Monday, January 30, 2012

Cast Iron Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes

Sorry I've been MIA...a back injury has not kept me out of the kitchen, but it has made me forget to photograph and blog about what happening in our kitchen. Anyway, I have been utilizing my cast iron skillet more often lately because I keep coming across recipes that call for it, meaning  my mind is now conjuring up ideas of what magic it can bestow on my stomach. For instance, I had some lamb shoulder in the fridge and I figured that cooking it in the searing hot cast iron would definitely work...and I was right. 

First off, I marinated the cuts of lamb in 1/2 cup lemon juice, some fresh rosemary (say 3-4 sprigs), 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tbsp of dijon mustard. I did this mid-afternoon so the meat could sit in the fridge for four hours...more or less time will still work, just depends on your schedule, though at minimum I'd marinate them for 90 minutes. 

Next up, dice up some yukon gold potatoes, throw them in a pyrex dish with a little olive oil and a lot of salt (I used a rosemary sea salt - amazing!!!!!) and stick them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Once the half hour has passed, start heating that cast iron skillet. When it is hot enough to make a drop of water evaporate, coat the bottom with a little more olive oil and then toss the potatoes in. Continue to move the potatoes around in the skillet and add a little chopped onion or shallots (less than 1/4 cup!). After about 20 minutes when the potatoes are really starting to crust over and get soft inside, grab the lamb. 

Pour some of the marinade (maybe half) into the pan and place the chops in there amidst the potatoes. Cook the lamb about 5 minutes per side and then remove the skillet from heat. The lamb will be medium-rare (and perfect!) at this time, but if you wrongly prefer it more cooked, haha, add two or three minutes to each side. 

Served with mixed greens and a homemade lemon vinaigrette. 

- Melissa 

Mahimahi Tacos

So these are not only easy, but completely healthy and delicious. To start, you need at least two pieces of mahimahi. In the absence of that particular fish, you can substitute rock fish or swordfish or hell, shrimp would also work out if you had to. To season the fish, just use a little salt, pepper and grape seed oil and then grill over a low flame for about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up two medium tomatoes, one avocado and dice about 1/3 cup of onions. Mix the three together and then toss in a little grape seed oil (I use that oil for this because it has less of a strong flavor - like olive oil - and doesn't change the taste of the 'salsa'). At the same time, heat up some black beans in a small saucepan and stir in some crushed red pepper flakes - how much is your call.

You want to lightly toast the tortillas in the oven, right on the rack - say on the 'warming' heat option - for just a few minutes. Once they are still malleable but slightly crispy, remove and start building your taco. Take the fish and flake it off into smaller chunks that'll be easier to roll up.

Then, in addition to the fish, beans and avocado salsa, you can also add some chopped lettuce, sour cream and even tabasco - clearly we went for ALL of that.

Ideally, serve these with a beer!

- Melissa

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas Crown Roast

So I decided to tackle a crown roast for this past seems so seasonal and holiday-tastic, not to mention, who doesn't want a challenge on Dec. 25? Anyway, first challenge is finding a crown roast, which means hitting up a local butcher or a high-end specialty store since they are not readily available at your local supermarket, trust me. Be sure to ask the butcher to 'dress' the roast - meaning that it is tied up and arranged in a pretty circle, ready to be stuffed and cooked. Once the roast is cleaned, you want to lightly rub the outside with flour (I used whole wheat flour), a little water, oregano, salt and pepper. Not enough so that it is a paste, but it should be visible on the roast.

Hard at work, stuffing that roast.
As for the stuffing, which is a key part of the meal for sure, there are tons of variations, but I went with a green apple and sage stuffing which was unbelievably savory and just a little sweet. You'll need the regular stuffing ingredients - 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 cup diced celery, 1/4 cup diced white or yellow onion, a few cups of chic broth - and then you can either use 4 cups of toasted, cubed bread or the Stouffer's bags that they sell. Granted there are some extra spices in the Stouffer's bags, but nothing that will ruin the stuffing. Once you have cooked the main parts of the stuffing over low heat, you'll want to add in the two large green apples (diced, skin on), 1/3 cup splenda brown sugar and about ten leaves of fresh sage, cut into strips or torn. Cook the stuffing a few more minutes over very low heat and let it all mix together. If it is extremely dry, add a little more chicken broth. Then let it sit off the heat for at least 10 minutes before actually stuffing the roast.

Lastly, you want to place small pieces of foil on top of each piece of bone. You don't want to put a full piece of foil on the top of the whole roast - JUST the tips of the bones so that they don't dry out. Then you cook the roast in a deep roasting pan, completely stuffed, at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes per pound. We had a 12-pounder (and by the way, you won't find ones much smaller than that...this is definitely something to serve with guests over!) and it took just over three hours. Temperature-wise, you want the meat to be at about 150 degrees before you remove it from the oven. If that sounds too rare, you can cook it more, though I make no promises that it won't be dried out!!

Once the roast is out of the oven, you want to cover it with foil and let it sit for at about five minutes. Then to cut and serve it, you want to cut down through the space between the bone tips at the top. Like you're slicing a cake, the first piece/chop might be tough to extract, but moving forward the rest should come out nice & pretty.

The masterpiece is done cooking, though minus the fun little white crowns
on the bone tips...they are impossible to find!

Served with my own pear salad creation (toasted almonds, mixed greens, goat cheese & homemade pear vinaigrette).

- Melissa

Want an email when new posts are up?