Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lamb Stew with Zucchini and Steel-Cut Oats

I grilled a leg of lamb earlier this week when refugees from the San Diego fires were staying with me. Normally I make this dish for parties and there is nothing left over, but this crowd had small appetites. Even after some lovely lamb sandwiches, there was plenty left. The weather has now turned colder and we're getting a bit of rain, so I decided a stew was in order. I had some lovely zucchini that would certainly go well with the lamb, but I felt the stew could use a binding agent.

Earlier this year I saw Alton Brown's show on oatmeal. All my previous attempts at making steel-cut oats had failed to impress, but his recipe produced a wonderful dish that has since been a staple. But that left me wondering why oats are such a niche grain: breakfast cereal, cookie filler and granola grain.

Alton's trick to cooking steel-cut oats is to delay the addition of salt, because it seals the starch in the grain. If allowed to escape, the starch forms a creamy sauce, just like Arborio rice in risotto. It seemed like that was just what I needed for my stew.

The experiment was a success. The oats didn't lose their texture, as rice sometimes does, and the starch thickened the sauce, but never felt like glue, as flour sometimes does. The dish also has the benefit of being wheat and gluten free (except for trace elements that might have been introduced while processing the oats), a plus for several people I know.

The following recipe fits easily into a large latte' mug.
  • Half a small yellow onion, diced.
  • Two small zucchini, diced.
  • 1/2 C grilled lamb, diced.
  • 1/4 C steel-cut oats.
  • 1 1/2-2 C chicken broth.
  • Olive oil.
Heat a sauce pan over low to medium heat, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom and sweat the onions until translucent. Add the zucchini, toss until they begin to soften, then add the oats and continue to toss until the zucchini is soft and moist looking. There should be enough oil to cover the oats so that they do not stick, and ideally they should toast a bit.

Add the lamb, toss, then add enough stock to cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for fifteen minutes. Taste the stew and season as needed. I put a lot of spices on my grilled lamb, so I added just a little salt at this point. Cover and simmer until the oats are tender, another 10-15 minutes.

I also have some leftover chuck roast. Perhaps I'll try the same again tomorrow with that instead of the lamb.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't you want a title that's not boring?

I've been meaning to create a blog for some time, but have been waffling between using blogspot and making my own blog technology in Haskell.

Well, today my friend Ellie (8) is visiting. She has her own blog ( and has been bugging me to start mine. Clearly, she was right, so I had her create me an account at blogspot (she recommended, because everyone at Club Penguin uses it, but all the people I know use blogspot, so she acquiesced: "Fine, if you want to be boring.")

("Wow, that's a lot of writing," she just said.)

After typing in my name, she asked for the title. "Clifford's Posts," she suggested? "Ruminations," I replied. "Oh no, more boring," she moaned. When I insisted, she said, "Fine, how do you spell that?" Halfway through the letters, she said, "All capitals?" "No, just the first letter." "How about one capital, one lowercase, and so on." "Hmm...," I said. "You don't want it all boring, do you?"

Clearly, we have different audiences. The current point of contention is that she doesn't know what "ruminatons" means. I've delayed telling her for some time and she finally said, "Ruminations isn't that bad, I guess."

So here's the rub. I'm involved in starting a new business, using functional programming (Haskell) to make a website that will both teach math skills and be fun. Seems like I've got the boring part of the math down pat. I'm going to have to work on the fun part.

Addendum: After all that fuss, blogspot capitalized the title anyway.

Ellie just read this and said, "You're not boring, it's just that adults tend not to use colors and other things that make it exotic."