Monday, June 20, 2011

On the Lamb

I have a tendency to get carried away. At the first or second farmer's market of the year, I splurged on a leg of lamb. I'm embarassed to say how much it cost. Twenty dollars--just under $20. The farmer swiped my card (very savvy, but a good idea if you're charging that much for meat), I walked away and later thought that spending twenty bones on a raw product was a tad irresponsible for a student. (I paid for it financial aid, and will furthermore justify the purchase by claiming the expense under "studying.") The leg of lamb sat in my freezer for weeks until the perfect moment last week when it wasn't too hot (just enough) and most my friends could come.

I fitted the leg, which took a couple days to dethaw in my fridge, with a Moroccan spice rub under the directions of Molly Stevens who wrote All About Braising, a book that's been on my Amazon wish list for at least a year. I roasted the spices and then sent them through a peppermill twist by aching twist of the wrist. I marinated the leg overnight then cooked the braise with a slew of Mediterranean vegetables, which all got too soggy in the Dutch oven but were still tasty if a bit mushy. Alongside, I made a slaw of sliced carrots and radishes, lighter to complement the heavy hand of the lamb.

Making dinner for friends will probably continue to be one of my favorite things no matter who I'm friends with or where I live. Well worth $20 for a leg of lamb and change for vegetables, although we would have the same happiness with vegetarian pasta so long as there's wine.

Moroccan Spice-rubbed Lamb: From All About Braising by Molly Stevens
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch turmeric
pinch cayenne

leg of lamb, bone-in
1 onion, sliced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
pinch saffron
1 eggplant, cubed
1 tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken/vegetables/beef stock

Heat the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, allspice berries in a saute pan without oil until they are aromatic. Grind with a pestel and mortar. Add the rest of the spices and rub on the exterior of the lamb. Let lamb marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Sear the outside of the lamb, remove from heat. Saute the onion. Stir in the saffron threads and some salt. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in the rest of the vegetables and bake another hour and a half until the meat is fork tender. Remove from oven and remove the lamb, setting it aside covered with foil. Meanwhile, bring the vegetables to a boil to reduce the volume of the liquid. Pour over bulgur wheat or quinoa and serve with lamb.

Carrot-Radish Relish: taught to me by a fellow student
3 carrots, peeled and sliced  into rounds
10 radishes, sliced
1/2 cup white-wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
salt to taste

Slice the carrot and radishes. Meanwhile, heat the vinegar, oil and seasonings until just barely simmering. Remove from heat and pour over vegetables. Let marinate for at least an hour in the fridge. Strain excess liquid and serve.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Poached Pear Tart

I've been wanting to delve into more Italian pastries lately. I think it's something of a desire to make something more rustic and less composed than traditional French pastries. What I need is an Italian equivalent to Tartine Bakery's cookbooks, which lean heavily on the French side but is filled with completely awesome recipes (except the tea cakes, which have so far turned out disastrously for me--one sunken and the other spilled over and burned all over the oven). I decided to turn to Lidia Bastianich for some tried and true Italian specialties. She came through with this poached pear tart whose crust was softer than French variations. The ingredients were simple: pears, sugar, lemon juice and apricot jam. The only downside was that the soft dough breached and syrup flowed out of the tart into the oven and then on the counter making a bit of a sticky mess. I've never been known to shy away from a mess though.
Tart Dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces cold butter
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold water

2 1/3 cups sugar
zest from one lemon
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 pounds firm pears
apricot jam
egg yolk

Mix all the ingredients for the tart dough in a standing mixer except the water. Add the water slowly until the dough just comes together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. Roll out and fit into fluted tart pan.

Preheat oven to 350. To make the filling, cut the pears in half and remove seeds. Saute the butter in a saute pan. Add the sugar and lemon zest and stir until it melts. Once the sugar is boiling, add the pears to the pan and cook on each side until softened and pierced easily with a fork. Spread apricot jam on the bottom layer of the dough in the tart pan. Add the pears. Turn up the heat on the sugar and reduce its volume by half. Pour over the pears. If you make a lattice top, glaze with whisked egg yolk. Bake for 40 minutes.