Bruce Aidells Part I: Turkish Lamb Shoulder Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

A lamb dish strewn with pretty pomegranate seeds for the holidays.

If there’s one cookbook that I always recommend homecooks have on their shelf, it’s “The Complete Meat Cookbook” by the Bay Area’s meat expert, Bruce Aidells.

I’ve cooked numerous recipes out of it. I’ve also referred to it countless times for information on meat cooking times and the differences between various cuts. It’s a carnivore’s best one-stop resource.

So, I was counting the days for Aidells’ new version, “The Great Meat Cookbook” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), to be published.

It’s been more than a decade since Aidells, the founder and former owner of Aidells Sausage Company, wrote that first book. The new meat book is even more comprehensive. It’s updated with information on the “grass-fed” label, heirloom pork varieties, and includes recipes for not only lamb, beef, veal and pork, but bison and goat. What’s more, there are hundreds of handy-dandy color illustrations of just about every cut of meat you can think of, making it easier to pick them out at the grocery store.

The recipes span all-American comfort to global-inflected dishes. When I received my review copy of the book, it was the recipe for “Turkish Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Shoulder Chops and Carrots” that caught my eye first.

First, I love lamb. Second, it’s such a pretty dish with jewel-like pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and fresh green herbs strewn over the chops.

Pomegranate seeds -- as pretty as rubies.

Third, the folks at Pom Wonderful had just sent me samples of their newest product, Pom Poms fresh pomegranate seeds or arils. Yes, they’ve eliminated the messy, stain-inducing task of digging the seeds out of a whole pomegranate. The new Pom Poms come in both 8-ounce and a 4.3-ounce sized containers. The latter even has a fold-able plastic spoon included so you can just open the container to start enjoying them.

The Pom Poms, $3.99 for the 4.3-ounce size and $5.99 for the 8-ounce size, are available in the produce section of most large grocery stores from now through February.

So easy to use that you'll be eating pomegranate seeds day and night from now on.

The lamb is marinated in a Turkish spice rub redolent of cumin, cardamom, nutmeg and pepper. Then it’s seared before being braised with ginger, shallots, onions, stock and pomegranate molasses or syrup. If you can’t find pomegranate syrup easily, you can make your own by just reducing pomegranate juice. Carrots and parsnips are added toward the end to cook in that flavorful sauce.

It’s a beauty of a dish, with sweet, tangy and fruity flavors. Serve it with rice, bulgar or loads of crusty bread.

You can tell Aidells just how much you like it, too, if you attend his 12:30 p.m. Dec. 1 lunch at Prospect restaurant in San Francisco, which is co-owned by his wife, Chef Nancy Oakes. The $155 per person event includes a lunch with dishes inspired by his book, wine, tax, tip and a signed copy of his new book. To reserve a spot, click here.

CONTEST: Ten lucky Food Gal readers will win a coupon for a free 4.3-ounce container of new Pom Poms fresh pomegranate arils to cook with or just eat by the spoonful. Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Nov. 24. Winners will be announced Nov. 26.

How to win?

Playing off Pom Wonderful’s company name, just tell me what makes you feel your most wonderful? Best 10 answers win the coupons.

Here’s my own answer:

“Surviving a tough spinning class at the gym. My legs may be jelly afterward and my hair a total mess. But you can’t beat the natural high from all that exertion. Plus, aftern burning off hundreds of calories, I feel entitled to dessert that night. How wonderful is that?”

Turkish Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Shoulder Chops and Carrots

(Serves 6)

6 lamb blade shoulder chops (about 1/2 pound each)

For Turkish Spice Rub:

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the braise:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup homemade lamb stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup pomegranate molasses or syrup (see Note)

2 pounds medium carrots (about 3/4-inch thick) of various colors, peeled and halved lengthwise

1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and halved lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:

1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (see Note)

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons shredded fresh mint leaves

Cut each chop into 2 pieces by cutting between the flat side of the blade bone and the meat.

Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle the rub over the chops. Let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oil and butter in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chops (you may need to do this in batches) and brown for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set the chops aside. Add the ginger, shallots, and onions to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add pomegranate molasses and the chops. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes until the chops are tender. If not yet tender, continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes. Remove the chops and set aside. Degrease the liquid.

Add carrots and parsnips to the pan, cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove the carrots and parsnips and set aside. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce until it thickens and becomes very syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes. Return the carrots and parsnips to the pan and reheat over very low heat, turning frequently. When the sauce forms a glaze, add the chops and turn them until they are reheated and coated in the glaze. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the chops on a platter and arrange the vegetables over them. Spoon over any remaining glaze, scatter on the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts, sprinkle over the basil and mint, and serve.

Note: If you can’t find pomegranate molasses or syrup easily, you can make your own. Simmer 4 cups of pomegranate juice in a saucepan over medium-heat until reduced to about 1 cup.

If you can’t find Pom Poms fresh pomegranate arils in your grocery store, you can buy whole pomegranates and remove the seeds, yourself. Cut the pomegranate in half through the stem and flower ends. Hold each half cut side down over a bowl and give it a good smack with a large wooden spoon. The seeds will drop out. Remove and discard any pieces of white membrane.

Adapted from “Great Meat Cookbook” by Bruce Aidells

Tomorrow: Bruce Aidells Part II: Escarole and White Bean Gratin

Another Bruce Aidells Recipe: Boiled Crab in Beer

And Another: Italian-American Meatballs

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