Archive for April, 2013

Leg of Lamb with Citrus Dressing

20 April 13

{{Herself Sez: With Pascha (Orthodox Easter) approaching on May 5, 2013, I’m posting (for Himself) one of his recipes for lamb – a traditional food for Pascha. Enjoy!}}

This is a rather good variation on the normal mint-sauce roast lamb. The basic roasting of a lamb leg is not something that varies a whole lot. The main difference here is the dressing. So – let’s roast a leg.

1 leg of lamb – around 3 lbs.
1 Tbs salt
1/2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small orange, sliced
1 large lemon, sliced
1/2 tsp rosemary (or about 1 sprig fresh)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grind up the salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and rosemary together with a mortar and pestle to make a rough-grained paste. Then rub the lamb all over with the spice mix. Rub gently with the olive oil, don’t rub off the spices. {If the olive oil is rubbed on first, and the spices rubbed on after that, as the roast heats up, about 90% of the spicing drips off. Also, the spices don’t have a chance to “sink into” the roast, giving up their flavor to the meat.} Place the lamb, fat side up, on a rack in a large baking pan and cover with orange and lemon slices secured by toothpicks. If you want a crustier outside then don’t cover with the orange and lemon slices. Baking time will vary, depending on your taste. Essentially, do it as you normally would if you have a preference. I use a thermometer and cook in a 375° oven until it is 155° internally. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes to reabsorb the juices and stabilize temperature – it will coast up to 160°, which is medium and very nice. Since I cook by temperature, not time, oven variation is not a big factor, but I do occasionally mis-time the roast and the rest of the meal. (About 25 min a pound – give or take).

Just before the roast is ready jam the dressing together. This stuff sounds weird, and the first taste is sometimes weird – but it has one of the nicest after-tastes ever. Be prepared with some mint sauce in case someone doesn’t like this – but I think that most will find it very nice.

1 zest of a small orange – or some dried orange peel
1 zest of a small lemon – or some dried lemon peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves – or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs salt – sea salt is good
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Just dump all the dressing ingredients into a blender and make it smooth

Slice up the roast and serve it with the dressing. You can pour the dressing over the slices or serve it on the side in small bowls for dipping. I think you will enjoy this.

Roulade Delicious

20 April 13

It is time to revisit the good old roulade. I have written on these goodies before with the title Roll ‘Em Up – Beef. You can look that one up so I will not give all the discussion in that previous article.

 1  ea flank steak

So what you need is a nice flank steak. You can ask your butcher to run it through the tenderizing machine one in each direction. This should give you a thickness of about 1/4” and also enlarge and tenderize all at once. If you don’t do that just take a tenderizing mallet and keep whacking with the rough side until you get the aforementioned 1/4” thickness. Try not to knock holes in the beef while you are having fun.

Now you need a stuffing. I will give you a recent one that we liked. You are certainly welcome to use your own ideas and variations.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot OR several small ones, chopped (about 1/2 volume of onion)
2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1/2 volume of onion)
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
2-3 slices ham and/or prosciutto, chopped
unsalted butter
olive oil

Heat olive oil and unsalted butter in a heavy skillet until the butter stops foaming and just begins to color. Turn the heat down and gently sauté the onion for a couple of minutes. Add carrots and celery and continue sautéing for another minute or so. Add the mushrooms and continue the sauté for another couple of minutes. You may need a bit more  olive oil/butter.  Add the ham/prosciutto and keep cooking gently for one or two minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

1 cup beef broth, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup rice
salt
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Heat the broth in a saucepan. You can add ¼ cup of red wine to the liquid. That is good. Mix chopped garlic and salt and grind together with a mortar and pestle if you have them, or just use a cutting board and spoon to mash and stir if necessary. Add the garlic and salt mixture to the saucepan. Heat some olive oil/butter in a pan and, when the foaming stops, add in the rice and stir to get all the grains covered with lube. You only need medium heat for a minute or two. We use a rice mix with white, brown, and wild rice. Whatever you use, add it to the saucepan – be careful – if the broth is at or near boiling temp and you dump hot rice in it is going to boil up nicely. Sort of a sizzling rice effect. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. (Or whatever your rice requires.)

olive oil
unsalted butter
1/3 cup vermouth
1/3 cup beef broth

Heat the pan with the stuffing and add the rice to it. This would be a good time to taste and add whatever spices you like. Salt and pepper are just about always going to be needed. Others are optional. Spread the stuffing over the flattened flank steak. You may have some stuffing left over. That is fine. You can make some sandwiches with the goodie and some mayo or whatever later. Anyway, spread the stuffing, roll the steak and tie it up with butcher’s twine enough to hold it together. Be sure to secure the ends also. Get a heavy Dutch oven, lube with olive oil/butter. When the butter stops foaming and is golden start searing the roast. About 2 to 3 minutes for each side all the way around. Remove the roast, turn off the heat and add 1/3 cup of vermouth and 1/3 cup beef broth. Turn the heat back on, boil and whisk all the little pan goodies in. When the liquid is reduced by about half, add enough vegetable or chicken broth to get about 1/2” or so of liquid. Put in the roast and simmer, covered for 20 minutes per side.

3 Tbs butter
1/3 cup vermouth
1/3 cup beef broth
vegetable or chicken broth

While the roast rests (tented with foil on a cutting board) prepare the sauce. Add 1/3 cup vermouth and 1/3 cup broth to the liquid. Whisk while boiling rapidly. When reduced enough to start getting a bit thickish turn down the heat and add butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking each until melted and emulsified. Carve the roast, plate, and drizzle sauce over the slices. Serve immediately.

For those who wondered: the olive oil and butter combo does have a good reason. Yes, you could use either by itself, but the butter gives a sweeter, more intense taste than the olive oil alone. Olive oil raises the burning temp of the butter enough to make it practical as a sautéing medium and is healthier than butter alone. This is a very old and traditional medium and is very tasty and satisfactory. Oh yeah – we use unsalted butter so that we can control the amount of salt in the food and not get over-salting, which is not only unhealthy – but also tastes bad.

{{Herself sez: OMG! This is WONDERFUL! 5 Yummies! But not for Great Lent – or any other Orthodox fasting season.}}

Five-Spice Chicken

13 April 13

OK. I confess. I haven’t been much of a cackle fan over the years. I finally figured it out. 90% of the Americans who cook chickens just don’t take the time to do it right, and the majority of American chicken does not taste like chicken (funny, everything else is supposed to). Mostly American chickens don’t taste at all. Anyway, get free range birds that are not force grown when you can. The taste difference is rather dramatic. Even better – if you are somewhere that you can – raise your own and slaughter them when they are the proper age. We shall serve no bird before its time. (Does anyone else remember Orson Welles doing the wine commercials?) Anyway, Herself is a cackle connoisseur – or a yard-bird yokel, if you prefer, and has convinced me that all cackles are not bad. So now we cackle every now and then.

This is one of those things that can be done several different ways. The marinade can be muchly varied, but this is a very good basic. I’ll do some more elaborate marinades over the next couple of months.

1 Roasting hen – 5 or 6 pounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1-1/2
Tbs
 Nước Mắm – Vietnamese fish sauce (1)
1-1/2 Tbs soy sauce (low sodium is good here)
1-1/2 Tbs dry sherry
Nước Chấm (1)
Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Mince the garlic, shallots, and sugar together. The best way to do this is a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor. Get the mix rather fine and add in the salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder and mix together well. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sherry. A comment about soy sauce: if you use full sodium soy sauce cut the added salt by half or leave it out altogether – that stuff is salty. Gently slide your fingers between the skin and the meat as best you can without tearing the skin. Slip a good bit of the mix in and then rub the rest over the surface of the bird, working it in well. Let things soak at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can use most any wine you like but the dry sherry is rather traditional Vietnamese.

You can do this three ways that are rather good:

  1. Rotisserie – on the spit for about 1-1/2 hours (my favorite)
  2. Vertical roaster in the oven at 450°F for about 15 minutes and then 350°F for about 1-1/4 hours
  3. Split the bird in half and cook on a grill over medium hot coals skin side down for about 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes.

No matter which method you use you are trying for done chicken – about 160°F with crisp skin. You will have blackish looking skin, BUT – it should be blackened from the Maillard reaction, not from burning. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. If you are using an indoor rotisserie then you can keep the spit turning with no heat. That keeps the juices in while they are being re-absorbed.

This goes nicely with a Nước Chấm (1) (2) dipping sauce. Rice is also handy, as is a side salad. The only disadvantage to this method is that the carcass shouldn’t be used for making soup or stock.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy

13 April 13

Well, yeah, if she follows this recipe she can.

  —–Crust—–
1 pie Crust
1 pie Top (optional)
    —–Filling—–
675 g cherries, fresh or frozen (1-1/2 lb.)
160 g sugar (2/3 cup)
110 g water
30 g lemon juice (2 Tbs)
36 g cornstarch (4 Tbs)
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Slice of Cherry Pie

Slice of Cherry Pie

For the crust: Make (or buy) a single pie shell for an un-topped pie, or two shells for a covered pie. If you buy them they usually come 2 to a pack. That’s all a matter of what you like. I don’t care for covered pies, too much pastry. On the other side, herself does like them for some odd reason. So – follow what you like. If you make the crust do a quick pre-bake with a chain or some hard beans in the bottom shell. If using a store-bought crust this is not necessary.

For the filling: With fresh cherries be sure to wash, stem and pit. Take a taste and adjust the sugar if they are especially tart. This isn’t usually necessary if using the frozen jobbies, and they are already stemmed and pitted. Put the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch into a pot big enough to allow some stirring room. Apply a reasonable amount of heat and stir often. Things will probably come to a boil if using fresh cherries. Frozen seem to thicken up before there is a real boil. Don’t worry about things starting up looking a little shy on water. Just keep a close eye on things. As usual, when fruit and sugar are involved with a little heat the liquid increases. Stir and heat until things thicken up a good bit and the cherries soften. Add the extract if you like.

Let the filling cool a little bit and spoon into the shell. Allow for a little expansion as things get hot. Also be aware that there will be just a little shrinkage as things cool back down after cooking. If you are going to put a lid on the pie now is the time. Slash or cut out some pretty shapes for steam vents or you will have a mess. Crimp the top in place. Whether topped or not, cover the edge with foil. (Actually I use a neat silicon edge protector.) Used to be you could tell who made which topped pie by the design in the top. The crimp pattern around the edge was also a good identifier.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, then pull the foil or edge protector off and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes untill the whole crust is a nice golden brown.

If you want a really glossy finish for any topped pie just brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking.


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