't have to clean up. That gave us incentive to learn to cook, too.
Cooking disasters: I've had plenty. Once in cooking school I was a little nervous about a test and put the salad plates in the oven instead of the refrigerator. When it came time to serve I was a little panicked and everyone had a good laugh.
Do you know a great cook? If so, tell us by writing to Cooking With ... , c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or e-mail the food editor at dbyrd@.... Castro Valley writer Carmen Rusca writes this feature weekly.
JOHN AMLIN'S LAMB CHOPS WITH CARROTS
Serve with a green salad, parsley potatoes, rice or egg noodles.
4 lamb chops (preferably, roundbone shoulder chops but any shoulder chop works well)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
6-8 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
1 cup dry red wine
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef stock or 1 can Swanson's beef broth
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon coarse or freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon crushed sage leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
6-8 medium carrots
1-2 tablespoons flour, preferably Wondra
1. Trim excess fat off the chops and sauté over high heat. If you preheat the pan (highly recommended) it shouldn't take more than 5 minutes a side, just enough to get some color. If you are using a good Teflon-lined skillet then you won't need any additional oil. Otherwise add a little (less than 1 tablespoon) olive or vegetable oil just before you put the chops in.
2. After the second side of the chops have cooked 3-5 minutes, add the onions and garlic. They should start to get a little color after a couple of minutes. Move things around in the pan at this point.
3. Add the brandy (if using), wine and chopped tomatoes. Beware -- if you're using a gas stove there will be some flames!
4. Add beef stock, herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
5. While the meat is simmering, peel the carrots and cut into 1-inch chunks.
6. Once the chops are done, remove from the pan, set aside and cover.
7. Add the carrots to pan and cover. The carrots will need to simmer until they are done; start checking after 10 minutes (less if you prefer al dente carrots). But it should never take more than 20 minutes.
8. While carrots are cooking, take a cup of the cooking liquid and combine it with 3 tablespoons cold water. Add the flour to this liquid, stir and set aside.
9. When the carrots are ready, add the flour-stock mixture back to the pan along with the chops. Stir gently. Once the sauce has thickened and returned to a simmer turn off the heat. It's ready!
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(c) 1999 Contra Costa Newspapers