The Feast of the Lamb

March 21, 2016 – March 27, 2016

Easter Crowd

Easter:  l-r Kellie Stewart, her friend Zach, Greg Stewart, Beez, Rick Duffy, Lauren Smith, Mike Stewart, Annie Smith

Monday                    Leftovers – Chicken and tomato soup

Spice-roasted cauliflower

Tuesday:                   Spice-roasted Cauliflower with Barley Salad

Spaghetti with bacon, orange zest and mushrooms

Wednesday:            Spaghetti with bacon, orange zest and mushroom

Blue cheese spread with endive

Thursday:                 Chicken cutlets parmigiana, Blue Cheese Spread / endive

sole bercy

Friday:                       Baked Sole with Mushrooms and Parsley, braised celery

Braised celery

Braised Celery

Saturday:                  Grazing before the Easter Vigil Mass at 8:30

Lamb Barboton

Sunday:                     Appetizers – Soda Bread with Irish Salsa
Platter of cheeses
Lamb Barbaton
Carrots with chives
Green Salad
Carrot Cake and World Class Cookies from The Oakmont
Bakery, courtesy of Annie and Lauren Smith

Once again, we suffered from a surfeit of good food* and I am torn between touting the baked sole with Mushrooms and parsley and braised celery or the lamb barbaton.  But we shared the lamb with family and friends, so it wins.  That sole will be in a future post, along with the braised celery.

Two weeks ago, Beez and I were thinking about Easter dinner and thinking there would still be some chill in the air and that a good roast lamb would be just the thing.  But then I noticed that a simple recipe for ‘Lamb Barbaton’ was one of Daniel Boulud’s all-time favorites.  A peasant dish using lamb shoulder instead of the more expensive leg or rib cuts and calling for a quick sear and a long braise appealed to us as allowing more time to enjoy our guests and getting most of the cooking out of the way before dinner.  Well, Easter was pleasantly warm – but the lamb worked anyway.

It is hard to believe that just a few ingredients and salt and pepper can create such a savory dish – but given time and heat and the gentle seething of a good braising liquid, I imagine you could make old tires taste good.  In this dish the lamb is falling apart tender and the potatoes meltingly creamy and the addition of a side of Jacques Pépin’s Carrots with Chives – another simple, supremely tasty dish – made the dinner a hit with all of us joyful, well-lubricated Irish Catholics on Easter.  We also began with a comparative board of cheeses (see “Extra” below) and ended with The Oakmont Bakery’s Carrot Cake for which people have been known to sell their houses, children and dogs.  That is not a moral thing to do, but if you’ve tasted this cake, you will understand the temptation.

*Is it just that I am a great cook?  Gosh, I’m too modest to say.  I am, however, a great eater, and that, as well as a healthy dose of self-esteem just shy of Trumpism, may be the source of my indecision.

 Lamb Barbaton and Carrots with Chives

(From Daniel Boulud’s Letters to a Young Chef)

 Serves:          6-8  (Boulud says 4-6, but we doubled the recipe and had nearly half left over
Time:             3 hours and 10 minutes with prep time included
Supplies
3 lbs. of boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into
2-inch chunks  (Note:  Unless you use a very expensive butcher, you’ll
need to trim off some of the extra and the hard fat yourself.)
All-purpose flour
4 Tablespoons of butter
2 Large onions peeled and cut into ½ inch wedges
2 Leeks, white and light green parts, washed and cut into ½ segments
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 Cup dry white wine
3 lbs. Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed potato, peeled and
quartered or cut into 1 and ½ inch pieces and reserved in cold water
6-8 Cups Chicken Stock
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs winter savory (we added some rubbed sage instead)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Minced parsley for serving

Cooking

Prep:              Trim the lamb, if it contains extra fat or hard fat
Chop the onions, leeks and garlic (you can hold them in the same
bowl)
Peel and cut potatoes and reserve in cold water (we used small
Yukon golds with thin skins and just did a partial peeling)

Cooking
Vessel:          You will need a large pot.  Boulud recommends a Dutch-oven.

Active
Cooking:                 Preheat the oven to 350
– Lightly dust the lamb with flour and season with salt and pepper
– Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in the Dutch-oven over high heat
and sear the lamb on all sides (6-10 minutes)  Note:  unless you
have a very large Dutch-oven, you will need to sear in 2 batches
as we did – so this will take 12 – 20 minutes.

  • Now add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter, the onions, leeksand garlic and sweat the vegetables without coloring them, until translucent (8-10 minutes) – you will find it useful to move things around with a large wooden spoon to get all of the vegetables softand to avoid burning.
  • Add the wine and let the liquid reduce by three-quarters. (If you know howhow to measure that, God bless you – I just let the wine cook down for about 15 minutes.  The only thing you need to watch is that you don’t lose the liquid and burn the meat or vegetables).
  • Now add the potatoes and stock and make sure the mixture is covered byliquid.   (We didn’t have enough room for all of the potatoes and to cover with liquid.)  Cover the pan loosely with a lid or with an oiled or buttered parchment paper with a tiny air hole pricked in the center.  Bring back to a boil and transfer the pot to the pre-heated oven
  • Bake for 1 and ½ to 2 hours. The lamb should be completely tender andpotatoes soft and beginning to break so that they thicken the sauce.  Cook longer, if needed.  Then discard the parchment, the thyme, savory and bay leaf.

Serve in shallow-rimmed bowls and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve with fleur-de-sel and freshly ground pepper.

[Note on seasoning and tasting:  I seasoned the dish with salt and ground pepper as I went along:  the lamb was seasoned before searing, I seasoned again when the vegetables went in and again when the potatoes went in.  And I tasted at every stage, so that when the stew went into the oven I knew it was close to being right.  I didn’t have to add any salt and pepper, but would have, if necessary, when the stew was done.  The deal here is to have a bunch of spoons available as you cook so that you can follow the taste of the dish as it develops and make any corrections needed]

So, you will end up with a very tasty but very brown dish.  We served the stew with a green salad on the side and let our guests help themselves to a delicious and colorful side dish of carrots and chives.  This dish is good enough to serve with any roasted, braised or sautéed meat.

 Carrots with chives

Carrots with Chives

 Serves:        4 – so for Easter I doubled the recipe

Time:           10 minutes to prep (can be done ahead)
                      7 minutes to cook – this is a quick, just before serving thing.

Supplies:   

 5-6 large carrots (about 1 lb.) peeled and sliced (you can use a mandolin – we didn’t) into ¼-inch coins
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon canola or peanut oil
½ Teaspoon salt
½ Teaspoon pepper
½ Teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ Cup of water
¼ Cup chopped shallots
2 Tablespoons minced chives

Cooking:

Prep:            Carrots, shallots, chives – and measure out salt and sugar and,separately pepper.  Fill a container with ¼ Cup or so of water.
The cooking, once it starts, is rapid and you won’t have time to gather and measure this stuff at that point.

Active
Cooking:     Put the carrots, butter and oil in a heated skillet, sprinkle with the salt and sugar, add the water and cook covered for 3 minutes over high heat.

Add the shallots and the pepper and cook, covered, for 2 minutes

Remove the lid, add the chives and cook until the pan is dry, tossing the carrots occasionally.  Serve

Extra:           How not to put together a great cheese board

For starters on Easter we had the dynamite Irish salsa describe in last week’s post.  And I read my recommendations on last-week’s blog and decided to splurge on a sort of cheese-comparison course.  I forgot two cardinal rules of cooking – starters should be appetite whetters, not satisfiers, and strong cheeses overwhelm subtler ones.  To translate into English – I bought too much cheese and I mixed cheeses that don’t pair well together.  Think of what it’s like to drink a heavy beer and then switch to a light – exactly.

On one cheese board I arranged Harbison Jasper Hill (a creamy cow’s milk cheese with a brie-like taste), an Oveido Amanteignado (a triple cream sheep’s milk from Spain with a taste between that of Brie and Camembert) and a Quadrello di Buffalo (soft, but not creamy buffalo milk cheese from Italy).  This was a brilliant pairing – worthy of Brillat-Savarin himself (and the cheese named after him would have fit right in) – and a great hit.  [Note:  This type of cheese needs to come out of the refrigerator 4-6 hours before serving to come to room temperature and begin to soften – the Amanteignado will actually melt into the board.  It was the best of the cheeses and there was not a speck left over.)

On another cheese board I arranged slices of harder cheese – Tomme, Manchego and Idiazabal.   I added some pickles and a dollop of good mustard.  This board would have been fine as a stand-alone, but the subtler taste of these fine cheeses could not stand up to the pungency and richness of the soft cheeses.  Expensive, gluttonous lesson learned.