Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rack of Lamb with Herbs and Garlic

( photo)


I once received a rack of lamb as a gift. How great was that? Below is how I prepared it. I suspect that the garlic-herb mixture would be good on any part of lamb. It is now pretty easy to buy a rack of lamb already "Frenched" for you sealed in a cryo-vac pakaged. "Frenched" means the bones or ribs have been scrapped to serve as a kind of "handle."

This recipe is from I did not change one thing, it is that great!
For the Lamb:
  • 2 (8-rib) Frenched racks of lamb, each about 1.5 lbs. trimmed of all but a thin layer of fat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Herb Coating
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Instant-read thermometer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the lamb:
Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet (I use a cast-iron skillet) over high heat until hot, at least 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and rub meat all over with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, then brown racks, in 2 batches, if necessary, on all sides (not ends), about 10 minutes per batch. Have your hood range on and/or window open. Transfer racks to a small (13 x 9) roasting pan. 

Coat the Lamb:
Stir together garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and oil. Coat meaty parts of lamb with herb mixture, pressing to help adhere. On middle oven rack, roast 15 minutes, then cover lamb loosely with foil and roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 120ºF, 5-10 minutes more. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Cut each rack into 4 double chops.

Notes: It's important to finely mince the herbs. A rough chop will simply allow them to burn.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pork Roast with Apples and Root Vegetables

My grocer stocks wonderful pork roasts that weigh less than 2 pounds. They are meant for crock pots and slow cookers. But I roast them.

Don't be put off by the Mediterranean seasonings of lemon and fennel. Nothing complements a pork roast as these two flavors. Neither is overpowering; together, they are a hit.

These small pork roasts are "netted" to keep the meat together in a cylindrical shape and usually have just enough fat to keep them moist. 

Feel free to use other roots, such as parsnips or carrots. 

  • 1, 1.5 lb. rolled pork roast
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 large rutabaga
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 large crisp apple such as Braeburn, Jazz, Honey Crisp, Granny Smith*
  • Lawrey's Seasoned Salt--a few shakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Garlic powder, several good sprinkles on top, bottom and sides of roast
  • 1 good teaspoon dried onion flakes, crushed to a powder (or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder)
  • 10 unpeeled, raw garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1 strip bacon, cut in half (optional)
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Dried, whole thyme

Sprinkle the roast with the dried ingredients. I usually do this over the pan I am going to roast it in. I roll the roast in the seasonings that fall to the bottom of the pan to pick up as much as possible. Grate the lemon on top of the pork roast. Pat in. Give a light drizzle of olive oil to the roast and rub in all over. Sprinkle top with Kosher salt. The salt will give a nice crust to the roast.

Just peel and chop into chunks.

Peel raw rutabaga with a sharp knife, removing waxy outer layer and stem and root parts. Cut into one-inch chunks. Peel raw apple. Cut in half. Using a melon baller, remove the center seeds and stem and blossom ends. Cut each half into four sections. Peel raw sweet potato and cut into one-inch chunks.

Remove rutabaga, apples, sweet potato and, if using, garlic cloves to a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with a bit of dried, crushed thyme leaves, a bit of Kosher salt and pepper.

I like to roast meat on a rack so heat surrounds the entire cut of mean. If you don't have a small rack, you can easily make one using tin foil and coiling it like this:

Center pork in a roasting pan. Surround it in a single layer with the root vegetables keeping the apples closer to the pork and the rutabagas to the outside of the pan. Strip the leaves off of a rosemary stem. Mince them. Sprinkle over the rutabaga and apple mixture.

If using bacon, place strips over the pork roast. 

For this pork roast, I only used rutabagas and apples. Boring.

For this pork roast, I went all out. I added sweet potato for color. One strip of bacon cut in half
for added flavor, garlic cloves and one extra sprig of rosemary. Beautiful!

Roast for 10-15 minutes at 420 degrees. Lower temp to 150 and roast for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and, if desired, stir in about one tablespoon butter and stir around the apples and roots. Return to oven until instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the roast registers about 145 F degrees. Remove. Tent with foil and allow to rest at least 15-20 minutes. Remove pork roast and cut off netting. Thinly slice. Serve with apples and roots and a drizzle of the sauce.

Of course, the cook gets to eat the bacon!

*Because the apple is not as dense as the roots it will cook faster. As such, cut into thick slices rather than chunks

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Traditional Irish Soda Bread ....

March is that time of year when all things turn Irish. Even Easter, if it arrives early!

Food, such as this, once had a purpose. A real purpose. It was meant for sopping into hearty stews to mop up rich gravy; dipping into bacon grease after frying eggs and bacon; soaking into soups. The dense, interior texture with the crisp, chewy, outer crust, deliciously withstood such gastronomical rigors and acrobatics. Try doing any of the above with a simple piece of white bread...and it just falls apart.

Since Irish soda bread only uses four ingredients, it was simple to quickly assemble and to  have ready for supper.

Refined, soft, white flour was not a staple of Irish homesteads 150 years ago. Their flour was coarsely ground with flecks of bran. Even back then, "the white stuff" was reserved for the wealthy.

The following recipe uses bread flour with a higher concentration of glutens and less "silkiness" of white flour which will make your bread crumble as you cut it. To achieve the "coarseness," I added one cup of rye flour.

It's important not to overwork your dough. Don't worry if some of the flour remains in the bowl. Do not add any sweetener, such as brown sugar, white sugar, honey. You want the earthy grain tones in the forefront.

Some recipes call for flouring a non-greased pan before baking. Don't. There's nothing worse than the flavor of burnt flour. Use a sheet of parchment paper.

This loaf will produce a tender-chewy outer crust and hearty interior. DO NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to cut this or any loaf of bread while it is hot from the oven. Once removed from the oven, it's important for the bread to "steam." Cutting it, releases that steam which results in a dry loaf.

Even one-day old and wrapped in cling-wrap, the bread will retain a toned-down crispy crust. It makes for wonderful sandwiches.

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour mixed with 1 cup rye flour for a total of 16 ounces*
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose salt
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk (be sure to shake it before using) plus 1-2 tablespoons set aside

You will need a LARGE bowl for the mixing.

Place dry ingredients in a bowl. Using your hand, whisk your fingers through the flour to incorporate salt and soda.

Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.

Make your hand into a "claw" with outstretched fingers and begin mixing in a circular motion from the center to the outside of the bowl. Yes, it's messy. This should take no more than 15 seconds or so. If necessary add another tablespoon or two of buttermilk.

Tip the dough onto a flour-covered board. Begin shaping by cupping the mound of dough between your palms as you turn turn turn on the board to form a soft ball. Tuck under any loose ends.

Gently pat the ball to form into a seven-inch circle. You want a disk about 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick. Place disk on a parchment-paper baking sheet. Brush with additional buttermilk.

It is traditional to "bless" the bread by cutting a cross into it about 1/2 inch deep. Make a slash in each quadrant to allow "the evil fairies to escape" so the bread has a nice rise as it bakes.

Place in center of a 450 F degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 400 and continue to bake another 15-20 minutes.

Turn over bread and continue to bake another 5-10 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped.

The underside.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut the loaf in half and then begin slicing from the heel.

*Or 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour or rye flour for a total of 16 ounces.

"Americanized" Irish soda breads are sweet with the addition of sugar, eggs and dried fruit. That recipe can be found here: Kitchen Bounty: Irish Soda Bread.