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Thursday, March 31, 2011

"La Viande des Pauvres"

I've been trying to find a schedule for my blogging, and generally, Mondays and Thursdays are the best days to cook for me.  It being Thursday, I woke up excited for what I might try today.  Long story ensues....

I have been wanting to do a really nice lamb dish.  I have been in contact with a local (well, KIND OF local) farm about an hour and half away.  They raise Chevon and lamb for sale to the public, completely organic down to the feed.  I found out though that they are out of lamb until later in the season.  Apparently, the season starts back up around August or September.  But they do have a leg of Chevon (goat) that I will be purchasing as soon as I can get that way.  More to come on that later.  This morning though, I woke up with the taste of Chengdu lamb from P.F. Chang's on the brain.  If you have never had this dish you are missing out!  For a chain Chinese restaurant, they sure do have a handle on this thing.  Spiced lamb with onions, tomatoes, cumin, and mint?  Yes please.  But I have this thing about sitting in restaurants by myself and figured today wasn't the day.  Still my lamb craving won't subside.  So I took a ride to our local Fresh Market to peruse and kinda feel out what may be on the menu.  The best way to create a dish is to check out what is available and go from there.  It's still cold here (go figure) so I figured another sort of "pot luck" dish would be a nice way to spend a cold evening.  I've been checking out recipes for braised lamb shank and figured that would be nice.  No go.  No lamb shanks at the market so I went with the lamb chops.  After getting my meat, I walked around the produce section for a while.  It just always seems like the same old stuff laying around.  We're kind of in that in between time where things aren't quite in season yet, so it's still a lot of mass production fruits and veg.  I thought, maybe some mushrooms would be nice.  I decided to take a shot at a package of dried black trumpets.  I also picked up some nice baby carrots and potatoes for mashing.  Sounds good, right?  A nice simple warm dish.

The mushrooms require reconstituting so I follow the package directions and soak them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, after which you are "suggested" to pour the mushrooms and the now mushroom stock through a coffee filter.  Since it's hard to clean dried mushrooms, it removes all the grit and what not from them, leaving A) your mushrooms, and B) this wonderful mushroom stock.

Now I know that most people use the fancy schmancy cast iron enamel dutch ovens but me?  I got the good ol' Lodge Logic cast iron uncoated dutch oven.  Not only have I been able to do everything that you can do out of a $200 dutch oven, but it cost be around $35 and it's already pre-seasoned.  I have braised and stewed and fried and even made bread in that thing!  It really is fantastic.

Once the lamb chops were browned and the stock was rolling and the lid was on, the house filled with this beautiful smell of fresh herbs and lamb and earthy mushrooms.  That's the positive and negative of having a small house.  When you bake bread or cook dishes that have fantastic aroma, it fills the house!  (Why does no one have a fresh baked bread candle or braised lamb chop candle??)  Again, the negative side of that is just the same.  If you're making things like relish or frying chicken, prepare to smell vinegar and oil for two or three days.

Braised Lamb Chops with Black Trumpet Mushroom Sauce

4 bone-in lamb chops, roughly 1/4 pound a piece
4 to 5 cloves of roasted Garlic
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 to 3 cups of Vegetable stock
2 to 3 cups of Mushroom stock (from reconstituted mushrooms)
1 cup of dry white wine
1 pkg. of dried Black Trumpet Mushrooms
2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tbs. olive oil
flour for dusting plus more for stock
salt and black pepper (for seasoning lamb)
shawarma spice blend (for seasoning lamb)

- Bring to boil 3 to 4 quarts of water in a medium pot.  Once boiling, place the mushrooms in the water.  Turn off stove and let mushrooms steep for 3 to 4 minutes.  Pour mushrooms and water though a coffee filter and set aside. **I actually poured it right into the coffee maker, which makes sense.  The mushrooms were left in the filter and the liquid in the coffee pot.

- Season the lamb chops with salt, pepper, and a pinch of shawarma on each side.  Dust each lamb chomp lightly with flour.

- In a dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat and brown lamb chops on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove chops and set aside.

- With chops removed, add two or three teaspoons of flour to the remaining oil.  Stir until lightly brown.  Deglaze the pot with the wine.  Let simmer for 4 or 5 minutes to reduce and remove the alcohol from the wine.

- Mash the heads of garlic with the tines of a fork.  Then add the garlic, rosemary, mushrooms, vegetable stock, and mushroom stock to the pot.  Bring back to a boil.

- Add chops into pot once boiling.  Place lid on pot and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for two to three hours until chops begin to pull apart from bone.  (Just don't pull them off the bone!)

- Once chops are tender, remove chops from liquid, cover and set aside, preferably in the microwave or oven.  Set a colander in a bowl and pour the liquid / mushrooms into the colander.  Let drain for a minute or so until the mushrooms are no longer dripping.

- Set aside a couple of mushrooms for garnish, then run mushroom mixture through a food processor until fine.  Meanwhile, pour liquid into a walled sauce pan and bring heat up to medium-high / high.  Add butter and mushroom mixture to the sauce.  Reduce sauce until in coats the back of a spoon.  Once thickened, run sauce through a strainer or mesh wire colander to remove most of the big pieces of mushroom.  Pour sauce into a serving boat.  

- Serve with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  ** I roasted some carrots in the oven with brown sugar and a good currant vinegar plus mashed potatoes (skin on) with some of the leftover garlic and fresh parmigiano reggiano.

The leftover mushroom stock can be placed in an ice tray and frozen, then used later for sauces.  It is such a rich dish with simple flavors.  Lamb is bold and the mushrooms are bold so the seasoning can be kept to a bare minimum.  The shawarma seasoning is optional.  I picked up some at a store in Mobile, AL and always use it in my lamb dishes.  A little goes a long way though.  Plus, again, the main point is the dish is simple but it looks very impressive.  For weekend chefs like myself, it's always very impressive to see these things come together.  I just wish I had a better camera so I could do some of these things justice...


Sangy said...

oh my god, it looks so delicious~!! I might have to try this recipe sometime. :-)
Thanks for coming to my blog. :-)


CC said...

This is a great blog. Very informative. The blogging schedule is always a problem for me...I have grand plans every week, inevitably I miss the days I plan for and then become inspired on the days I have other things to do. Somehow, I'm managing to get posts up. IF you're interested

Look forward to reading your blog more.

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