Category Archives: Saveur Magazine

Honey Braised Lamb Shanks


I love lamb and despite its abundance here in Albania, I rarely prepare it.  Albanians use the term “lamb” and “sheep” interchangeably and as anyone who has eaten it knows, there is a big difference between a tender piece of lamb meat and an older piece of sheep meat.  There is one solution for older meat however, and that is braising it.  The slow simmering and stewing of meat in a flavorful and well seasoned broth will render even the toughest piece of meat tender.  I love the rich and spicy flavors of Moroccan foods and they provide the perfect foil for braising.

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine and brings together the spicy and exotic flavors of northern Africa to make a meal that is sure to satisfy.  Braising done properly takes time so this is the perfect meal to make on a cool and lazy weekend.  As the meat braised and the flavors melded I found myself wishing it was dinnertime already.  Serve the lamb on top of a bed of couscous or other grain so you can  soak up all of the yummy juices.


1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 lamb shanks

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large white onion, diced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup whole almonds

2/3 cup honey

Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  • Heat the oil and butter in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the raisins, allspice, black pepper, coriander, cloves, ginger, cayenne, saffron, and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Return the lamb to the pot and nestle it between the onions and spices.  Add the almonds, honey, and 3 cups of water.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lamb is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
  • Serve over couscous and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Serves 4

Djaj Mqualli (Chicken, Lemon, & Olive Tagine)


I came across this recipe from Saveur Magazine while on my weekly quest for new recipes.  With olives, lemons, and saffron this recipe combines some of my favorite flavors.  As an added bonus, I cured the green olives myself and made the preserved lemons earlier this winter so I had jars of them readily available.  If you don’t have the time or desire to make them yourself, you can buy these items in your local grocery store.  (Unless you are in Albania, then you must preserve your own lemons but with advance planning, it really is easy to do).

There is minimal hands on time for this dish which makes it a deceptively easy dish to serve for guests.  Served with a side dish of rice, flatbread, and Moroccan carrot salad, you have colorful and complete dinner that is sure to please.  Even Sidney, the boy who won’t eat chicken, ate this declaring it “yummy.”  And I agree, it is pretty tasty.


3 tbsp. olive oil
6 whole chicken legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large yellow onions, sliced
2 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. crushed saffron threads
1½ cups chicken stock
6 oz. green olives, cracked
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. finely chopped cilantro
2 jarred preserved lemons, seeded and cut into slices or chunks

  • Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in an 8–qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to pot and cook, turning, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • Add onions to pot; cook until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add spices; cook for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pot with stock; boil.
  • Bake chicken, covered, until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Stir in olives, butter, parsley, cilantro, and lemons into pot, and cook for 6 minutes.

Serve with rice or flatbread

Nutella Buns

The picture doesn’t do these justice but oh my are they good.  Fresh from the oven they just ooze warm and gooey chocolate goodness.  The recipe is from Saveur Magazine and following in my Albanian tradition swapped out the pecans for walnuts since that is what is available here.

I actually made them the night before, wrapped the pan tightly with saran wrap and kept them in the refrigerator, then let them come up to room temperature before baking them in the morning.  Yum!



1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup milk
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups Nutella
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1)  Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water in a bowl until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2)  Meanwhile, bring milk to a simmer in a 1 quart saucepan over medium heat; set aside.  Stir in
      remaining sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, and salt and stir into yeast mixture with vanilla, 2 eggs, and
      flour just until combined.
3)  Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Place in a
      greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
4)  Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the remaining butter in a 1 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add
     brown sugar, stir until smooth, and pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; sprinkle with the pecans.
5)  Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll dough into a 15 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the
     Nutella evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border on one long side.
6)  Beat remaining egg in a bowl and brush onto the clean border of the dough.  Roll the dough into a
     log towards the end brushed with the egg.  Trim ends and cut log into 30 minutes.  Transfer rounds
     cut side up to the baking dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
7)  Let cool slightly before serving.  Serve inverted onto plates and drizzle with syrup and nuts from the
     bottom of the baking dish.

Roasted Chestnuts

Chestnuts roasting in Ljubljana

Chestnuts are a perennial autumn nut.  Wander through any European city during the fall or winter months and you can see roasting on just about every street corner.  You can easily follow their distinctive sweet fragrance to the closest vendor.  There is nothing better than eating hot roasted chestnuts from a paper cone as you roam the streets.  This time of year chestnuts are also abundant in the markets.  From chain grocery stores to neighborhood shops and the grand vegetable markets, bins of the nuts are everywhere.  Not only are chestnuts good to eat “as is” they add body and complexity to other foods.  Whether combined with roasted vegetables and bread dressing or as a main ingredient in a  soup, they add rich complexity to any dish.

Roasting chestnuts at home isn’t hard but it is time consuming.  Last November in a fit of over ambitious insanity, we hosted a lunch for twelve two days before our sit down Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-four.  Thinking I could multi-task with my ingredients, I planned a chestnut apple soup for the lunch and a chestnut sage dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. Even with the able hands of my visiting parents (who for some reason haven’t visited since) Glenn and I spent hours trying to pry the roasted chestnuts from their shells.  I couldn’t figure out why they were being so stubborn and at that time I vowed that until we had access to shelled chestnuts I would not be including this tasty ingredient in any of my dishes.

Fast forward a year………….we are heading into Thanksgiving week and chestnuts are once again on my menu.  This year, however, my menu and guest list are saner and I have a plan.  I also did more research and I think I may have found an easier roasting and shelling method.  Chestnuts must be cooked before being eaten.  Various methods call for boiling, broiling, roasting, or grilling the nuts before shelling them.  In pure experimental mode, I used three methods for cooking my chestnuts:  grilling on the gas fired grill, broiling in the oven, and roasting in the oven.

X marks the spot

Regardless of which method you chose, it is necessary wash and score the nuts before cooking.  I used a small paring knife to cut a large “X” on the flat side of each nut.  Given the large quantity of nuts I had, this was a time consuming, and if one isn’t careful, dangerous task.  Fortunately I only stabbed my thumb once on this go around.

Oven Roasted Method:  Place the scored chestnuts on a piece of tinfoil, add a small amount of water, and wrap to form a packet.  Place the packet on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Chestnuts ready to roast

Grilled Method:  Place the scored chestnuts in a grill basket and grill over a 400 degree grill for 20 minutes.  Shake the basket every five minutes to ensure that the nuts cook evenly and none of them scorch.  You can also place the nuts directly on the grill but you will then need to use tongs to turn the nuts.

Chestnuts on the grill

Broiled Method:  Place the scored chestnuts on a baking sheet and broil under high heat for 10 minutes.

You will know the chestnuts are cooked when the nuts are fragrant and the shells split open.  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the shells and the inner skin from the nut.

So which method did I prefer?  By far, the broiled nuts were the easiest to shell.  The grilled method worked well too but for some reason I found the roasted nuts to be extremely difficult to shell.  From now on if I can’t buy my chestnuts from a street vendor I’ll be cooking mine at home under the broiler.

The payoff

Try your chestnuts in the following recipes:

Fine Cooking’s Chestnut Soup with Crisp Prosciutto
Saveur’s Chestnut Pound Cake
Williams-Sonoma’s Pear, Chestnut, and Sage Dressing 
Williams-Sonoma’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts

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