Archive for ‘Lamb’

August 12, 2011

Sharing History | Gigot d’Agneau

Sometimes a memorable meal transcends your kitchen tools and cooking techniques.  Instead, it’s a celebration that connects you to your friends, family, and culture.  That’s what happens when you cook a leg of lamb.  It isn’t particularly complicated, but the result is magical.  If you appreciate the cut and revere the process, history will carry you along.

Lamb is the centerpiece of celebrations on every continent.  And the leg of lamb is the most sought after cut.  It’s lean, forgiving, and can take on flavors through marinading, grilling, roasting, or braising.  Most importantly, though, its sublimely delicious and it makes enough to share.

I simply scored the fat in a crisscrossed pattern and arranged a handful of garlic cloves in the cuts.  After seasoning quite generously with salt and pepper, I placed it in a roasting pan with diced carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes.  About an inch of water and a bouquet garni later and the hard part was done.  Cover it tightly with foil, then its into the oven at 300F for five hours or so, checking the liquid level at the halfway point.  Then invite friends, family or both, and serve it with white beans and white wine.

But really, you should let your imagination be your guide.  It’s not everyday that you find yourself in possession of such beautiful meat (thank you dearly, Kate), so use the opportunity to celebrate and share your life.

Playlist included Rue St. Vincent, par Yves Montand.

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March 25, 2011

Persephone’s Cocina | Lamb Chili

This is as close to elegant as a bowl of chili can get – it’s more appropriate for date night than for game night.  The lamb mellows beautifully after some time on the stove, the texture is velvety and tender, and the flavor is at once comforting and surprising.  This recipe makes use of some bold and non-traditional spicing, and the payoff is extraordinary.  The black cardamom provides a smoky warmth, the fenugreek a little burnt maple.  Pair these with the traditional cumin, chili powder and coffee, and the result is wonderful.  Its stunning, brick-red color is worth making it alone.  It’s a refined chili with a faint, almost-Persian echo.  Serve it over tamales, with some homemade cornbread, or simply with some sour cream.  It’s easy, and it’s a star.

Chile de Cordero, Serves 2

2 strips bacon, chopped

1/2 pound ground lamb

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February 9, 2011

Cold Weather Curry | Masoor Dal with Root Vegetables

Just because it’s a weeknight meal and it’s cold, and – let’s face it – you’re a little bit miserable, doesn’t mean that you have to compromise.

We always hear the world is getting smaller.  Things that we once thought were inaccessible, foreign and exotic, even five years ago, are now within easy reach of the home chef of today.  As South Asian food and culture continues to entice new followers, why not adopt these beautiful, time-tested and spice-kissed flavors as your own, even if just for one night?  You might just fall in love with the fragrances and techniques and make them a part of your cooking repertoire and perhaps, your family’s traditions.

Tonight’s recipe is for a dal that adds root vegetables.  Made with a base of quick cooking split red lentils, I added some onions, carrots, parsnips and potatoes.  The pleasure of a dish like this is that if you manage the base technique, you can change up the ingredients, and even spices to make it just to your taste.  Like cumin seeds, but don’t have the black cardamom? Fine. Use what you like and have.  PK tip: The basic trick to getting the flavor right in this dish is heating the oil very hot and frying the whole spices until they are very brown.  This makes a perfectly balanced vegetarian dinner if you serve this with basmati rice that’s been cooked with a cinnamon stick, four whole cloves and a few crushed cardamom pods.  Or if you’re in the mood for meat, serve this, like I did, with garam masala dusted lamb loin chops and homemade naan bread with cumin seeds.

Mansoor Dal with Root Vegetables

2 T vegetable oil

1 bay leaf

1 T whole corriander seeds

1 T whole cumin seeds

1 T whole mustard seeds

4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 black cardamom pod, lightly crushed

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January 11, 2011

Winter Kitchen | Roasted Chestnut Risotto with Mushrooms

When the snow is swirling outside and you feel like spending a bit of time in a warm kitchen stirring leisurely, risotto is your answer.

I have a deep love for risottos.   It is an endlessly versatile dish, perfectly at home in any season.  A stock, some aromatics, and a bit of rice transforms into a bowl of comfort.

I have taken risotto on as the meal I would most like to perfect in my life.  Ultimately, I want mine to be able to stand up next to any Italian nonna’s.  Lofty dream, I know.   But it’s a life project.

One of the things that makes me almost endlessly sad is to see recipes for “risotto” that include copious amounts of butter or oil or cream.  Risotto should not be a excessively fatty dish.  It is, as I said, essentially stock and rice.  You add at the end a bit of Parmesan if you like, or alternately, depending on the combination of ingredients, a heaping tablespoon (at most) of perhaps some marscapone cheese (across four servings) .  The creaminess of the dish is almost entirely derived from the grains of rice giving up their starch.

Today’s risotto was a combination of roasted and chopped chestnuts, dried and fresh mushrooms and a lamb stock.  This happy combination was again facilitated by The Flavor Thesaurus.   I had lamb bones in the freezer from a roasted lamb shoulder, so it was easy to toss everything in a pot to simmer a stock in the afternoon.  A bit later on, I set a metal sieve over the pot and soaked some dried chanterelles to rehydrate them and add a further bit of meatiness to the stock.

When it was time for dinner, I sauteed some fresh mushrooms (a combination of oyster, portabella, and cremini) along with the rehydrated chanterelles that I chopped in a very hot pan with some olive oil and salt and pepper, almost like duxelles.  When these were brown, I put them in a bowl for later.  I added a sliced shallot to the pan, reduced the heat to medium and soften it a bit.  Then I added about a cup and a half of rice, cooked it for a minute then deglazed the pan with vermouth.  The rest of the cooking is almost identical to the recipes here and here.  I added in the mushrooms just before the last addition of the lamb stock to rewarm them.  PK tip:  Make sure you add a generous extra ladle full or two of stock just before serving.  You want it almost a bit too loose.  It sets up so quickly as you get it to the table and you want it to be spoon-able, not stiff.  The plate was garnished with a bit of thyme (lots in the stock) and grated Parmesan.

Playlist included Writing to Reach You, by Travis.

September 12, 2010

Gameday in the Underworld | Lamb Tagine

I knew it was game day, I just didn’t make the traditional food for it.  This is a novel spread for fall football entertaining because (well, it features lamb, but also!) each of these can be served either hot or room temperature.  If it’s not your thing, give these dishes a try on a fall weekend when your favorite team has a bye.

First, tagine of lamb (we used lovely little lamb chops).  This is a simplified version of a Claudia Roden recipe from Arabesque.  I prefer to have my lamb a bit more on the well-done side, so braises suit me well.  To braise, I first seared the chops with a garlic clove and a couple of shallots in a tagine, then added some of the lamb stock we made last weekend and then a handful of almonds (roughly chopped) and a handful of dates.  Let it cook for about an hour and a half to two hours over really low heat.  This method gave it a really lovely sauce and the chops were surprisingly tender for such a short braise.

Side dishes included roasted eggplant, tomato and bell peppers (just used a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and a 400˚ oven for about 25 to 30 minutes).  Afterwards, give it a mix with a few dashes of cumin and some ground sumac if you’ve got it.

Make a quick sauce by caramelizing a whole onion, sliced in thin rings, in a bit of vegetable oil.  Once the onions are caramelized, add a drop or two of honey, some salt and pepper and use either an immersion blender or a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  This thick sauce is great with the lamb, but it could be nice with any number of other meats, some sage-y roasted pork perhaps.

Then I made couscous.  I think it’s kind of funny how much I enjoy making this.  It’s like how your mom has a potato salad recipe memorized and the only way you can learn is by watching her. “Oh honey, I don’t know, keep adding the mayonaise until it looks right.”  Great, thanks, Mom.  (Don’t take that personally, Demeter.)  Here’s an attempt to get a recipe down for this fast side that can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Warm or Cold Couscous

3 cups couscous (not the Israeli, we used Rice Select tricolor)

3 cups liquid (water is fine, chicken stock is nicer)

½ c olive oil

1 orange (zest and juice)

3 T cumin

1/8 t of rose water, if you have it

¾ c currants or raisins (golden or plain jane)

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered or larger tomato cubed

½ c. pine nuts( toasted is nice, but not 100% necessary)

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the three cups of liquid to a boil, then whisk in the couscous.  Remove from heat and cover.

In a deep bowl, whisk together olive oil through rose water, a generous couple of pinches of salt and 20 twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add in the raisins through mint and parsley and whisk again.  After ten minutes or so, remove the lid from the couscous and using a fork, fluff the couscous and then add into the deep bowl with the dressing.  Mix well.

At this point you may need to add a bit more olive oil or cumin or salt or pepper.  PK tip:  This is where taste, remember, season, taste again comes into practice (I think I originally read this in Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef).  You’ll do this a lot as you begin to cook more without a net, so to speak.

Serve with a 2004 Grenache from Orvene Winery.  It’s a stunning, affordable pairing available from our friends at Vino 100 down in the Short North.

An unusual menu for a game calls for an unusual playlist.  Today’s included old Cocteau Twins and Bjork’s Hyperballad.

PK thanks Cronus for today’s photography.

September 9, 2010

Greek, Only Not | Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Olives

Didn’t they always serve roast lamb on Sundays back in the Mad Men era?  This Greek-inspired lamb shoulder with an olive sauce is worth all the trouble and forward planning you might have to do.

Hades and I had a hankering for some lamb after the Greek Festival last weekend.  Maybe with some olives.  And eggplant.  Ooo!  And some of our home grown tomatoes. You know, Mediterranean flavors , but not quite so literal.  And that started us thinking about all the Columbus purveyors of locally made, grown and produced deliciousness; we decided to see how local we could go.  Consider this one of our first forays into the Eat Local Challenge that will be happening later this October.

We ordered our lamb shoulder from Bluescreek Farm Meats, our Cherub selected the local eggplant and garlic with a little help from Colleen at the Greener Grocer.  The olives and pita were from Firdous Express, and the tomatoes and herbs were from our backyard. The shallots were from Cronus’s garden.  Not local was the salt, pepper, olive oil, and butter.  We’ll work on those.

You might be tempted just to enjoy the pictures and read the description, but please don’t do that!  Try this out on a Sunday soon, before all this summer’s tomatoes are gone.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Olive Sauce served with Eggplant and Tomato Fondue

Lamb Stock – Yeah, I know.  Keep reading.  We made ours the day before.

1 pound of lamb bones (ask your butcher, lamb neck works well)

2 carrots (tops left on, please), scrubbed and broken in half

1 yellow onion, paper left on, quartered

Small handful of parsley and thyme, 1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns

In a roasting pan, spread out the bones and place in a 350˚ oven for 30 to 45 minutes turning once or twice, until golden.  When roasted, place bones in large pasta pot, along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cover with water.  Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then turn down so that the water is barely simmering.  Skim regularly.  Allow to gently cook for two hours.  Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth.

Roast Lamb – Preheat Oven to 500˚

2.5 pounds bone in lamb shoulder

1 head garlic, cloves separated, but paper still on

Very large handful of fresh sage, fresh parsley and fresh thyme

Salt, pepper, olive oil

In a large, heavy, lidded roasting pan, cover the bottom of the pan with all of the garlic cloves then layer over the herbs on top of the garlic.  Using a sharp knife, shallowly slice a crisscross pattern into the top of the lamb shoulder, rub liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on the pan, slide the pan in the oven and immediately reset oven temperature to 325˚.  Roast for four hours.  (Yes, four hours.)   To serve, shred roughly off the bone with a generous ladle of olive sauce and some pita for scooping.

PK tip: keep the bones once you pull out the roast.  Throw them in the freezer so you have roasted lamb bones next time you want to make stock.

Olive Sauce, inspired by Marco Pierre White

4 c. Lamb Stock

1½ c. olives from your grocery’s olive bar (pits removed, but not stuffed with feta or jalapeños, please and roughly chopped)

4 T butter

In a sauce pot, reduce the lamb stock over medium heat by 2/3 (this takes about an hour to an hour and a half).  When you’re about ready to serve dinner, whisk in the butter and add the olives and warm through.

Tomato Fondue, inspired by Marco Pierre White and Escoffier

½ shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Scant ½ cup olive oil

6 to 8 large, very ripe Roma tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped (Hades insists he would never bother with skinning and deseeding, but I did, and it was worth it)

¼ bay leaf (really, Marco?), 1 sprig of thyme, salt

In a pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and sweat, without coloring, for a few minutes.  Add in the tomatoes and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick paste.  Remove bay, and tip mixture into a blender or food processor.  Blend until the mixture is smooth.  I found it actually emulsifies into an almost mayonnaise-like consistency.  Add a pinch or two of salt.

Eggplant Preparation

1 eggplant, sliced into ½ to ¾ inch thick rounds

Olive oil, salt (preferably fleur de sel:  it adds a nice texture)

In a large frying pan, cover the bottom of the pan with ½ inch of olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Prick the eggplant rounds with a fork.  Place the rounds in the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides (six to eight minutes).  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  To assemble, place a slice of eggplant on a plate and cover with a generous spoonful of the tomato fondue.

Are you still there?  You are?  That’s great.  I’m guessing you’re still reading because there’s a little tiny bit of you that wants to make this, but you read the post and said, “no way, that’s too hard.  I don’t have time for that.”  You have the time if you really want to.  You’d be so proud of yourself.  I was so proud of myself.  Hades and I love cooking together.  The greatness of the meal is that it highlights one of the most amazing cuisines as well as lots of different techniques.  Like lifting weights, it will make you a stronger cook.  And heck, it tastes great, too.

Wine:  PK recommends a Greek white that Hades and I were introduced to at Gordon Ramsay’s London Bar.  It’s a Moscofilero, Domaine Skouras.  A white with Lamb?  A white indeed.

Playlist included the lovely Rose Elinor Dougall’s debut album Without Why.

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