Monthly Archives: March 2008

Easter Lamb

The magic number, my friends, is 118.

My first roast lamb, the main course for an Easter meal I cooked for thirty people in college, was woefully overcooked. It was the first meal I had ever cooked for more than four people, and I was more anxious about the lamb than any other part of the meal. Without a meat thermometer, I cooked the lamb to a perfect rosy-red by slicing into it at regular intervals. I then happened upon the brilliant idea of keeping the lamb warm in the warming compartment of the church kitchen’s oven. Unfortunately, over the course of two hours, the lamb changed from rosy-red to an unappetizing grey, and although the meat was perfectly tender (due to the low temperature of the warming compartment), it wasn’t exactly what I had had in mind.

My second roast lamb became my responsibility when my mother fell sick over Christmas several years ago, leaving most of the cooking for our dinner guests up to me. Between the stress of cooking dinner for ten people and convincing my mom to leave the kitchen and go back to bed, I just forgot how long the lamb had been in the oven. That particular lamb was not so tender. I tried to hold back tears as my parents’ dinner guests lied enthusiastically that they loved their lamb well done.

Eventually, I got better at lamb. Having a digital kitchen thermometer works wonders; no more blood letting to determine doneness. But the best thing I did both for my roast lambs and for my dinner guests was to read Judy Rogers’ recipe for roast lamb in The Zuni Café Cookbook. Like everything else in this cookbook, Judy’s instructions are detailed, meticulous, verbose, and a headache to follow the first time through. Like everything else in the cookbook, Judy’s instructions produce the perfect result:, tender, just-pink meat every time.

The biggest revelation was not in the technique, but in the cooking temperature. Unlike every other recipe which suggests 125 degrees for rare meat, Judy insists that a winter leg of lamb (between 6-8 pounds) should only cook to a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit. “Barely warmer than body temperature!” my dad protested when I floated this idea by him. After baking in the oven, the lamb rests under a tent of foil while its proteins relax and reabsorb the moisture and its internal temperature continues to rise to 140 degrees.

I followed Judy’s techniques for the first time over Christmas, and the result was the best lamb I’ve ever had. The meat was perfect medium-rare, tender and juicy, fragrant with garlic and rosemary. I repeated the procedure for Easter with the same results. And so I pass this recipe onto you: a hybrid of the family marinade and Judy’s guidelines for roast meat. Get yourself a digital thermometer and never stress about your roast again.

Roast Leg of Lamb

Winter legs of lamb are larger. If you have a smaller, spring leg of lamb, this method will not work. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, Easter is for all intents and purposes still winter, and the available legs of lamb from family farms are still enormous.

1 6-8 lb. leg of lamb
4-5 cloves garlic
2 branches rosemary
1 tsp. peppercorns
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp capers
olive oil to moisten

The day before you plan to serve the lamb, make the marinade by crushing garlic, rosemary, pepper, salt and capers in a mortar and pestle. Drizzle enough olive oil to moisten (usually about a tablespoon). Untie leg of lamb, remove bone, and trim of fat. Rub marinade all over lamb and refridgerate overnight.

The day of the big feast, remove lamb from fridge four hours before you plan to put it in the oven. Without bone, tie tightly into a cylinder.

Preheat oven to 325. In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. Pat the lamb dry with a paper towel without wiping off the marinade. Lower heat to medium-high, and sear lamb on all sides until a medium brown. This should take 4-5 minutes per side.

Place lamb in a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven. Let roast undisturbed for one hour. At the end of the hour, take the temperature of the lamb, it should be about 100 degrees. Roast 10-15 minutes more until the lamb is 118 degrees (for medium-rare meat), 113 degrees for rare meat.

Let lamb rest in a warm place (your stove top is ideal) under a tent of foil for 20-30 minutes. Carve thinly against the grain.

Sources: My mom, Judy Rogers’ Zuni Café Cookbook, Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Meditterraen Kitchen

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Filed under gluten-free, Middle Eastern/North African

Wine and Stinky Cheese Party, Starring a Damn Fine Pâté

Spread for Wine and Stinky Cheese Party
I know, I know, I know. It’s been forever. What can I say? Between a full time job, and a full-time dissertation, blogging has become a low-priority luxury. The truth is, that I’m trying to spend less time in the kitchen these days, not more. But certain people have been nudging me for the recipe for this pate de campagne for a while now, so I thought I’d share my wine and stinky cheese party with you.Right before the madness of the semester descended, I threw a final winter break, savor-your-freedom-while-you-still-have-it party. The best way to deal with below zero evenings, I find, is to invite all of your friends over to your house, so you don’t have to go anywhere.I stole the idea of a wine and stinky cheese party from my sister. The idea is that your friends bring great cheese and wine, and you can use the occasion to make a damn fine, country-style pâté.In addition to the pâté and several cheeses, the party featured several baguettes from my favorite bakery, giant beans baked with leeks and red peppers, platters of fruit, gravalax with capers and lemon, olives, cornichons, and macrona almonds. I also baked a lemon tart. But the pâté was definitely the star.Unlike the elegant liver pâté, pâté de campagne is a farmhouse specialty, a way of using up the liver, fat and tougher cuts of the pork. Rich, meaty, swathed in bacon, you would never guess that pâté de campagne came from such humble beginnings. The taste of the pâté makes you itch to buy a plane ticket to France, where such pates are ubiquitous and involve no more work than a trip to the charcutier. One bite and I was transported to vacations past, to long afternoons filled with leisurely picnic lunches of baguette, pâté, runny cheeses and perfect sweet juicy fruits.

Those of us who can’t run off to France at a moment’s notice can make pâté de campagne at home, invite some friends over, and imbibe large quantities of wine. No, it’s not the same thing, but in a pinch, on a cold January night with the beginning of the semester looming, it will do.

Pâté de Campagne

The charcutier makes this with a meat grinder. If you don’t happen to have a meat grinder, process half of the meat until smooth in a food processor, and chop half very finely by hand.

A word of warning : This recipe is enormous. I sent large chunks of it home with guests, then ate it for the next week.

1/2 lb. pork liver
1/2 lb. pork fat
1 lb. pork shoulder
1/2 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
tiny pinch allspice
5 cloves garlic
3 shallots, thinly sliced
5 oz. cognac
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. salt
1 egg
10 slices bacon

Run meat, fat, and liver through a meat grinder, or process half in the food processor and chop the other half very finely by hand (Sharpen your knife first!). Combine with all other ingredients except egg and bacon and refridgerate overnight.

The next day, fry a little of the meat until done and taste for seasonings. Adjust to taste.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×5 in. loaf pan with bacon by laying strips of bacon across the width of the pan. Let the bacon hang over the edges. Fill pan with meat mixture, then fold excess bacon over meat. Gently hit the pan against the counter top to knock out any air bubbles.

Place terrine in a roasting pan, then place in oven. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then dribble boiling water into roasting pan until water comes to 1/2 in of the top of the loaf pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until internal temperature of the pate is 160 degrees.

Let cool, then refridgerate several hours before serving.

Source:  Leite’s Culinaria’s posting of Anthony Bourdain’s recipe (whew!) 

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Filed under gluten-free, Parties