Monday, March 29, 2010

Roasted leg of lamb with lamb jus, grilled asparagus with red pepper and piquillo sauce, and saffron rice

The last time I bought a leg of lamb for a dinner party, the butcher did such a number on the leg that I had to braise it instead of roast it. Ever since, I've been looking for an excuse to get another leg of lamb for a roast. This weekend our local grocery store was stocked up with lamb roasts for passover, so we picked one up and went over to my sister's for a pre-passover dinner.

In addition to the leg of lamb, I made grilled asparagus with a roasted pepper sauce, and saffron rice. The lamb and rice recipes are from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook that I've been using a lot lately.
The lamb and rice recipes are both pretty straight forward, so I'll just paraphrase them here. You can check out the cookbook if you want more detail.

As with any roast, you want to bring the lamb out of the fridge early enough so that it can come up to room temperature before you put it in the oven. Make several incisions in the roast an insert garlic cloves, halved lengthwise. I made a few more deep incisions down the length of the roast for sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Cover the roast with canola oil and season with a big dose of salt and pepper. Place the leg on a roasting rack and sprinkle with more rosemary and thyme. The recipe recommends roasting at 325 F until the internal temperature near the bone is 135F. I decided to use a lower heat (275F) instead, then I let the roast rest for 30-45 minutes before blasting it in the oven at 475F for about 10 minutes to generate a nice crust. I thought this method worked really well. Using the lower heat ensures very even cooking throughout the whole roast, and finishing it off with high heat after resting give you a nice crispy exterior without cooking the rest of the meat (see here for a more thorough explanation of how this works). The lamb was served with a lamb jus that was a variation of this recipe.

For the rice, just mince up an onion very small, cook with some oil over medium heat until translucent, add two cups of short grain rice and a teaspoon of saffron and cook for another 3 to4 minutes, add about 3 cups of chicken stock and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Put a lid on the pan and let simmer over low heat. Test occasionally, and add more heated stock as necessary until the rice is cooke through. When finished, season with a pinch of salt.

The asparagus was grilled with a little salt, pepper, and paprika and served with a sauce made from roasted red and piquillo peppers that I had made for brunch the day before. This sauce makes a great topping for asparagus, but it would go well with any number of grilled vegetables.

1 roast red bell pepper, seeds and skin removed
1 roasted piquillo pepper
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp white miso paste
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Start with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add more until it gets to a consistency that you like. I don't remember the exact amounts I used for the miso, vinegar, soy, and sugar, so you may need to adjust these ingredients until you get the right balance of flavors. The vinegar and sugar gives a nice sweet and sour element to the sauce, while the miso and soy help add depth.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Confit collective, part 3: The big dinner

A while back, a bunch of us got together to make a huge batch of duck confit. Several weeks later, the duck confit was ready to go, so everyone gathered at our place last weekend for another meal celebrating all things duck. Our first meal focused on a lot of the fresher preparations for duck (roasted whole duck, pan roasted duck breast, duck sausage, and duck tartare), whereas this meal relied on preserved or secondary preparations such as confit, prosciutto, stock, and fat that were all byproducts of our earlier meeting. This type of food has a distinctly fall/winter feel to it, and the weather obliged by interrupting what had been a string of nice spring days with a cold, dreary, rainy day. Perfect for cassoulet.
The amount of food that ended up on our table was reminiscent of a Thanksgiving feast, only better. Duck clearly dominates turkey in every respect...I might have to think about just substituting duck for turkey next Thanksgiving. You can see the menu above, and many pictures of the preparation and final product follow.

For the most part, I didn't do too much more than prep ingredients, clean dishes, and ensure a healthy flow of drinks for the several cooks that were buzzing around the kitchen. We started out by preparing some of the non-duck ingredients for the cassoulet. This involved braising lamb and making sausage.
As if this whole meal wasn't ambitious enough, we decided to make two different types of sausage: one with pork, the other with rabbit. I had never tried to debone a rabbit before. It's nearly impossible.
Once these ingredients were ready to go, Dara mixed them together into a big pot along with some whole legs of duck confit...
...and we let it bake in the oven until it looked like this.
Meanwhile, we took some of those duck legs, and shredded them up for a couple of other dishes.
First, we had a frisee salad with poach duck eggs, croutons cooked in duck fat, and some crisped up duck confit served on the side. Here's Mike getting some duck eggs ready for poaching
and here's the salad.
Next, we (and by we, I mean Anna) made a pizza with duck confit, fig spread, and Morbier cheese. This was a perfect flavor combination. Here it is in construction
And here it is fresh out of the oven.
For our last "starter" we reserved a bit of the shredded duck confit to be served with steamed Chinese buns
and various accoutrements like carrot, cucumber, scallions, hoisin, and hot sauce.
In addition to the cassoulet, we had another main course of pan fried duck legs and risotto that Bryan put together.
The risotto was cooked with squash and duck stock and finished with a little truffle salt.In the end, I think we needed about twice as many people to eat all of the food that we had.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Salad with steak, soft cooked egg, and garlic croutons

We had a bit of steak left over from Tony's birthday lunch, so, rather than reheating it (I think that always ruins the texture) I sliced it thinly and used it in a salad. The salad was dressed with some olive oil from Liguria, and 15 year aged balsamic vinegar. In addition to the beef, it was topped with shaved parmesan, a soft cooked egg, and croutons made from a slightly stale baguette and some garlic oil.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tony's birthday lunch

Sunday was Tony's birthday, so Abby and I had some family over for a birthday lunch. Since I've been experimenting with sous-vide lately, I was looking for any excuse to try something new out, and this provided the perfect opportunity. The menu included sous-vide New York strip steak, and I also made a great asparagus salad recipe from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. I just got this book, and absolutely love it, so I'll probably be posting a lot of creations from this book over the next few months.

We started the meal with some home made rilletes, warm, marinated olives, and Societe roquefort (this cheese is awesome).
For the first salad course, I put together a salad of prosciutto, arugula, and shaved parmesan. This dish is so simple, yet so good. As long as you use good ingredients, you can't go wrong. Just cover a plate with very thinly sliced prosciutto, toss some arugula with some nice extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and kosher salt and put this on top of the prosciutto. Cover with shaved parmesan, and finish with another drizzle of olive oil.
The second salad course was a grilled asparagus dish with poached eggs and prosciutto. The eggs are lightly poached, so the yolk is still runny, and when you break them, they make a nice sauce for the asparagus.
The main course was garlic mashed potatoes with sous-vide NY strip steak. I cooked the steaks in a water bath at 135F for about 3 hours. The steaks were seasoned with salt and then I include one sprig of thyme, one sprig of rosemary, and some canola oil in the vacuum pack with each steak. I seared the steaks over high heat on a cast iron griddle for about 1 minute on each side. By the time we finished the salad courses, the steaks had been sitting for quite some time, and they weren't nearly as good as they were immediately after being seared. Next time, I'll make sure to serve these immediately after searing.
For dessert, we had carrot cupcakes from Alliance Bakery.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pork goulash

I tried this Jamie Oliver recipe out the other day, and, after a few modifications, it was pretty good. I started by following the recipe to the last detail, but the finished product was pretty weak. The problem with this recipe is that it calls for water as the main cooking liquid, but the pork, peppers, and seasoning alone don't give off enough flavors in the cooking process to give the broth any body. The result is a lifeless, insipid dish, but it is easy to improve. In order to fix it, I strained out all of the solids, reduced the liquid to about 1/4 of its original volume, and then mixed some stock into this reduced mixture. (If you are trying to reduce a large volume of liquid, divide it into a couple pans) I mixed the liquid back in with all of the solid ingredients, added a couple of anchovies to give the dish a boost of savoriness, and let everything simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. The resulting dish was a huge improvement over the original. If you try this recipe out, which I would highly recommend - it's good, easy, and even better the next day - replace the water with chicken or pork stock, and add 3 or 4 anchovies. The recipe calls for it to be served over basmati rice, but I prefer to serve it over buttered egg noodles, which is the traditional accompaniment for goulash.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Confit collective, part 2: Duck prosciutto

In addition to the many things documented here, we made some duck prosciutto during our first meeting of the "confit collective." We put together two different cures for the duck. One used a more traditional blend that included rosemary, thyme, cumin, and crushed bay leaf; the other included some five spice blend and grated orange peel. The orange peel really came through in the cure and added a nice dimension to the finished product. We left the cure on for about two days, which turns out to be far too long. From the little bit that we sampled, I thought it was way too salty. Next time we'll just give it a 24 hour cure and see how that turns out.

Making duck prosciutto cannot be more simple. First, put together a cure mix and coat the duck breast. We let the duck cure in ziploc bags in the fridge.
Rinse off all of the cure, pat the duck breasts dry, wrap in cheese cloth, and hang in a cool, dry place for at least a week. I set up a drying line in my fridge, which worked out pretty well.
After a week or two, the duck breast should be pretty firm and ready to go. Slice and enjoy with bread, on a salad, or on its own.