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From Lamb to Plate

16 Sep

Last weekend I had friends over for a nice dinner: a delicious whole leg of lamb (from a local farm, slaughtered and butchered by a friend just a few days before), a salad of wild arugula + homemade ricotta + roasted yellow nectarines, roasted eggplant with dry-farmed tomatoes and preserved lemon, and a platter of five kinds of figs. This is the story of the food:

The lamb was from Amador Grazers (all grass fed, no antibiotics or growth hormones). If you’re not squeamish about such things, you can see a photo of my friend slaughtering and butchering it here.

I made an herb paste of rosemary, thyme, black pepper, sea salt, and about a head of crushed garlic, and rubbed it on every surface of the leg:

I let it sit for a little under an hour while I preheated the oven to “425” (which in my oven is 350). I put the leg in and roasted it for about 90 minutes, occasionally checking the temperature. When the inside of the thickest part hit 130 (and the thinner areas were at 135), I took it out and let it rest half an hour before carving. It was absolutely delicious– moist and so flavorful. I probably could have even gone more rare:

While the lamb was resting I improvised a sauce: I deglazed lamb fat and crunchy bits from the pan by adding some red wine and briefly boiling, then tossed in four diced up really soft figs and some mint and simmered it for about 10 minutes to reduce it into a sweet, rich sauce.

Earlier, we’d made ricotta (milk, cream, salt, lemon juice — I’ve made it before), which went well with the especially spicy wild arugula and some yellow peaches I’d roasted in the oven while the lamb was resting:

For dessert, a platter of figs, every variety I could find at the farmers’ market. Clockwise from the right: Black Mission figs (the common ones), Brown Turkish Figs, green Kadota Figs (my favorite: with an especially jammy pink center), a small black fig whose name I don’t remember, and Candy Stripe figs.

A good evening and good company.

p.s. If you’re curious how one transports a raw eight-pound leg of lamb on ice for an hour and a half without a car, here’s the answer:

Steak, peppers, fruit: $17

31 Jul

I should really turn my food-splurge impulses into cooking more often.

I bought the most exciting version of everything I wanted without thinking about price (a BN Ranch grass-fed sirloin steak, local padrone peppers, blackberries, a nectarine, olives, a shallot)… and the total came to about $17. Not cheap, but inexpensive for a “special splurge on dinner”.

Korean BBQ, camping

29 Jul

For a camping trip with a few friends, I decreed “no burgers, no sausages”, and a very loose theme of “Korean BBQ”.

I don’t think I’d ever cooked Korean food before, but the general idea of marinated, grilled, thin-sliced meat and lots of banchan (side dishes, most of which could be made ahead of time) seemed feasible for camping, and a break from the ordinary.

I bought a nice large marbled ribeye steak and sliced it thinly  against the grain (following an online suggestion to pre-freeze it for an hour to aid with slicing thin helped):

Based on a quick recipe lookup on my phone the night before (while running around getting ready), I made a marinade of soy sauce (tamari, diluted 1:1 in water), sesame oil, sesame seeds, lots of crushed garlic, and minced fresh ginger, and ended up soaking the ribeye for about 24 hours before grilling it. The next morning I decided to add tri tip so we had more meat, and sliced that (a bit thicker), and marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and black pepper for about 12 hours.

That evening, on the grill at the camp site.

Served with lettuce leaves to wrap it, as well as a bean sprout salad (a package of bean sprouts boiled for about 4 minutes on a gas camping stove, then drained and mixed with minced raw garlic, green onions, chili flakes, and sesame seeds). A good refreshing counterpart to the meat (though I could have also cooked the garlic a bit).

Also on the side: spicy cucumber fresh pickles (cucumbers soaked for 2 days in the fridge in a mix of white vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar, a little water and salt, and sriracha: sort of a half-assed pickle not carefully set up to ferment or preserve, just for flavor), and some excellent spicy pickled broccolini that someone else brought, as well as kimchee. The nori sheets worked to wrap beef once the lettuce ran out.

For dessert: grilled pineapple, and grilled nectarines with creme fraiche (another excellent set of contributions from a friend):

Overall, this was a successful dinner. I thought the marinated ribeye turned out really well, but the tri tip ended up a bit too salty (I should have diluted the soy sauce, or had something to balance it like sugar?)– but some people preferred the salty tri tip. I’ll have to try variants again in the future.

Oh, not shown: a delicious marinated pork belly that someone else butchered and brought.

Side note: we packed the food, beer, ice, cooking tools, and so on in and out by bike. Shown below is a bike-mounted cooler. Just because…

Sausage-Making Class

22 Jul

Last weekend I took a sausage-making class (hands-on practice, recipes, and helpful Q&A from the owners of Jablow’s Meats). I don’t have time to write much up, but it was fun, informative, and I especially like the sweet italian sausage we made (with plenty of garlic and toasted fennel seed):

(yes, everyone photographs sausage being extruded out of the piston into pig intestine:)

Hat tip to relatively new organizations Curiosity Atlas for organizing and Good Eggs for hosting.

Tasting the prototype sausages:

Cured Meat and Smoked Beer

9 Mar

A friend and coworker made his own cured pork belly and wild boar salami (and I mean real running-in-the-woods, invasive, shot-by-a-friend wild boar, not the Texas-ranch-raised “wild boar”) . And a group of us had a little shindig pairing those with various smoked or barrel-aged beers:

The beer highlights for me were the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, a smoked beer with a light touch (and I don’t like most smoked beers I’ve had), and The Lost Abbey Angel’s Share (bourbon aged, chewy, >12% ABV, strong– a sour cherry barrel aged version of that at City Beer a few years ago was one of my favorite beers).

The Arrogant Bastard Oak Aged did nothing special for me, and I actively disliked the Lips of Faith (New Belgium) sour beer.

Pancetta, Greens, Garbanzos

8 Mar

Hey, this was a more successful than usual “leftovers hash”, and only 20 minutes.

(cue typical low-light cell phone photo:)

Some good pancetta fried at low heat. A little water added to deglaze the pan and get the crusty bits off the bottom. A minced shallot sauteed in the fat. Then a few brussels sprouts I had (sliced thin), a coarsely chopped head of broccolini, and a few big pinches of white pepper, for variety. With the pan covered, fried/steamed on medium-low heat (stirring occasionally) for about 10 minutes.

I had the dregs of a can of tahini left, so I mixed that with a can of chick peas, olive oil, some raw garlic, and a splash of balsamic vinegar (I was out of citrus). For further acid, some powdered sumac I had left over from the Turkish(ish) dinner.

Quite good (and even better once I mixed them together and the pancetta greens could tame some of the raw garlic).

How To Roast A Whole Pig

20 Feb

(warning: pig carcass photos below)

I just found photos from a pig roast & camping trip in Stanislaus National Forest organized by some friends last summer. It was everyone’s first time roasting a large whole pig, but the pork ended up delicious, moist, and not too greasy. Success!

I wasn’t involved in the planning, and don’t really have a detailed “recipe”, but here’s the general approach:

1. Rub the whole pig with salt (there wasn’t really space or room to store a big tube of liquid brine)

2. Fill it with whole apples, lemons, and carrots and “sew” it shut with wire

3. Skewer it on a pole (he used a long copper pipe)

4. Figure out how to mount it on a frame above the fire and periodically turn it (Nate built a frame out of 80/20 aluminum framing, and connected the spit to a 12V DC brushmotor, gearbox, timing relay (such as McMaster Carr part #7630K19), and a car battery, which in combination would turn on the motor about every 30 seconds, rotate the spit an eighth of a turn, and then shut off, with no need for other electronics or any software).

A video:

5. Burn wood in a firepit nearby to make coals, and periodically shovel them under the pig. Put most of the coals under the shoulder and butt and fewer under the belly (it’s thinner, so it doesn’t need as much heat).

6. Build up enough coals and choose a height so that it’s painful to hold your hand where the pig is (one suggestion I read was that after 4 or 5 seconds of holding your hand at the pig’s height it should be painfully hot). We started at probably 30″ from the coals to the bottom of the pig, but lowered it a few times in the first few hours as we were concerned about temperature– we probably ended up with the pig about 16″ above the coals.
7. Cook for a while (it took about 6 hours for our pig).
8. The skin may naturally split and fall off– I’m not sure how to prevent that.
9. Test the meet deep in the shoulder and butt with a thermometer periodically (but don’t run the thermometer into the bone). We aimed for 145F.
10. When it’s ready, take it off, wrap it in foil, and cover it for 45 minutes to let it rest
11. Carve and devour!

Lambcetta, Fennel, Carrots, Westvleteren

14 Feb

A low-key Feb 14th– catching up at home after a few whirlwind weeks, and making a quick and tasty hash starting from a homemade “lambcetta” (like pancetta, but lamb, air-cured with salt) given to me by a friend who’s been going all-out on the butchering and meat-preserving front recently.

It was delicious sliced thin on its own, and I don’t think it would kill me. But to make it last, I just used a bit of it, minced up and fried with minced shallots, and then coarser-cut onions, fennel (yes, I’m an addict), and carrots.

Plus a Westvleteren 8 shipped from Belgium that I’d been saving for a special occasion.

Homemade Wild Boar Salami, Beer

10 Feb

A friend made some dry-cured (hopefully botulism-free) salami from scratch, from a wild boar a friend of his shot. Rich, spicy, excellent. I’ll ask him for details.

I brought the beer. The Allagash Black (belgian crossed with a stout) and the Speakeasy Butchertown Black (hoppy and dark) were the favorites. The Upright Flora Rustica I’d liked so much in PDX was no good at all– sour and muddled.

Oh, and rosewater-flavored Turkish Delight, back from Istanbul.

Bacon-Wrapped Egg

7 Jan

Hat tip to SD, who shared this link. So just for the heck of it, I cooked a strip of bacon (mostly, not until crispy), used some of the bacon fat to grease a ramekin, cracked a raw egg into the “bacon cylinder”, added a little dried thyme, black pepper, and parmesan, and baked it in a “400F” (probably cooler) oven for 16 minutes, before sliding it out of the ramekin.

Then: sunflower sprouts, a few cell phone photos, breakfast.