Hero Food by Seamus Mullen has a very different perspective. For personal health reasons, seasoned chef Mullen decided to focus on 18 very healthy ingredients and then create wonderful recipes using them. Now his list of 18 is pretty diverse: olive oil, dried, beans, almonds, grains, anchovies, good eggs, good birds, sweet peas, parsley, berries, carrots, corn, stone fruit, good fish, squash, mushrooms, greens, and good meat.
By “good” he doesn’t mean avoiding spoiled. He means getting the specific varieties or cuts that can generate wonderful flavor.
This recipe, for a slow roasted lamb shoulder, immediately caught Suzen’s eye. With her cooking school in New York, Suzen tries to offer clients a true range of flavors. She offers, the clients decide, and we prepare a lot of chicken, beef, and salmon. Lamb is not a frequent client selection. It’s the Bambi thing. So, for a weekend feast, she was all over this lamb idea. Me, too. Visions of mint jelly did cross my mind.
And we made this dish. Uh, sort of.
Our butcher did not have lamb shoulder. He did have a lamb roast but at $45, Suzen held it in her hand and weighed her options. She put it back.
“What if,” she began.
Now, that phrase “what if” has led to many things in our civilization. Einstein said “what if” and came up with relativity theory, for example. Suzen was less dramatic.
She used pork shoulder instead of lamb. Equally delicious. You just need to accommodate the cooking time. In fact, it’s a pretty good indication that the recipes in Hero Food are robust when you can make this kind of change and yet achieve a perfect meal.
Lamb to pork was one change. The other was simpler. His recipe calls for Quick-Cured Lemons which requires a few days of curing. We were hungry that very day, and had no preserved lemons already on hand. So I Googled and found a 3-hour version of preserved lemons. I’ve already posted that blog just a few days ago.
That’s it. That’s all the changes we made. We had our cousin over for dinner and she beamed. “What is this?” Karen asked.
“Lamb,” I said. Karen stared at me.
“Pork, for god’s sake,” Suzen corrected me. Karen took another piece.
The diligence and care in Hero Food make it a book you want to look at and consider strongly for the sagging bookshelf of yours. There’s always room for one more. This should be the one.
Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder
Yield: serves 6
- 1 cup good-quality black olives, pits removed
- 6 slices Quick-Cured Lemons [see our earlier post on this blog for a solution here]
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- Generous handful mixed fresh herbs, like rosemary, oregano, sage, parsley, and/or thyme
- ½ cup good olive oil
- 1 lamb shoulder, roughly 4-6 pounds, and deboned [ask your butcher to do it]
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large mortar and pestle or in a food processor, work together the olives, cured lemons, garlic, herbs and olive oil in to a nice, rustic paste. If you are using a food processor, be careful not to overprocess it; you want the paste to be a bit coarse.
Open the lamb shoulder up on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to trim any connecting meat to form a nice square. Rub the lamb all over with the paste you’ve just made. Carefully roll the whole thing up so that it looks like a Yule log and truss it with butcher’s twine every inch and a half. Refrigerate the lamb for a few hours or overnight to allow all the wonderful flavors to come together.
Removed the lamb from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Place the lamb on a rack fitting in a roasting pan. Roast for 1 to 1 ½ hours. You’re looking for an internal temperature of about 148°F. I like to tie a few branches of rosemary together with string to make a nice herb brush and use that to baste the lamb with the dripping every 20 minutes or so. Once the lamb is done, set it aside in a warm place to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
While the lamb is resting, I like to wilt some bitter greens lake puntarelle or dandelion greens in a hot skillet with some of the drippings from the lamb pan. It only takes a couple of minutes and works really well with the lamb.
Carefully remove the butcher’s twine. With a sharp knife, carve the shoulder into thin slices. Serve the sliced shoulder family style with platter of the wilted greens.
Source: Hero Food by Seamus Mullen
Lamb. A lovely meat, particularly when prepared the right way. My grandmother, all Scottish, would cook me lamb chops. And cook them. And keep cooking them.
Why do Scots use mint jelly with lamb? It’s to lubricate your teeth so you have a fighting chance to penetrate meat that is just a tad tough.
Supermarkets have not helped the lamb image. They have offered up less than ideal meat that, when cooked, produces the “lamby” smell that makes heads turn. The wrong way.
Suzen loves lamb, too. She cannot get her clients to consider lamb for Cooking by the Events. They just won’t do it.
So, we do. On weekends, when we cook for ourselves and our friends, we buy great lamb, we don’t overcook it, and we relish every bite. This recipe is a perfect appetizer, one that is naturally paired with a stiff cocktail — and you’ll find one of those at this blog this weekend featuring grilled peaches and bourbon.
Start with this appetizer, offer a rich risotto for the main course, and finish with a fresh fruit tart. That’s a meal to treasure.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Glazed Shitake Mushrooms
Servings: 2 to 4
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
- ½ cup Pedro Ximenez vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 pound shitake mushrooms, stems discard and caps sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 rack of lamb spareribs (about 1 pound) cut into individual ribs
In a .small saucepan, simmer the vinegar over moderately low heat until reduced slightly to ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes.
In a large skillet, melt the butter in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat , turning once until golden, about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the reduced vinegar and cook over low heat until the mushrooms are nicely glazed and tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Light a grill or preheat the broiler. Brush the ribs with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the ribs over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until light charred and cooked through, about 2 minutes a side. Brush the ribs with the remaining vinegar and grill, turning until nicely glazed about 1 more minute. Transfer the ribs to a platform and serve the mushroom alongside.
The total cooking time for a chops of different thicknesses are shown in the following table, with credit to Steven Raichlen.
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Sources: Food and Wine Cocktails 2012 and The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen