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Archive for July 19th, 2009

you had me at lamb

spoon lamb with brown rice

If you’re a foodblogger, do you sometimes find that you cook more for your blog than you do for your friends?

Well, I was clearly doing that on Friday.

What was I thinking? The below menu for two people? Please, feel free to laugh. That’s what I did! You can see what I planned and then what really happened.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, as reported by Mark Bittman in the NYT and as brought to my attention by Jess at Sweet Amandine - baked it at 425º instead of 450º — recipe not yet perfected

Unió olive oil for dipping — this stuff is good enough plain (there’s a pic of it in my kibbutz herb salad) 

Roasted garlic forgot to serve

Warm za’atar olives forgot to make

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon-cumin sauce- a hit!

Bean and walnut paté – recipe in the Ana Sortun link, not seasoned enough, a bit unctuous, and we didn’t even touch it despite its being on the table

Vic’s salad: Israeli-style salad with olivesdidn’t serve because I had made it earlier in the day and  it was not fresh enough for my Israeli friend’s palate…that’s OK, we had WAY too much other food

Green salad (maybe) - nope

Spoon lamb (see below) - FABULOUS!

Couscousno couscous in pantry, made brown basmati rice with caramelized onions instead

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup (or a splash of lemon juice + mint) √ fresh from Harvard Yard farmers market near the Science Center

If I have time: Almond butter cookies with just almonds (no chocolate chunks)no time

Just in case: a slice of apple strudel and mini fruit tart from Catering by Andrew (the only place I know of around here to pick up good kosher patisserie) √ thank G-d for plan B, and the tart had a nice almond frangipane base

***

Ummm, in case you couldn’t quite follow that, here’s what we actually ate:

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Unió olive oil for dipping

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon-cumin sauce

Spoon lamb (recipe below)

Brown basmati rice with caramelized onions

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup

A slice of apple strudel and mini fruit tart from Catering by Andrew

While impressed with the variety and ambition of the meal, my friend said that I could have made only the lamb and tortellini, and he would have been just as impressed. And thrilled with dinner. I said next time, I’m just making spaghetti and meatballs…

But, honestly, this lamb was amazing. I’ve never made lamb before and this could not have been easier (most of the time is spent with the lamb in the oven). I was a bit apprehensive because I know that lamb is fatty, but this recipe came out not only exquisitely tender (hence the name “spoon lamb”), but the fat cooked off into the braising sauce, and you then skim it off after refrigerating. For a first attempt at a recipe, this was incredibly rewarding.

Ana Sortun’s Spoon Lamb

Spoon Lamb

The recipe is adapted from Ana Sortun’s Spoon Lamb in “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean,” as quoted in Julia Moskin’s NYT article entitled, THE CHEF: ANA SORTUN; Spices by the Handful, Not by the Pinch” (June 14, 2006). The main modification I made is that I halved the recipe, and have reflected that in my quantities here. I did however keep the amount of vegetables the same. Time: 3 hours plus at least 1 hour’s chilling.

Serves 2 with lots and lots of leftovers.

- 1T canola oil
- 3 lamb shoulder chops, 10 to 12 ounces each
- 1 1/4 cups dry red wine (I used an excellent Bordeaux)
- 2 t ground cumin
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 T pomegranate concentrate – I used Sadaf brand (RCC), purchased at Tabrizi Bakery in Watertown, MA (original recipe called for pomegranate molasses, sold in Middle Eastern markets)
-2 T cold unsalted margarine, cut into 2 pieces (original recipe called for butter, but I substituted margarine to keep the dish kosher)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon, halved
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint (optional – I fogot this!)

Rather than using multiple pots and pans (the original recipe calls for at least one skillet and a roasting pan), I made the entire dish in a single large deep Calphalon skillet that went pretty easily from stovetop to oven. I covered the plastic-coated handles in aluminum foil to protect them in the oven.

Heat oven to 325ºF. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb chops and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes a side. Remove chops to a plate.

lamb chops in skillet

browned 4 mins, each side

Pour off any fat from skillet and deglaze with 1/4 cup red wine, scraping up browned bits.

Replace chops in skillet roasting pan and sprinkle cumin over lamb. Add garlic, carrot, onion, remaining 1 cup wine and enough water to reach halfway up chops (I always add a bit extra water, actually reaching about 3/4 up the chops). Cover with two sheets of aluminum foil and seal tightly with lid of skillet. Braise in oven 2 1/2 hours, until falling off bone.

after 2.5 hours braising

Remove lamb and carrots from pan. Strain juices (pressing remaining solids through cheesecloth) into a bowl. Refrigerate braising liquid until fat rises to surface and can be skimmed off and discarded, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Lamb and carrots can be refrigerated separately.)

090 sharp square
In a skillet big enough to hold lamb (I used the same one that I initially browned the lamb chops in), simmer liquid until reduced by about half and thickened but not syrupy (~7 minutes). Stir in pomegranate concentrate and margarine, and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in one lemon half. Taste and add more lemon and salt, if necessary. Reheat lamb and carrots in sauce over low heat, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with mint, if desired (I forgot), and with rice.

no knife or fork necessary

A special thank you to Anu from Swirl Savvy for some last minute wine tips, and the staff at the Butcherie for their assistance in choosing three beautiful bone-in shoulder chops for this dish, explaining how to identify quality cuts with a good ratio of meat, bone, and fat (beginning to redeem themselves via quality customer service, despite some of my initial reservations about their hours).

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