wine-braised goat shanks; polenta; collards; fig ice cream

Esto no es una mole

There was no chocolate, and it’s pretty clearly a European formula.

The headline read, “Wine-Braised Goat Shanks with Tomatoes and Oregano“, so it just screamed holiday dinner.

It was December 25.

The recipe was new to me. I found it on a Seattle-based locavore food site, ‘Edible Seattle‘, where it was credited to an area goat farmer. It may not have been the fanciest pedigree, but it was absolutely delicious, made a great presentation, and it was almost entirely stressless (nearly all the work was done hours before it was served).

  • two tablespoons of olive oil heated over a medium flame inside a large antique (possibly 200 years old) French newly-[re]tinned copper daubière, and two perfect 16-ounce goat shanks from LynnHaven Goat Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, patted dry, placed inside and browned on all sides, turning several times, for about 15 minutes altogether, transferred to a plate resting on the flat unencumbered top of my 1936 Magic Chef oven that had already been  heated to 325º, then a mixture of one medium red onion, 3 chopped medium orange carrots from The Grandpa farm, [there should also ,have been some chopped celery in this list, but I didn’t have any, so I substituted, for no particular reason other than that I had it, one peeled and chopped golden beet from Norwich Meadows Farm], 2 cloves of peeled rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, and one small chopped aji dulce yellow seasoning pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm (me tweaking the recipe) added to the pot, the vegetables seasoned with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft, and a heaping tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano from Stokes Farm, 3 small fresh bay leaves from Chelsea’s West Side Market, and 8 ounces from a can of excellent Mutti peeled Italian (Parma) plum tomatoes, crushed, one and half cups of red wine (Stefano di Blasi Toscana 2018), and one cup of a very good chicken stock, made with Better Than Bullion, added, the liquid brought to a simmer, the seared goat shanks returned, a buttered piece of parchment cut to the beautiful rounded rectangle shape of the pot placed on the top of the goat and vegetables (to reduce evaporation, making for a richer daube), the pot covered and placed inside the oven to cook, turning the shanks once, for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat was very tender, the meat then placed on a platter, or inside an au gratin and placed in the now merely warm oven (or on top of the oven, tented with aluminum foil, and the rich liquids remaining strained, discarding the solids (but retained for use in another meal, in a very substantial soup), the braising juices returned to the pot, where they were brought to a strong simmer over high heat and cooked, stirring occasionally, until reduced almost to the consistency of maple syrup, which might be about 20 minutes, the shanks then returned to the daubière, one at a time, rolled in the sauce to coat, then arranged on warm plates and served  drizzled with the remaining sauce
  • one cup of coarsely-ground Iroquois White Corn Project white corn flour from the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project stall in the Greenmarket) poured slowly, while whisking constantly, into 3 cups of water and one of whole milk, with one teaspoon of sea salt added, that had been heated to a simmer inside an enameled cast iron Michael Lax Copco dutch oven I’e had for half a century, the heat reduced once all had been added, and the mixture simmered, stirring, eventually using a wooden spoon, until it had thickened and the meal tasted cooked, probably 20 minutes altogether, the heat turned off and 3 tablespoons of rich butter, 1/3 cup of heavy cream, and 2 ounces of a gorgonzola dolce from Buon Italia, added and stirred until the cheese had melted, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, served alongside the shanks  [Note: polenta can be prepared ahead of time, kept warm in a double boiler over low heat for maybe 2 hours, then stirring in a little additional boiling water and stirring just before serving]
  • a small bunch of sweet baby December collards tender collards from Windfall Farms, leaves and stems roughly cut, washed several times and drained, transferred to a smaller bowl very quickly in order to retain as much of the water clinging to them as possible, braised inside a heavy medium size antique tin-lined copper pot in which 2 halved cloves of garlic had first been allowed to sweat in some olive oil, finished with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzled with a bit of olive oil
  • the wine was a great Italian (Campania/Montevetrano) red, Colli di Salerno 2013 (cabernet sauvignon, aglianico, merlot), from Bottlerocket

There was a dessert, also stressless, since it only had to be assembled.


lemon/rosemary/anchovy-roasted lotte; potatoes; greens

It was my first stab at this wonderful, shockingly simple dish, and the recipe had been sitting on our bookshelf for over 15 years. It’s from ‘Italian Easy London River Cafe’ (page 131 in my copy), one of my favorite cookbooks. It also ended up looking far more interesting than the formula would have suggested (I almost passed it by for that reason: for being too basic). And it was incredibly delicious.

This is my slightly revised version of the text in the book:

  • monkfish tail, also known as Lotte, Coda di rospo, or Teufelfisch (last night I had four 4-ounce pieces after cutting the largest of 3 in half) from American Seafood Company placed inside a roasting pan that had first been heated inside a 425º oven, olive oil drizzled on the surface and a number of small sections of a rosemary branch arranged on the bottom, the fish then covered with thin slices of lemon that had been cut from most of one fruit and seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, a finely chopped tiny Grenada seasoning pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, and a drizzle of olive oil, a Sicilian anchovy fillet (2 salted anchovies) arranged on each of the four, which were then seasoned themselves, the pan placed inside the oven until the fish was done, that is, until the juices were opaque [this time it took about 15 minutes, but it’s important to check (Note: an instant read thermometer would read 145º at the center, but using that gauge can be tricky)], the monkfish removed from the oven and arranged on two plates (no garnish this time, because it already looked exciting)
  • nearly a pound of Yukon Gold potatoes from Gorzynski Farm, boiled, halved, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chipped bronze fennel
  • a mix of fresh greens (green mustards from Norwich Meadows Farm, a small mix of several kinds of tender greens from Windfall Farms, a few leaves from a head of radicchio from Manhattan Fruit Exchange in the Chelsea Market, and a little arugula, also from Norwich Meadows) wilted inside a medium antique tin-lined copper pot in a little olive oil where a halved clove of garlic had first been heated until softened and fragrant
  • the wine was a French (Bordeaux/Graves/Cérons) white, Chateau de Cerons Graves Blanc 2017, from Bottlerocket
  • the music was Rossini’s 1823 opera, ‘Semiramide’, Mark Elder conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Opera Rara Chorus

storione affumicato carpaccio di barbabietola; ‘magic meal’

It was my 80th birthday, and the dinner – including the wines – was as exceptional as the occasion.

I might say that in this latest appearance, our storybook ‘Magic Meal’ was actually upstaged by the first course, but I won’t, out of huge personal sentiment – and loyalty to both a great restaurant (Al Forno, in Providence) and a home kitchen that has seen a lot over the decades.

Still, the sturgeon was a tough act to follow. Some of it may have been the pure novelty, and the fact that the recipe,  in all its simplicity, was entirely mine, but it really was delicious. That I grew up in the midwest, mid-century, where I was surrounded by sturgeon legends, and that Barry comes from Arkansas, one of the homes of the pallid and shovelnose, had almost nothing to do with it.

  • four ounces of sliced smoked American farmed sturgeon from Grace’s Marketplace placed on a bed of almost impossibly-thin slices of 2 small golden beets from Norwich Meadows Farm that had first been sprinkled with small amounts of wild fennel pollen from Buon Italia, a good Puglian olive oil (7Giorni), and Newman’s Own balsamic vinegar, topped with dollops of a Ronnybrook Farm crème fraîche mixed with lemon zest and chopped fresh thyme, garnished with some subtly peppery micro red mizuna from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • flat bread crisps (Firehook Baked Crackers with rosemary and sea salt)
  • the wine, which we had opened before the meal began and with which we toasted my great age and many great years shared with Barry, was a French (Champagne) sparkling, François Billion, Grand Cru, Brut Millésime 2010, from Astor Wines

The magic part of the meal was Conchiglie al forno (last night it was actually Lumaconi al forno, the pasta this time being Setaro’s ‘snails’, from BuonItalia), a rich pasta course with a very friendly history con noi that goes back 20 years. This pasta is sometimes described as lumache.

It combines a pound of a large Campania artisanal shell shape pasta with roughly half a pound of sliced mushrooms, half a pound of butter, 4 Italian cheeses, lots of double cream, one head of sliced radicchio, and a generous amount of fresh sage.

The recipe can be found on this site.

tip: any earthy mushroom would work (I have access to many, and this time I used chestnut mushrooms

tip: I used one large head of radicchio and it was more than enough

tip: the gorgonzola should not be a dolce

tip: you’ll need one very large bowl (or the emptied pasta pot)


dijon mustards and cognac beef stew; white polenta

This was one of the tastiest, most successful winter entrées I’ve ever put together.

Even if Sunday wasn’t actually very wintry.

Earlier in the month, on the first cold day of the season, I had brought home a package of prized beef cubes, frozen, from some of my favorite people in the Union Square Greenmarket, the owners of Riverine Ranch, intending to make a hearty Sunday stew that, with luck, might be enjoyed while it snowed outside.

The weather didn’t cooperate: The temperature was in the 50’s all day, but I hadn’t anticipated that when, a couple days before the planned date, I defrosted it in the refrigerator.

I also didn’t know at the time what recipe I would use. I don’t cook stews often, so I didn’t have much of a file to work with. I considered a couple more conventional recipes I found on line before I focused on this one, mostly because it seemed just a little twisted (plus I had all the ingredients). There was also that seductive introduction from its author, Regina Schrambling.

It was really easy to prepare, there was no stress, its perfumes filled the apartment for hours. It was a huge success, the decision to include polenta making it a perfect meal. We finished it all (yup).

grilled herring fillets, mustard-oregano sauce; boiled potato

oiled and seasoned

grilled and plated


We both really like herring in virtually any form. This disposition, grilled fresh fillets, is probably less familiar to most fans of clupea harengus (Atlantic Herring) but it’s one of the most satisfying – and it makes a wonderful entrée.

The dinner we enjoyed this past Saturday almost duplicated this one from three years ago, where I wrote:

Barry and I are very lucky to live in a part of the world where there are an extraordinary number of varieties of seafood in local waters, where most are judged plentiful enough to be harvested by smaller operators, where those fishers want to make them available fresh for retail purchase by ordinary people in a central public market within a short but healthy walking distance, and where I enjoy the time needed to seek them out and prepare them using the best of my skills and some good kitchen tools.

It still works, even during a pandemic, which of course is when it becomes even more important, for everyone engaged in these pleasures and rewards.

  • eight small Atlantic herring fillets (a total of 12 ounces) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket, rinsed under running cold water, drained, dried, brushed with a little olive oil and seasoned lightly with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged on a double cast iron grill pan which had gotten very hot over 2 high burner flames, grilled, skin side down, for l to 2 minutes, turned over and cooked for 1 to 2 minutes more, drizzled with a little olive oil, arranged on 2 plates and served with a sauce which had just been mixed in a small bowl, of mustard (half whole-grain Maille ‘Old Style’ whole grain Dijon, and half Domaines des Vignes ‘extra forte‘ Dijon), the leaves, chopped, of a bunch of fresh oregano from Stokes Farm, a teaspoon of pine blossom honey from Tremblay Apiaries in the Union Square Greenmarket, the zest and juice from one lemon, and a bit of olive oil, garnished with micro red sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge one pound of red potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, boiled with a generous amount of salt until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried while still inside the large still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and garnished with bronze fennel from Windfall Farms, arranged on a small bed of leaves from a small head of purple bibb Rosaine lettuce from Norwich Meadows Farm that had been lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice
  • the wine was a South African (Western Cape) white, Babylonstoren Chenin Blanc 2020, from Bottlerocket 
  • the music was Beethoven’s ‘The Creatures of Prometheus’, performed by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leif Segerstam