Saturday, April 23, 2005

Post-Birthday Thoughts and a Recipe

Clay's 50th birthday dinner was a success despite my cooking angst. Ten of us gathered around the table and Clay was the center of attention, as was his due. Many thanks to Larry & Donna, Dick & Marjie, Stephen & Becky, Bruce and Miles for your wonderful company on this momentous occasion.

The March 2005 issue of Bon Appetit was my saving grace. Check out the Dinner with Friends, by Rozanne Gold. Instead of braising the legs of lamb, I roasted them - the recipe follows. I did follow the recipes for the Shrimp, Cucumber and Mango Salad and the White Beans with Tomatoes and Spinach to the letter and they were perfect and delicious. Perfectly delicious! I especially liked the white bean dish. It complemented the lamb so well and was so fresh and lovely. I must admit that when I first read the recipe, because of my time constraints, I was tempted to substitute ready-cut tomatoes for the fresh grape tomatoes the recipe called for. Do not do this! The fresh, sweet and slightly acidic taste of the grape tomatoes made all the difference and was well worth the effort.

Roast Leg of Lamb

Lots of garlic, cut into slivers

Many sprigs of fresh rosemary

Olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Red wine

Have your oven at 475 degrees.

Remove most of the white fat from the surface of the leg of lamb. Make slits in the flesh on all sides. Tuck a sliver of garlic and some rosemary into each slit. Rub the leg all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground tellicherry pepper. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a roasting pan and lay some long sprigs of rosemary down. Place the leg of lamb on top of the rosemary.

Put in the 475 oven for 20 minutes. Pour about 1 cup of good red wine over the lamb and reduce heat to 350 degrees. I used a (local) Robert Goodman Pinot Noir because that is what we served with dinner. Roast the lamb until the internal temp is 135 to 140 degrees for medium rare.

You can make a pan sauce if you wish - I'll go into that at a later time - or just read the above mentioned article. Suffice it to say, I didn't. There just wasn't time and the lamb was so perfect on its own with the beans around it - the beautiful colors of pink lamb, white beans, green spinach and red tomatoes were wonderful! Some would say that it's a crime to go to all this trouble and not make a sauce. Well, they would be right. Also, they might be wrong. The lamb was succulent, tender and darn tasty unadorned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Where's My Muse?

It's happening again...
I've hit the creative cooking wall and am dead in the water (to wildly mix metaphores).

This sad state of affairs has been going on for a week, and today is Clay's birthday and I have 10 people coming to dinner. I should be at the grocers or in the kitchen right now, but here I am pounding the keys looking for inspiration on my monitor instead of in a cookbook.

Speaking of which, I just bought Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures. On first scan through, I can see that I will be using this well written, nicely photographed book often. But not today it seems.

In my kitchen at the moment are two (count 'em, two!) legs of lamb. One is bone-in, the other boneless. This is "neighborhood lamb", folks. Comes from our neighbors just across the road. They are herbicide and pesticide- free, grass-fed animals and every year we buy one, cut and wrapped to specs and flash frozen. If you love lamb, as we do, this is nirvana.

And because he loves lamb, Clay wants it for his 50th birthday dinner. So there they sit, defrosting in the kitchen, not speaking to me. Not saying, "Oh, roast me!" "Braise me!" "Grill me!" Nada. I am bereft of inspiration. And not because I don't want to prepare a fantastic meal. I do! I really do. Where, oh where is my muse?

Check out the braised lamb dinner for 6 in the March 2005 issue of Bon Appetit. This is what I've been looking at for a week. It has all the elements of great comfort food, especially on a rainy day such as today. Plus it's elegant enough for a birthday party. I'll report back if I make all or part of the recipes.

Meanwhile, Happy 50th Birthday Clay! I love you. And I've got to get cooking...