Tasty comfort food to prepare at home

| January 23, 2022 | 0 Comments

One of the joys of even cool weather has to be indulging in recipes that give us cosy comfort. Imagine biting into crisp, translucent, wonton dumplings, plump with discreetely scented wasabi shrimp, lusciously suspended in melted smoked salmon cream cheese. Next, consider a cold weather favourite — lamb shanks with a unique complexity of flavours, seducing palates to the last generous morsel. As a frosty day winner for breakfast, brunch, or a treat after outdoor activities, count on my fresh-out-of-the-oven Blueberry Dutch Baby. Bon Appetit!

Crispy Shrimp Dumplings make a nice snack or canapé before a meal. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Crispy Shrimp Dumplings make a nice snack or canapé before a meal. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Crispy Shrimp Dumplings
Makes 18 pieces or 6 servings

18 peeled and cooked shrimp (count: 31 to 40)
18 wonton skins, round (diameter: 3½ inches or 9 centimetres)
Several sprigs of fresh dill
½ cup (125 ml) smoked salmon cream cheese
3/4 to 1 tsp (4 to 5 ml) wasabi paste
1 egg white
As required vegetable oil for deep-frying
½ cup Truffle Mayonnaise* (optional)

1. Cut a 1¼-inch (6 ml) segment from the central area of each shrimp (setting aside the end bits for another purpose). Then slice each segment lengthwise in half to make 2 thin flat pieces.
2. Lay round wonton skins out (a few at a time) on a clean flat surface. To one side of the centre of each skin, add a tiny sprig of fresh dill (keeping well within the edge of the wonton skin). Top with ½ tsp (3 mL) of smoked salmon cream cheese and then 2 pieces of shrimp interlocking them together without surpassing the centre of the wonton. Paint the shrimp with a light touch of wasabi before adding another ½ tsp (3 mL) of cream cheese, and finally a second tiny sprig of dill. (Note: Avoid being generous with the filling.)
3. Dampen the entire circumference of the wonton skins (in a 1/3-inch or 0.8-centimetre-wide band) with egg white. (Tip: An eyedropper type tool works well.)
4. Fold ungarnished half of the wonton skin over filling to form a half-moon shape and pinch “open edges” together well. (Tip: A dumpling/perogi press ensures a good seal.)
5. Using a deep fat fryer, heat oil to 350 F or 180 C.
6. Working in batches of 3 or 4, fry dumplings, turning carefully and regularly until golden brown (about 1 minute). Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and then to a wire cooling rack.
7. Serve slightly cooled dumplings promptly with Truffle Mayonnaise as a dipping sauce.

* To make ½ cup of Truffle Mayonnaise, whisk 1 tbsp (15 mL) of truffle oil into ½ cup of mayonnaise.
The dumplings may be prepared up to a day in advance. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray, cover loosely with paper towels, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate.


Flavour-Rich Lamb Shanks are a warm and comforting meal for a cold day. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Flavour-Rich Lamb Shanks are a warm and comforting meal for a cold day. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Flavour-Rich Lamb Shanks
Makes 4 servings

4 lamb shanks (each: 12 oz or 340 g)
2½ cups (625 ml) red wine, divided
1½ tsp (8 ml) peeled and grated fresh gingerroot
¾ tsp (4 ml) crushed black peppercorn
1 2/3 tbsp (25 ml) minced garlic, divided
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin, divided
½ cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (30 ml) brown sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) garlic butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) each of diced onion and uncooked bacon
2 to 3 tsp (10 to 15 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 cup (250 ml) tomato sauce, thick and tasty
1 tsp (5 ml) each of ground coriander and orange zest
3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped dates
1 cup (250 ml) diced butternut squash (optional)
½ cup (125 ml) prepared beef bouillon

1. Score the tendons of the shanks in several places. Place the shanks in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag.
2. To make the marinade, in a medium-size bowl whisk together only 2 cups (500 ml) of red wine, the gingerroot, crushed black peppercorns, only 1 tbsp (15 ml) of garlic and 1 tsp (5 ml) of cumin. Pour the marinade over the shanks, sealing the bag securely. Refrigerate up to 24 hours, turning the bag frequently to redistribute the marinade.
3. When ready to cook the shanks, remove them from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Pat the shanks dry with paper towels.
4 In a large resealable plastic bag, combine flour and brown sugar; add the shanks one at a time and press them into the flour and brown sugar mixture until well coated.
5. Melt garlic butter in a large Dutch oven or very large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shanks, browning all sides including the ends. Remove shanks from skillet.
6. Reduce heat to medium, wipe out the Dutch oven/skillet with a paper towel, add bacon and sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the onion and garlic. Stir constantly until onions are slightly golden in colour.
7. Pour reserved marinade plus all remaining ingredients, including the remaining ½ cup (125 ml) of red wine, 2 tsp (10 ml) garlic and 1 tsp (5 ml) cumin and combine. Add the seared lamb shanks and turn to coat with sauce.
8. Securely cover Dutch oven/skillet and transfer to the centre of a preheated 350 F (175 C) oven for 1½ to 2 hours (removing from the oven every 30 minutes and turning shanks) until meat is very tender.  Note: It may be necessary to add more liquid (water, bouillon or a touch of wine) and adjust flavours according to taste. If the sauce is too thin when removed from the oven after cooking, bring to a boil over medium heat until slightly thickened.
9. Serve with accompaniments of choice (a couscous pilaf, polenta, mashed potatoes, creamed celeriac, orzo or even buttered steamed cauliflower, etc.).


Blueberry Dutch Babies make a tasty brunch option or a good snack after a bracing outdoor activity. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Blueberry Dutch Babies make a tasty brunch option or a good snack after a bracing outdoor activity. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Blueberry Dutch Baby
Makes 4 servings

1/3 cup (80 ml) melted butter, divided
2/3 cup (170 ml) milk, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
1½ tsp (8 ml) orange zest
1 1/3 tsp (7 ml) vanilla
1/3 tsp (2 ml) salt
1/5 tsp or a pinch each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger
2/3 cup (170 ml) all-purpose flour
1½ cup (375 ml) fresh blueberries, divided
3 tbsp (45 ml) toasted slivered almonds
As desired icing sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) sour cream
8 slices of freshly grilled bacon
maple syrup

1. Place a large cast-iron skillet (diameter: 9-inch or 23-cm)* in the centre of a pre-heated 450 F (230 C) oven.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk only ¼ cup (60 ml) melted butter into the milk. Then whisk in eggs, orange zest, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
3. Gradually add flour and whisk until the batter is very smooth.
4. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, and working quickly, drizzle with remaining melted butter, using a pastry brush to coat all interior surfaces. Pour in the batter, sprinkle the surface with only half of the blueberries, and promptly transfer the skillet back to the oven.
5. Avoid opening the oven until the Dutch Baby is brown and nicely puffed (about 15 minutes).
6. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Promptly sprinkle the surface with the remaining blueberries, rolling them gently over the surface to become shiny and somewhat glazed. Finally, sprinkle with toasted almonds; and, using a fine sieve, dust with icing sugar.
7. Top with a dollop of sour cream.
8. Serve immediately (before the Dutch Baby begins to deflate) along with grilled bacon slices and maple syrup as accompaniments.
* Option: 4 small cast-iron skillets (i.e. diameter 6” or 15 cm) may be used, which generally offer a great “puffing” effect.

Margaret Dickenson is a cookbook
author, menu/recipe developer and a protocol, business and etiquette instructor. Both of her cookbooks were recognized as the “Best of the Best — 25 Years” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris at the end of November 2020. In the entertaining category, From the Ambassador’s Table won for best historical first-time cookbook, while Margaret’s Table received a special award as a tribute to her expertise in entertaining.


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Category: Delights

About the Author ()

Margaret Dickenson wrote the awardwinning cookbook, Margaret’s Table — Easy Cooking & Inspiring Entertaining (www.margaretstable.ca).

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