Saturday, June 14, 2008

Spring Lamb Up Close

This weekend, has become a concentrated social melée. I don't know whether it's age or apathy but I like to limit my social engagements severely these days. It's no reflection on the kind friends who invite me to wine and dine but more a desire to stay close to the nest, and I prefer to entertain than be entertained.

Last night the home made festivities began with a dinner for Chris and Linda Finch. I roasted a boneless leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, served with potatoes, celery and parsnips also roasted l'anglaise, steamed green beans, and Nantes carrots with organic peas. It was garnished with a sauce of pearl onions, garlic, rosemary, and balsamic vinegar. We appetized with fresh hummus made with Lebanese Tahini, all accompanied by local whites and reds from Paso Robles, and a nice Argentine Malbec that the Finches brought.

The highlight of the evening, though, was the Tiramisu. Matt made it completely from scratch the night before in honor of the Finches. As a teenager Matt had pored over most of Chris's monographs on Disney and Henson and such, having been gifted them by request on special occasions by his parents as he grew up. It's a nice feeling to give back a little of the pleasure one has received over the years from someone even though they might not know they have given it. Matt's Tiramisu was two and a half hours of hard work in the making, fifteen minutes of pure pleasure in the eating. A perfect and luxurious end to a warm evening.

Chris brought along a copy of his marvelous book on the painter, Chuck Close. Linda Rosenkrantz, Chris's spouse, is a subject of many of Close's most well known early portraits, and I must say she is more radiantly beautiful now than she could ever have been at the time Close made those original gargantuan portraits in the seventies. She is also a writer and a wonderful raconteur. I will be ordering the book on her Bronx Childhood. Chris is the author of the much quoted definitive monograph on Disney, amongst several other publications. I very much enjoyed the evening though many topics of conversation remained unexplored. I'll write a list of questions next time. One sacrifices a little of the social time to the needs of the kitchen but it's a fair trade off.

To cook potatoes or other root vegetables, in the English style, peel them first then cut them into large chunks and boil them in salt water until semi soft. Drain them well, and then put quite a bit of bland oil in an oven durable pan, or better still drippings from the roast, lard or crisco, to maybe a half inch depth, and roast. Turn rarely, until a rich red crust forms on most of their sides. Serve with the roast and plenty of gravy.

To roast the lamb ( I bought my boneless leg at Costco ) remove it from the fridge at least an hour and a half before cooking to bring to room temperature. Leave any binding on it and with a paper towel blot any liquid from the joint without washing it. When ready to cook preheat the oven to 450°. Take a shallow roasting pan and sprinkle with good olive oil and put a bed of long sprigged fresh rosemary on it. Not too much oil, the lamb will add its own. Rub the lamb with chopped fresh garlic and put some on the rosemary. Stud the roast with sliced slivers and then salt the lamb with a good sea salt. Place the roast on the bed of rosemary and garlic and make sure all the rosemary is covered by the roast. Grind some pepper over it and place on the bottom shelf of the oven turning the oven down to 400° after five minutes.

Pearl onions are a pain to peel and frozen ones are just as good all ready to place in a saucepan and boil for twenty minutes with some good chicken stock and a little white wine. When the roast is done, after perhaps two hours, remove the roast and then drain the pan of most if not all of its oil. Remove the pearl onions to a dish and reserve. Deglaze the roasting pan by pouring the liquid into the pan and pop back in the oven for ten minutes. Scrape in the drippings and then pour everything back into the saucepan and bring to the boil again adding seasonings and the battered rosemary and a couple more fresh sprigs. At the last moment add crushed garlic and stir as you thicken it with a little cornstarch to the desired consistency and add balsamic vinegar to taste. Pour the sauce through a sieve to remove the spent garlic and rosemary and transfer to a sauce boat. Arrange the pearl onions along side the roast and serve. Note that the pearl onions will be a pretty golden color not a clear white.