Sunday, January 12, 2014

Roasted Leg of Lamb

I once took a cooking class and part of that class was making a roast leg of leg.  Since there were about 8 students and one chef, we divided the recipes up, which meant I did not get to participate in making the roast leg of lamb.  I have had rack of lamb and helped prepared that, but I was thinking about things to cook for a Christmas gathering while walking through the grocery store.  I thought about all the mutton I ate in New Zealand.  Then I stumbled upon this awesome leg of lamb which I decided was what had to be made for my group of friends who were coming over in the not distance future.  They had all been to my house before, but their significant others had not.  I had never served lamb before, so it was decided; I would roast the leg of lamb as the center piece to the meal.  I served the leg of lamb with a variety of roasted vegetables which worked out very well in the end as it meant a bunch of preparing in advance, but then left little to be done once everyone arrive, with the exception of carving the lamb.

This is a simple recipe, which only takes time to actually roast the lamb and afterwards let it rest.  This is based off the Roasted Leg of Lamb from Richard Bertinet's cook Cook in a Class of your own.

leg of lamb (I think mine was about 6 pounds)
olive oil (4-6 tablespoons)
salt and pepper (about 1 tablespoon each)
garlic cloves, about 6, cut into quarters, but depends on how many slits you make
rosemary and thyme, fresh sprigs
red wine to make a gravy (about 1/2 bottle)

Take out lamb a little before roasting so it can warm up before baking.  I took mine out about 1.5 hours before roasting.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  I usually do this 20-30 minutes in advance.  Rub with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I sprinkle it on first to be sure I have enough salt and pepper, and then I add the olive oil.  Use enough to coat, but not drip off Cut into the skin and meat at an angle so that you can stuff a sliver of garlic and rosemary and thyme into each cut.  Place the leg of lamb into a roasting pan and place in the oven for about 2 hours (or 20 minutes per pound).  You can check the temperature so you don't over cook it (about 135 F for rare and 145 F for medium rare).  The last 30 minutes it is a good idea to cover so it doesn't brown too much.  Remove lamb from oven and let it rest on a warm plate or cutting board for about 20 minutes, covered with the foil.  When the lamb is resting, you can make the gravy.  Use about 1/2 a bottle of red wine and cook on the stove top until it has thicken a bit.  If you like a thicker gravy, you can add cornstarch.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Italian Potato Pie

When I first met my husband I discovered that he really loved Italian food.  Since I love to cook, I wanted to impress him with cooking good food for him, however, his family does not make Italian food from Italy, they make immigrant Italian food.  Once I realized the kind of food he loved I searched for a cookbook to give me ideas of what I could make for him that would be more similar to the food he was accustomed to eating.  I came across a recommendation for an out-of-print cookbook called Elodia Rigante's Italian Immigrant Cooking.  Never before have I read a cookbook that sometimes measures garlic in cups (see below).  However, everything which I have tried out of this cookbook has turned out very good.  Watch the portion sizes though as this states that it serves 6, but I really think it would serve 8 especially if you have other things to eat like a nice green salad.  This will also reheat well as long as your Parmesan or Romano cheese is thinly shredded instead of big pieces.

Italian Potato Pie
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons water

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt.  Work the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the flour mixture is in small crumbs.  Add the water and mix to form into a ball.  Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.  Roll out the dough and then press into a large pie dish.  Set aside.

Potato Layer:
6 cups potatoes, cubed
1 cup cream, 2% milk, half & half
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Cover the potatoes with water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and boil until tender.  Pour the potatoes into another bowl and whip them with the half & half, olive oil and butter until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.   (As an alternative you can use an immersion blender and save a bowl.)

Tomato Layer:
6 cups tomatoes, diced
2 1/2 cups diced Mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon oregano
2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Stir all ingredients together and set aside.

Bread Crumb Layer:
4 cups fine Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup olive oil
1 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup parsley
2 eggs

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F. 
Spread one half of the whipped potato mixture over the pie crust.  Add half of the tomato mixture, then one half of the bread crumb mixture.  Repeat the layering in the same order with the second half of each mixture.  Bake the pie until the crust and the bread crumbs are golden brown, which should be about 30 minutes.  Slice and serve hot, though this does reheat well.

Serves 6

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Quinoa Salad with Leek, Bacon and Parsley

I have an obsession with collecting cookbooks.  Therefore, every Christmas there always are a few cookbooks on my wish list.  I love to read through them, learn new ingredients, and to give me inspiration to try even more different types of things and to think of new flavor combinations.  This past year I have also come to love farro a lot, but I went to buy some this summer and strangely enough there were problems with the supply, so instead I turned back to quinoa.  So with more quinoa in my cupboard and my mother-in-law wanting to try something with quinoa in it while she was visiting, I found this recipe based off of one in Homemade Winter by Yvette Van Boven.  My husband was a little bit cautious as he thought there were too many things going on, but I disagreed and the flavors seemed like they would go well together with the hearty quinoa adding some filling to otherwise not very filling salads.  In the end, it was a hit and the topping of bacon made everyone happy.

Quinoa Salad with Leek, Bacon and Parsley
5 smaller leeks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup quinoa, soaked
5 oz. bacon
2-3 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 bunch parsley
arugula (3-4 cups)

juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a non-stick skillet, fry the bacon.  Remove when crisp and let cool on a plate covered in paper towels.  Reserve the bacon fat to cook the leeks over a medium heat heat.  When they are hot, but not yet browned, add the white wine and lower the heat and braise with the lid on the pan for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the quinoa and a pinch of salt.  Cook the quinoa for 10 minutes.  Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.  Make sure quinoa is well drained.  Check on the leeks.  If they are done, place on a plate to cool.  In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, leeks, sesame seeds and most of the parsley.  (Leave a little parsley for garnish.)

For the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice and garlic.  Continue whisking as you add the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the quinoa and leek mixture.

Arrange the arugula in a bowl, then place the quinoa and leek mixture over the top.  Finally, garnish with the rest of the parsley and bacon.