Thursday, February 19, 2015
Leg of Lamb. This dish intimidates some cooks because its a relatively expensive cut of meat, and we just don't eat that much lamb here in the States. But if you don't roast a leg now and then, you are denying yourself one of the world's great culinary traditions. Lamb has a wonderfully succulent flavor and roasting a leg of lamb is simple and virtually foolproof, as long as you don't overcook it. Yes, lamb, like a good steak, is better enjoyed on the rarer side of things.
You can usually get a nice 3-5 pound leg at even a common grocery store these days.
Just check the date--lamb can go horribly wrong if its past its date. You can do bone in or boneless. Bone in might give you a little more flavor, but its a bit more difficult to carve. Today we'll be going with boneless.
Remove it from its plastic wrap, and if it is in a webbing, like here,
Remove the web and unroll the leg.
You can see where the bone ran quite easily. We're going to spread some whole grain mustard inside the cavity where the bone was.
Then we'll roll it back up and tie it off with some butcher's twine.
This mustard will give a nice subtle tang to the flavor of the lamb, but otherwise it doesn't need much. Lamb, even the leg, is inherently tender, and needs pretty much no marinade.
Once she's all tied up, pierce the outside all over with the sharp end of a knife to a depth of about a half inch.
Slice a couple of garlic cloves into thin strips.
Insert these strips in the incisions you've made in the lamb.
Next, brush with olive oil (light or pure, no extra-virgin here, it has too low of a smoke point)
Then sprinkle some herbs de Province all over.
Heat your oven to 450F. While it is heating, peel a potato, slice it in half, and then cut it into half-inch thick crescents.
Yes, we're gonna roast some taters in the pan drippings of the lamb. They will make an outstanding side.
Place the potato slices in a plastic bag, pour in some olive oil, then a tablespoon or so herbs de Province, then shake well.
Toss the potato slices in the bottom of a roasting pan.
Place a rack over them, then place the leg of lamb on top of this.
Roast at 450 for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven to 325F and roast for around 15 minutes per pound, but to be safe use a meat thermometer and remove the lamb when it measures 125F in the center for rare, or 135F for medium. I wouldn't go much over that, as a well-done leg will be dry and tough and will have lost much of its flavor. Oh, and keep an eye on your taters. If you're doing a 4 pound roast like I have here then the hour or so roasting time should be perfect for the thick potato slices. If you've got a bigger leg, you might need to pull the taters when they turn golden brown
and continue to roast your lamb.
Wither way, pull the lamb out when it is done and let rest five minutes or so, letting the juices redistribute.
When ready, carve it in nice thick slices. It should have a nice healthy pink color in all but around the edges.
Plate and serve simply, as I've done here.
If you must, feel free to add a side of mint jelly, as that is the traditional accompaniment. But, I really don't care for it...feel it covers up the lamb's naturally wonderful flavor.
Until next time,
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
When Romano's Macaroni Grill opened near me in the early '90s, I was thrilled. This restaurant really took Italian Cuisine to a new level, one heretofore unseen by a chain restaurant. Over the years, they've changed their menu from time to time, but I'm still pretty happy with their fare. Except for the fact that they discontinued my favorite dish, Farfalle Ronaldo.
You can still sort of get them to 'manufacture' this dish for you from the build-your-own-pasta-menu, but it just doesn't seem to be the same. Can't recall why--perhaps there was some ingredient missing. Anyway, the next best thing is to make it at home--in fact, that may even be the better thing. I've been making my own version for years. It's quick, easy, and can be made from ingredients that you probably have on hand, or should. Here's how:
8 Oz Farfalle Pasta, Cooked Al Dente
3 Oz Sun Dried Tomatoes, Julienne Cut
3 Oz Pitted Kalamata Olives
3 Oz Feta Cheese, Cubed
2 Oz Pine Nuts
2 Teaspoons Dried Basil
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
You could use any sort of olives in this, but the Kalamata are traditional.
Sun Dried Tomatoes come all sorts of ways, including suspended in oil. These are two oily for me, I just buy them dry. You can even get them already julienned.
Pine Nuts: Make sure you get fresh pine nuts. Because of their high fat content, these can go rancid quite quickly, so avoid buying them in little packets that have been hanging on the grocery store shelf for who knows how long. I buy them from Central Market in bulk, then freeze them in a ziplock until I need them.
Feta Cheese comes in all sorts of flavors these days. Just get regular. Also resist the urge to buy the already crumbled version--the crumbs in these are too small and melt when you mix things. Buy the block and cube it.
Okay, let's get down to business.
First, get some water boiling in a large pot. Do the same in a small sauce pan or saucier, then boil your sun dried tomatoes in the small sauce pan. Let things boil for a few minutes to soften the tomatoes.
Once they are soft, drain them and return them to the same pan.
Add the olive oil and saute them a minute or two.
While this is going on, add your pasta to the now boiling water in the big pot. Boil for 6-8 minutes, until Al Dente, or to your liking.
You can also cube your Feta right now.
After a couple minutes, add the olives to the sun dried tomatoes. Olives, with their high levels of fat, taken on a whole new level of flavor when heated through.
Stir the whole concoction with a fork or spoon while its heating, to keep it from scorching on the bottom.
Add the basil. If you have fresh, you can certainly use that, but our garden was bare when we made this batch, so we used dried.
Add the pine nuts.
Cook another minute or two to let everything heat through.
Keep stirring it from time to time.
Drain your pasta, place some in a bowl, then spoon on your tomato concoction. Top with some of the feta. Serve immediately.
Until Next Time,
Friday, January 9, 2015
Happy New Year!
And Happy New Blog Year as well. Time for a bit of self-congratulating and pat-myself-on-the-backing, cause the ole’ bloggy has reached its one hundredth post. This one right here that you’re soaking up with your very own eyeballs. Who knew when I started this little endeavor almost five years ago that it would go this long?
Well, I’ve enjoyed it, and am proud to have amassed a nice collection of recipes that not only form a nice reference for me but are now handy for sharing with family and friends and strangers alike. Anyhoo, before we get to that 100th post recipe, I have a little announcement to make. I’m making a change here at the blog, hopefully, a change for the better.
Here’s the change in three words. Better Food Photography. Yes, over the years I’ve poured over many a food blog and lamented that many of them had such professional looking food photography on them, while mine was pretty much hit or miss. Oh, sometimes I got lucky and got a nice shot or two, but often times my photos looked quite amateur, or even downright crappy. But I just settled for such, figuring those pro-looking shots were beyond me.
Well, no longer, sez I. Over the past few months I’ve been studying, buying new lighting equipment, learning and practicing and figuring it all out. What I discovered is that just a few simple changes and a few cheap pieces of equipment can drastically improve one’s photography. I’d always shot with a pretty high end camera, but I always just set it on automatic and shot away. Now I’m shooting in manual, with off-camera strobe lights, and the results are pretty awesome. Sure, there’s still room for improvement, and I’ll be striving for that as the months and years follow, but I’m still happy with where I’m at now—light years ahead of some of the old stuff.
I’ll be posting a page shortly with some more info on my new photography technique. Meanwhile, what follows is the first recipe to fully feature the results.
So, the 100th post recipe. What to post, what to post? Well, I decided it had to be something special. Something decadent. Something French. Enter Lobster Thermidor.
Even though I’m something of a lobster purist, and don’t feel that it really needs to be all gussied up with sauces and such, Lobster Thermidor has always fascinated me, as do all old guard French recipes that harken back to days of gastronomic glory. I just had to try to make it at least once. The results actually turned out to be pretty spectacular, but what else would one expect from those decadent French!
2 One and A Half Pound Lobsters
1/2 stick Butter
1/2 Pound Mushrooms, Sliced
1/2 Onion, Diced
1 Shallot, Diced
1/2 Cup White Wine
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Tablespoons Cognac or Brandy
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Egg Yolks
1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Tarragon
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon White Pepper
1 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
To begin, prep your lobsters by steaming or boiling them. I generally boil Lobsters, as I find it easier and am happy with the results. Get a nice large pot a little over half full of water and get it to a rolling boil.
Yes, we have a dedicated lobster pot. Shouldn’t everyone?
Boil lobsters for eight to ten minutes. This will leave this just slightly undercooked, but that’s okay…they will continue to cook with residual heat and also a bit under the broiler later, and we don’t want them overcooked.
When the lobsters are finished, we need to split them in half lengthwise. Yes, lobster Thermidor is all about the fancy presentation, so we’ll be serving it in the shell. I use good sharp kitchen shears to cut the lobster,
starting at the tail and cutting along the back, then repeating with the belly, until I have two nice halves for each lobster.
Next, remove the tail and claw meat and reserve. Discard the rest of the lobster innards.
Now to make the sauce. Melt butter in saucepan.
French dishes always seem to start with butter. When the butter is melted, add the sliced mushrooms...
and cook them until they are golden brown.
Remove mushrooms and reserve. Add more butter to the pan.
Cook onions and shallots for a few minutes,
then add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add white wine and deglaze pan. Cook 1-2 Minutes. Add flour
and cook until roux forms. Add cognac or brandy
and cook 1 minute. Add the milk
and cook for 2-3 minutes. While this is going on, whisk the egg yolks together with the heavy cream. Add this mixture to the skillet
and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add mustard, tarragon, cayenne, salt, pepper and half the cheese and stir.
Chop up the lobster meat into bite-sized chunks.
At this point some recipes will tell you to add the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, but I find if you do that, you risk not evenly distributing your precious lobster meat in the shells. So, add the lobster meat by first to the shell halves,
then the mushrooms,
and then you can cover with the sauce.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Broil for 5 minutes
or so until golden brown on top.
Serve immediately while the lobster and sauce is piping hot.
Until Next Time,