Friday, July 3, 2009

Lamb Illustrated

Woo-hoo, I finally remembered to take pictures!

Last night we had quite a feast: roasted rack of lamb with sweet potato-miso mash and stir-fried snap peas.

The lamb recipe I use, which always knocks everybody's socks off, is based on the very traditional method where you put a thin layer of dijon mustard on the outside of the rack and then coat it with breadcrumbs. The twist is this: Instead of/in addition to passing it with a mint sauce, you mince up a bunch of mint and mix it right in with the breadcrumbs before coating the lamb.

Internal temp: 125 degrees F.
Fuck you, USDA!
I got the recipe from, and it was originally published in Bon Appetit. The link also includes a recipe for a mint sauce on the side, but I never bother to make it. The first time I made the dish, I whipped up the mint sauce, and it was barely touched. I haven't made it since, and have had no complaints. If you're really into mint sauce, though, go for it.

I felt like I should have put salt and pepper on the lamb earlier (it didn't seem like the salt had penetrated all the way through, even though I applied it probably a good half-hour before I started cooking it), and I always feel like it needs to rest more like 10 minutes than the 5 minutes the recipe mandates. Also, I tend to use a much higher proportion of mint than the recipe calls for. Oh, and that's WAY too much breadcrumbs even for 3 lamb racks -- I used 1/2 cup for a single rack, and I still threw out at least half of it.

The sweet potato-miso mash is an old standby recipe for me that I like because it is an interesting twist, but actually really simple to make. Also, miso paste seems to last just about forever in the fridge, so I can bust this out on a whim whenever I want to do something a little different with sweet potatoes or yams. I am certain I got the recipe somewhere online a few years ago, but I can't for the life of me find it... So, with apologies to the original creator of the recipe, here is how I remember it:

Sweet potato-miso mash
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and chopped into large-ish cubes
  • 2 Tbsp white miso paste (most any type of miso paste will do)
  • Pepper to taste

Bring pot of boiling unsalted water to a boil. Normally, for something like this, I would demand that you use aggressively salted water under threat of a vicious beating with a live trout, in order to ensure that the world's first and best flavor enhancer penetrates deeply into the entire dish. However, in this case, the salty miso paste is going to provide pretty much all the salt we need. So leave the salt out.

Add potatoes or yams to the water and cook until tender enough to mash, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl large enough for mashing. If not ready to serve, cover with foil.

When almost ready to serve, add the miso paste and pepper to taste. Again, do not add salt, as the miso will add plenty of saltiness! Mash sweet potato mixture thoroughly, stirring with spoon if miso paste does not fully combine. Serve immediately.

Notes: The reason for the foil over the bowl and waiting for the last minute to mash it is because, assuming your miso came out of the fridge, I find that it cools the potatoes almost immediately to a good serving temperature -- and that if you add the miso earlier and then don't serve it for ten minutes, say, then it is not hot anymore by the time it gets to the table. So I keep the potatoes as hot as possible until I am ready to add the miso, then serve right away.

This recipe makes about 4-5 side-dish servings. You can easily scale it however large or small you like by just maintaining the ratio of 1 lb potatoes to 1 Tbsp miso paste.

The stir-fried snap peas is still something I am sort of working on. I want to get snap peas that have a fair bit of browning on them yet still have a nice al dente crisp to them, but I also don't want them to seem greasy. The problem is, because the peas have a smooth non-porous surface, there is nowhere for oil or butter to hide -- so even a small, quite sensible amount of oil gives them a tasty-but-unhealthy-looking sheen, and interferes with the mouthfeel. Yet if I use too little oil, then they don't brown up the way I want them too. If anybody has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

I used garlic scapes this time, because as I mentioned in a previous post, we have some right now from our CSA. They were tasty, but chopped garlic would probably work too (though I might add it a little later in the cooking so as not to burn it). The snap peas were also from the CSA.

Stir-fried snap peas with garlic scapes
  • a "handful" of snap peas (I guess maybe 1/3 lb is what I used? I didn't measure or weigh it, I just tossed in the bag we got from the CSA)
  • 2 garlic scapes, sliced
  • 1-2 tsp of peanut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

The snap peas cooking in the skillet.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Meanwhile, combine snap peas and garlic scapes in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper. When skillet is almost smoking or just starting to smoke, add the peanut oil immediately followed by the snap peas mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until some of the snap peas are starting to show little streaks of brown, about 5-10 minutes. Check the peas occasionally by picking one up and wagging it to make sure it is not getting too soggy. It is better that the peas don't get the sear on them than that they get soggy. When they are done, remove from heat and serve.

To go with the meal, we had Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Reisling. Yeah, I know, a red wine
All plated and ready to serve.
would have gone much better with this meal, but we were in the mood for a white. Sue me, wine snobs!

Anyway, I don't generally like Reislings, but the Dr. Frank Reislings (both the dry and the semi-dry) are really fantastic. This bottle was even better than I remember it, which could mean that a) the 2007 vintage is a good one, or, as is more likely b) it's been a long time since I've had a good bottle of wine.

The price is right too: It was about $12 at Century Pittsford. They usually have it available chilled, but it was sold out (go figure) so we had to toss it in the freezer while I cooked.

Right before we sit down to eat.
(Sorry for the blurry photo)
This is a meal we've done a couple times now. We do a single rack of lamb and split it between two people, which makes it a reasonable amount of food. Next time, we'll probably replace the sweet potato-miso mash with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes (my wife likes yams better, I like regular mashed potatoes better, so being the awesome wife she is, she suggested we switch it up next time). The peas could be replaced with any spring vegetable, e.g. asparagus would work great. It's a great spring meal!

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