Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pan seared lamb chops with roasted cauliflower puree and port reduced shitake mushrooms

I fell in love with lamb many years ago. If someone asks you to describe its flavor, you just can’t. It tastes like nothing else in the meat world. Succulent, earthy and medieval all come to mind, but you just have to dive in and find out for yourself. I can’t recall my first chance meeting with this heavenly gastronome but I do recall making it for the first time. It was the Christmas of 1993. That was the first year that I had assumed all of the duties for the family holiday meal. As I perused cookbooks looking for the perfect menu (back then I was a cookbook purist), I stumbled across a leg of lamb recipe. It sounded just perfect. While I don’t remember the exact preparation, it cooked slowly for hours with orzo bubbling away in the bottom of the pan studded with tomatoes and spices. It was a hit. That was the beginning.

As the years have passed, I have made lamb many different ways and enjoyed its unique flavor in many cultures around the world. Mutton (lamb over 2 years old), served in the UK has few spices, is slowly braised and has a headier more robust flavor while Mediterranean preparations are loaded with brilliant peppers and aromatics that sing on the palate. Spring lamb is an outdated term that used to refer to lamb born in the spring and harvested the following spring. Today, spring lamb means any lamb that is the right age and weight and can be found year round. Generally sweeter and milder, most of the animal is tender enough to be cooked directly over heat. In Anthony Bourdain’s book, A Cook’s Tour, he describes a trip to an Egyptian market in search for the freshest whole lamb. Not being slaughter day, he pays extra to have a fresh lamb prepared before his eyes. He then packs the animal on a camel and caravans to a Bedouin camp outside the city where the animal is slowly cooked over open fire. Eating and drinking late into the night, he enjoys the most coveted part of the animal in the region –the testicles. His description is vivid and compelling. Most of us will not trek to the Middle East to eat lamb balls, but his passion is noteworthy. I highly recommend this book for any foodie.

For reasons I don’t completely understand, lamb tends to stay out of most American kitchens. It seems to be reserved for special occasions and high end restaurants. I know there are folks other than me that eat it because my grocery store sells it –but I never hear any of my friends talking about the lamb they cooked last night. Personally, I buy lamb every 6 or 8 weeks in some form or fashion. Since I’m the only one in my house that will eat it, I just buy enough for myself and make it when no one else is around. I chose a recipe to share that is quite simple to prepare and stars one of the most popular cuts –the lamb chop. These small cuts hail from the sirloin of the animal and contain a cross section of the tenderloin. They are by far the tenderest bits of lamb. Before they are cut, they are the “rack” and tied into a circle they make the coveted crown roast. While I have explored different spices and marinades, I find the lamb chop requires little else than some salt and pepper. With it I cooked down some shitake mushrooms in a port wine sauce and served it over a roasted cauliflower puree with garlic and parmesan. I rarely know how my vision of a recipe will turn out but this was spectacular. The lamb was perfectly rich and sumpuous complimented by the sweet mushrooms and creamy puree. You can whip this recipe up any night of the week in about 35 minutes and the ingredients cost less than $30. You dinner guest(s) will be impressed.

Pan seared lamb chops with roasted cauliflower puree and port reduced shitake mushrooms

Head of cauliflower broken down to individual florets
5 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 oz (about 1/3 cup) dried shitake mushrooms
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot, sliced
1 cup port wine (any wine will do –port makes the mushrooms quite sweet)
3-4 tbsp grated parmesan
1-2 tbsp fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
¼ cup chicken stock
2-3 tbsp heavy cream
8 lamb chops

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay cauliflower and garlic out on sheet pan and drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over the top. Season with salt and pepper and use your hands to mix around on the pan to evenly coat each piece. Ensure that the cauliflower and garlic are in a single layer. Place into the oven for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

While the cauliflower is roasting, add the dried mushrooms to a salted pot of lightly boiling water. Allow to boil for just a few minutes then remove from heat and let sit for about 10-15 minutes or until mushrooms have completely reconstituted. Drain and roughly chop. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the shallots until just fragrant –about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the port wine and reduce by half, about 10 minutes.

Generously season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. In a separate pan over medium high heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and place the chops in. Do not move the meat. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side for medium rare (depending on the thickness of the lamb chops). Remove from heat and allow 5 minutes to rest.

Remove cauliflower and garlic from the oven and transfer to a food processor. Add cream (start with 2 tbsp but add more to get a creamy consistency), chicken stock, 2 tbsp butter, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

To finish the port sauce, whisk in 2 tbsp butter till just melted as well as the tarragon.

To plate, place a scoop of the puree in the center of the plate, lay 2 lamb chops across the top and spoon a few mushrooms over that.

Serves 4.

1 comment:

javieth said...

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