Sunday, November 18, 2007

adventures in cooking

roast leg of lamb, with pear salad and cherry rhubarb vinaigrette.

ok, so when i moved in with the wonderful GF i found this untapped talent: cooking. all of a sudden, in an environment in which i would not hear my orangutan friends in the background hooting "FAG!" every time i tried to make something for dinner, my culinary green thumb has sprouted. my friend ben came up from LA for my 30th surprise bday party (more on that later), and i really wanted to hang out with him more, so when DD and me were at the (overpriced) embarcadero farmer's market, we got some good stuff for dinner. here's how you make this shit:

roast leg of lamb:

1 boneless leg (if you get a boned one i have no idea how to take it out, but there's all sorts of directions on the inturwebs)
garlic (i used 4 cloves, but whatever)
olive oil
lemon juice from 1 lemon
kosher salt
red pepper flakes
ground mustard
white wine (for the sauce)

so this marinade-thing is pretty much the basic one; there's variations but the oil, lemon, rosemary, and garlic are more or less the common denominator in all the recipes i found. i think i'll play around a bit with them more later because there were a few that sounded pretty fucking good. one had honey and mustard that sounded pretty rad, and there were a few more middle-eastern-y minty ones, but as long as you stick to the basics and just have maybe one or 2 standout extra flavors you should be fine.

materials: food processor/mortar and pestle; digital meat thermometer; casserole dish; tinfoil; gallon ziploc storage bags; knives, time, etc. i was going to make a rad joke out of listing the most mundane of obvious items for "materials," but i've decided writing about the joke with this meta-joke will work perfectly instead.

preheat the oven to 325-350 ish. if you can score the meat, do it now so the flavors can get into it, but we didn't really score it too much; i just poked some holes in it. plus, since it's in a casserole dish and we're making a sauce out of the juice that'll come out of the meat anyways, don't worry too much about the meat getting dry or anything.

toss some kosher salt on the meat and let it chill out while you make the sauce. throw the garlic, lemon juice (watch out for seeds), oil, etc, into the food processor and get it all smoothed out. i didn't measure too much for this, but start with the wet ingredients and garlic and then add the spices to taste. throw the meat and marinade into a ziploc bag and let it set for a couple hours at least. some say overnight, but whatever.

if you want to work on the salad while the lamb is marinading you can, but make sure you have some more lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning.

i used asian pears for this because i was kind of making the recipe up as i went along, but since it turned out tasty i'm ok with it.

pear salad with persimmon, cherry-rhubarb vinaigrette:

salad mix
asian pears (but any sort of pears will work)
candied/honey roasted walnuts
cherry-rhubarb jam (we used this just because i bought some at the farmer's market, but really any sweet/tart fruit would do, i think)
olive oil
red wine vinegar
lemon juice
kosher salt

cut the pears like very thin apple slices. i learned the hard way that this is difficult to do if you have shitty $2.99 ikea knives. cut the persimmons into either smallish chunks or thin apple-slice style as well. put them all into a ziploc container, put lemon juice on them, and put it in the fridge for later.

for the dressing, put about a quarter cup vinegar and at least 1/8 cup olive oil into the (cleaned) food processor. toss in at least 5 oz of the jam, maybe half a lemon's worth of juice, a pinch of kosher salt, half a teaspoon of sugar, and blend the shit out of it. add sugar/salt/jam to balance the flavor as needed.

after the lamb has marinated for a while, take it out of the fridge and let it get up to room temperature. once it's been out for about a half hour or so, put it into the casserole dish and get as much of the marinade out of the bag and onto it as you can. set the meat thermometer's alarm to 145 degrees, and put it into the center of the meat, and cover the whole thing with tinfoil. put it into the oven.

once the meat's internal temp hits about 100 degrees, give or take, and take the tinfoil off the roast and crank the heat to 425 or so, which'll brown the meat some. put it back in and let the meat cook the rest of the way. make sure you keep an eye on it from here on out: if the juice that's collecting in the pan dries out and looks like it's going to burn, take it out and pour some white wine into the casserole, maybe a half cup at most, and then put it back in.

once the alarm goes off, take the meat out and let it rest to let the juices get reabsorbed into the meat. pour the juices into a pan on meduim heat. pour in some white wine and let it reduce, keeping it simmering and keeping stirring until it tastes how you like it. cut the lamb, pour the sauce over it, and serve.

if you want blue cheese to crumble over the salad, feel free. i kind of wished i'd had it. the dinner kicked my friend's ass, and i was hero of the evening.

i will post my sheperd's pie recipe later on. BOO YA.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

down with the sickness

the occupational hazard that looms largest for teachers is cold and flu season. you're surrounded by hundreds of squirming, screaming things, all of which revel in filth (well, the male ones at any rate). i've managed to dodge the sickness bullet until today, which is way, way longer than normal (every other year i've collapsed sick the moment i step on campus). so i'm sick, and i got soup for lunch from the chinese place down the street. it was delicious. and then the fortune cookie said "your health will be your wealth," and i was like: well, shit.