Thursday, January 28, 2010
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Mary had a little lamb. I had some, too. Tranche de gigot "La Boutarde," pan-fried leg of lamb slices the way they cook it at that Parisian bistro. It looks like Mary and I will be having a little more lamb in future:
That's our half a Sheepy Hollow lamb, dressed weight around 26 pounds. Sheepy Hollow is our Midtown Farmers' Market lamb vendor. Anne Leck is the woman behind Sheepy Hollow, which produces the best lamb around, in my opinion. Our friend Lynne arranged our lamb buy, and took the other half. She kindly let us have the offal: heart, liver, kidneys, and tongue. I am not at all sure what I'm going to do with that stuff. I'm excited about the opportunity to work with offal that's this fresh and lovely. And I am filled with trepidation, at the same time: I want to really like it, but I'm not sure I will; I want to do it justice, but I have almost no experience cooking this sort of thing. I think I'll let Fergus be my guide.
Another part of me, the Joycean part, is inclined to take this passage from Ulysses about Leopold Bloom's gustatory preferences, and just wing it:
"Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine."
You can be sure I'll give a full report, whatever I do. Forgive me for getting ahead of myself--having all those lamb innards in the fridge has me a little preoccupied.
The lamb leg cutlets were fantastic. The recipe, from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking, adapted from La Boutarde in Paris, is simplicity itself. That was exactly what I was looking for, because 1) I didn't want to go to a lot of trouble, and 2) I wanted our first taste of this lamb to highlight the flavor of the lamb, rather than showy cooking technique. The accompaniments were equally simple, a mixed mash--potatoes, carrot, celery root, and parsnip--a slice of fresh bread, a glass of red wine (the bargain brouilly we opened was halfway to vinegar; a four-dollar Argentine syrah saved the day).
This meat was simply wonderful. It was dense and a bit chewy, but supremely juicy, with a depth of flavor that's rare to find in meat these days. Mary and I agreed that the flavor was almost more like that of grass-fed beef than run-of-the-mill lamb.
A recipe in pictures:
Take two five-to-six-ounce boneless slices of lamb leg, about 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Salt and pepper the meat (I also added the lightest sprinkle of piment d'espelette, because I just can't help myself).
In two tablespoons of olive oil, soften six to eight cloves of garlic in their jackets over medium low heat. This will take around eight minutes. Do not let the garlic get too brown, or it will be bitter. When the garlic is soft, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, and spoon in some of the garlic oil. Add the lamb and cook three minutes per side for medium rare. Toss in a few sprigs of thyme halfway through the cooking.
When the lamb is done, remove it to a warm plate to rest while you make the simple pan sauce. Add the garlic to the sauté pan. Pour in about three tablespoons of water, and scrape with a wooden spatula to deglaze. Add one-quarter cup dry white wine (you could use red instead, but the recipe called for white and that's what I used here). Simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.
There should be some juice on the lamb resting plate by now. Pour that back into the sauce, and serve.
For the mash, we peeled two small russet potatoes (about lemon size), one small carrot, one small parsnip, and one-quarter of a small celery root. Quarter the potatoes and cut the other vegetables into 3/4-inch dice. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the vegetables, and simmer briskly until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the vegetables and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Add a good tablespoon of butter, salt to taste, and a bit of the cooking liquid, if you like, to achieve your desired texture. In this case, I'd say I added a good half-cup of the cooking liquid.
Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw