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
Pork and Sons was a brilliant book devoted to the noble pig. Now author Stephane Reynaud has written Rȏtis: Roasts for Every Day of the Week, an encyclopedia for those who grew up where the main meal for every day was themed. In this lovely book, the days of the week are each given a special dedication. Here are the days — Sunday doubles down — with some sample recipes:
- Monday: Roast Beef [Borscht-Style, Poached, En Croute with Mushrooms]
- Tuesday: Roast Veal [With Preserved Lemon, With Olives]
- Wednesday: Roast Chicken and Game [Pigeons with Vegetables, Lyonnaise Style Rabbit]
- Thursday: Roast Pork [With Endive and Orange, With Bacon and Comte Cheese]
- Friday: Roast Fish [Monkfish with Smoky Bacon and Olives, Tuna with Sesame]
- Saturday: Roast Lamb [Racks with Pistachios, Racks with Honey and Mint, Shoulder with Cumin]
- Sunday Lunch: Roast Game [Venison Fillet with Raisins, Boar with Bilberries]
- Sunday Evening: All the Rest [Meatballs, Croquettes, Stuffed Tomatoes, Stuffed Peppers]
There are a bevy of photographs — which is important because many of these unusually wonderful recipes have distinctive looks that you might not be able to easily imagine. And, there’s a detailed supply of side dishes to complement each meat dish.
Those pictures also serve as advertising. Suzen saw this picture of ribs, and being a rib fanatic, simply announced that ribs would be served for dinner. The salivating scent and the visual beauty of the dish are intense. Once on the table, expect these ribs to quickly vanish. If you love onions and garlic, this is a rib recipe you just might repeat once a week.
Roast Spare Ribs with Toasted Garlic
Yield: serves 4
- 2 ¾ pounds (1.35 kg) pork ribs
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 French shallots, peeled and chopped
- 3 ½ ounces (100 g) peanuts, chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 ¾ ounces (80 g) ketchup
- 5 ounces (150 ml) soy sauce
- 3 ½ ounces (100 ml) olive oil
- 3 onions, peeled and halved
- 2 leeks, halved
- 1 celery stalk, halved
- 1 bouquet garni
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Combine the garlic, shallot, peanut and cilantro with the tomato sauce, soy sauce and olive oil and mix well into a marinade.
Put the onion, leek and celery into a large pot of water and allow to simmer over low heat. Add the bouquet garni, then immerse the ribs and simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, skimming regularly.
Transfer the ribs to a flameproof roasting tin. Cover them with the marinade so that they are well coated, then roast the ribs in the oven for about 15 minutes, making sure the meat is well basted with the marinade. The ribs should have a glazed appearance and the meat should come away from the bones.
Source: Rȏtis: Roasts for Every Day of the Week by Stephane Reynaud