Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eating Light Doesn't Mean You Have to Go Hungry

Health is a hot topic these days. We "know better" now. We know we can't survive (for long) on Big Macs and Hamburger Helper. In the face of these realizations, a resurgence of Light Eating has made its way into the homes of America. "What's for Dinner?" you ask? A grape. Make that half a grape, so I can eat a cracker too.

Okay, so maybe it isn't quite so dire as that, but dinner's consisting of desert dry chicken breasts and unseasoned brown rice sure isn't what I'd call filling. If you are still starving after you have eaten are either going to be miserable until the next unfulfilling mealtime, or you are going to keep right on a-snackin'. Counter-productive.

Enter the concept of a HEARTY, healthy meal. It should consist of lean mean, veggies, and most of all  - FLAVOR. Where does flavor come from? Butter, Oil, Bacon - FAT. Right?


Cooking methods are where flavor comes from. Browning, caramelizing, simmering, marinating. These things infuse flavor into a dish. After cooking methods comes seasoning. Salt is not a seasoning. It is a flavor enhancer. You have to have flavor to enhance it. Enter herbs and spices. They do not have to be expensive. They are interchangeable. They can take you to China, Mexico, India, Morocco...the possibilities are endless!

One such example is a very simple Lamb Stew. In addition to being Hearty and Healthy, it is also a One Dish Dinner! What's not to love?

Lamb Stew

1 Lamb Breast (AKA, a very reasonably priced cut of lamb ribs, pork ribs can be substituted)
2 large Carrots, medium dice
1 large Onion, medium dice
1 Parsnip, medium dice
1/4 cup Tomato Paste
6 cloves Garlic, halved
1 bottle Beer (I used Yuengling, but any medium to dark beer will do)
1 Tbs dried Tarragon
1 Tbs dried Oregano
1 Tbs dried Marjoram
1 Tbs Coriander
2 Tbs Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbs cornstarch (optional) + pan drippings
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, steamed

Begin by removing any silver skin or large chunks of fat from the lamb ribs. Lamb meat is excellent for dieters in that it is incredibly flavorful without being overly fatty. Sear both sides of the lamb on high heat until a dark golden brown. Drizzle the olive oil in a large, lidded casserole dish. (If you do not have an oven-safe dish with a lid, use a casserole and cover with foil) Toss the vegetables and garlic in the oil, salt and pepper. Either lay the whole rack of ribs across the veggies, or cut into smaller sections to fit. Smear the tomato paste over the top of the lamb, sprinkle with herbs and pour over the beer. Cover and bake at 275 degrees for two hours. Remove the lid and bake for an additional hour or until the lamb is very tender and caramelized. Remove the lamb from the bones, chop and add back into the stew. If you would like the broth thickened, mix the pan drippings with 2 Tbs cornstarch (make sure the drippings are cooled to at least room temperature first) and reheat until thick. Right before serving, add in the peas. You do not want to bake them with the stew because they will lose their bright green color and the flavor and texture will be lost.

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