THE Dish: Chef Frank Stitt's lamb shoulder with porcini

(CBS News) Chef Frank Stitt is known as the godfather of Southern food and has been celebrated for changing the landscape of Alabama's cuisine.

Special section: Food and wine

Stitt has multiple James Beard Award nominations and several wins, including best chef, southeast, as well as being named to the foundation's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America.

Surprisingly, the chef started out as a philosophy major but quickly discovered he was more interested in cooking. He worked in several restaurants in California as well as traveled to France before he moved back to his home state of Alabama.

The chef has three restaurants in the state: Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega and Chez Fon Fon.

Highlands Bar and Grill was opened in 1982 and just celebrated 30 years of success. The restaurant has been nominated four times for the James Beard Foundation's outstanding restaurant award.

Lamb Shoulder with Porcini, Pine Nuts and Cannellini Puree

For the Stuffing

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

1/4 cup dried porcini, soaked in warm water until softened and chopped

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves removed and chopped

1 teaspoon each chopped thyme, savory and rosemary

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Braise

One 3- to 4-pound boneless lamb shoulder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

1 onion, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

6 cups chicken stock (or beef or lamb stock)

Several sprigs thyme, savory and rosemary and 1 bay leaf, tied together with kitchen twine to form a bouquet garni

1/2 pound porcini or cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon thyme leaves (optional)

1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute.

2. Add the porcini and toss for a few seconds. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and fold in the bread crumbs, pine nuts, chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

3. Open the lamb shoulder on a cutting board and remove any excess fat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Starting from a long side, roll up and tuck the meat to enclose the stuffing. Using kitchen twine, tie the roll into a neat, secure package, kind of like a football. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Preheat the oven to 310 degrees.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lamb shoulder and brown it on all sides. Transfer the meat to a rack to rest.

6. Wipe the fat from the pot with a paper towel and return the pot to the stove. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

7. Add the wine, bring to a boil over high heat, and boil for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni, and return the lamb to the pot. Bring the liquid back to a simmer, then cover with the lid and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook until the lamb is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

8. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and the thyme leaves, if using. Set aside.

9. When the lamb is tender, remove it to a rack to rest.

10. Place the pot of braising liquid over high heat and bring to a boil, skimming all the fat from the surface. Reduce the liquid by half.

11. Warm the cannellini bean puree. Reheat the mushrooms; toss the whole cannellini beans from the puree recipe into the skillet with the mushrooms to warm through.

12. Slice the lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon the puree onto warm serving plates and arrange the lamb on top of the puree. Spoon the broth over all, and garnish with the sauteed mushrooms and cannellini beans.

Cannellini Bean Puree with Roasted Garlic

2 cups Cooked Shell Beans,

Drained and broth reserved

2 teaspoons roasted garlic puree

1 Yukon Gold potato, boiled until tender, drained and peeled

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Flat-leaf parsley or tender celery leaves for garnish

1. Set aside a few of the cannellini beans for garnish, and transfer the rest to a food processor.

2. Add the roasted garlic, potato and cream and process to a puree, adding some of the reserved bean broth as needed to facilitate pureeing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve the puree garnished with the reserved cannellini beans and parsley or celery leaves.

Ratatouille

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions cut into large dice about 1 inch square

2 red bell peppers cut into 1 inch squares

2 golden bell peppers cut into 1 inch squares

1 Poblano pepper cut into 1 inch squares

4 garlic cloves, grated with a micro plane grater

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 thyme sprigs

4 bay leaves

4 basil stems, some leaves saved for latter

2 firm eggplants cut into 1 inch dice, salted, allow draining for 1 hour, pat dry

2 zucchini cut into 1 inch cube, salted, allow draining for 1 hour, pat dry

2 cups canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped or torn into pieces

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Finishing olive oil

1. In a large heavy pan add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over a moderate flame, add the onions and peppers and cook until just softened, about 10 minutes, add 1/2 the garlic, salt and pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and basil stem and cook for another few minutes--until garlic has softened.

2. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes and set aside.

3. In 3 separate pans heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook the eggplant over moderate heat in two of the pans and the zucchini in the third until softened--about 10 minutes for eggplant and about 5 minutes for zucchini, add remaining garlic to each, salt and pepper and toss for another 2 minutes then combine with the onion-pepper-tomato mixture and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

4. To serve, add a chiffonade of fresh basil and a dollop of the best quality olive oil, and a drop of best quality red wine vinegar, taste to adjust and serve at room temperature, garnish with a sprig of basil.

Composed Autumn Salad

2 each small red, Golden and Chioggia beets cooked, peeled and cut into wedges

1 apple (such as Honey Crisp), quartered and thinly sliced

Mix of lettuces including Watercress, Escarole, Tatsoi, Endive, Spinach and Gem Bibb

2 carrots peeled and shaved into thin slices

1 medium onion, roasted and quartered

1 cup cooked red quinoa or farro

6 ounces blue cheese

1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted

Fresh dill or chives

For the vinaigrette

1 shallot finely minced

1 scant tablespoon dijon mustard

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Make vinaigrette by macerating the shallot with the vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper for 15 minutes then whisk in olive oil, taste and adjust.

2. Marinate the beets and onion with a little of the vinaigrette and keep separated.

3. Toss the apple and carrot together with a little of the vinaigrette and set aside.

4. Toss the quinoa with a little vinaigrette and set aside.

5. Season the lettuces with a little vinaigrette, salt and pepper--place a small amount in the center of serving plate. Place a mound of each element around the lettuces, crumble over blue cheese and scatter nuts about. Add snipped dill or chives and serve.

Highlands Baked Grits

4 cups water, preferably spring water

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup yellow stone-ground grits, preferably organic

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1 large egg, beaten

For the Sauce

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup sherry vinegar, or to taste

2 shallots, minced

1 bay leaf

1 dried red chile pepper

1 to 2 ounces country ham

1 tablespoon heavy cream

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste

Hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 thin slices country ham or prosciutto, cut into julienne strips

1/2 cup chanterelle, morel, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces

1 shallot, minced

Thyme leaves for garnish

1. In a large heavy saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add the grits in a slow, steady stream and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Remove from the heat and add the butter, Parmigiano, and white pepper, stirring until combined. Add the egg and stir to incorporate.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter eight to ten 4- to 6-ounce ramekins.

4. Divide the grits among the buttered ramekins, place in a baking pan, and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

5. Remove the foil and bake for about 20 minutes longer, or until the tops are crusty and beginning to brown.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallots, bay leaf, chile pepper, and ham and bring to a boil.

Pear and Almond Tart

For the tart

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Combine the flour, butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times, just until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the egg and pulse a few more times, until the mixture resembles small peas; do not over process. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap the dough in the place wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

2. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Dust a work surface and the disk of dough with flour and roll out the dough into round 12 inches in diameter for 10-inch tart. Fit into the tart pan, gently pressing the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Remove any excess dough with a roll of the rolling pin. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. To bake the tart shell, line the tart shell with parchment paper or foil and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake until thoroughly dry and golden, five to eight minutes more. Let cool in the pan on a rack.

For the pears

3 cups sugar

6 cups water

1/2 vanilla bean, split

One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

6 firm but almost-ripe Bartlett pears

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 cup finely ground blanched almonds

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons Calvados or dark rum

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 unbaked 10-inch tart shell, made with Pate Brisee (see below), chilled

1. Combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and cinnamon in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, peel the pears, cut them lengthwise in half, and remove the cores.

3. Place the pears in the simmering syrup and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Test for doneness by piercing one of the pears with a paring knife: It should offer very little resistance. Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid, then discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, add the egg, almonds, flour, Calvados and almond extract and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour this mixture into the chilled tart shell and spread it evenly.

6. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid, letting excess liquid drain off. Set 1 cup of the poaching liquid aside. Place the pears cut side down close together on the tart with the narrow ends facing in, until the entire surface of the tart is covered. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring the reserved pear poaching liquid to a boil and reduce to a glaze; there should be 2 to 3 tablespoons remaining. Set aside.

8. As soon as the tart comes out of the oven, brush the pears with the reduced poaching liquid to give them a sheen.

9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • Shoshana Davis

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