Daily Archives: February 28, 2012

186 cookbooks, and nearly all of them are good

It’s rare for a cookbook to bring me to tears. Tonight, one did.

I decided to try Lamb Do Piaza from “One-Dish Meals of Asia” by Jennifer Brennan. Brennan explains helpfully that “do piaza” translates to English as “two onions”, or perhaps “twice as much onions” (as meat).

In any case, onions are one of the major ingredients. You need to cut some thin slices to fry until they’re nice and brown for a garnish at the end; but mostly you need to chop, and chop, and chop. And yes, you will cry about it. The onion fumes will get you.

Starting to brown the onion slices

Once you get done chopping, though, it’s surprisingly simple. Cook the chopped onions for a while until they’re thoroughly soft – I kept them on low heat with a lid on the pan, and they still nearly scorched. (But almost-and-not-quite scorched is tasty.) Then brown the meat, cook a couple of cloves of garlic and a few peppercorns and whole cloves* briefly, add a little salt and water, and let it stew for most of an hour. Check from time to time and add more water; it will try to burn.

* (Use whole spices here – they keep their flavor during the long, slow cooking in a way that ground pepper and cloves can’t.)

Yogurt, browned onions, tomatoes

When the meat’s tender, add a little tomato sauce and cook another fifteen minutes or so. Then garnish it with some yogurt – I used whole milk Greek yogurt – and the browned onion rings (remember them? You made them back at the beginning of this recipe) and some chopped raw tomato. (I used grape tomatoes. It is February, after all, and they come closer to tasting really tomatoey than anything else I can get right now.)

The garnishes make for an unusually pretty stew, and they also lift the taste from Pretty Good Ordinary Stew to Delicious!! Meal. So I wound up with tears of pleasure, mixed with tears of frustration.

Because I don’t think I can get rid of this cookbook either. And I’m not sure if that’s really great or maddening.