Today's dinner takes place on a Saturday, as some friends (K & A) from the suburbs are coming into the city to partake of our bistro bounty. This is great, though it does mean that we must do our shopping at the Whole Foods rather than the farmer's market. So husband J and I headed down in the morning to purchase some lamb steak.
Now I have nothing against Whole Foods. It is definitely expensive, but I love how you can find practically anything there, especially our favorite beer, which we drank with BLTs for lunch. One issue I have with Whole Foods is that it tempts me into buying pre-made foods when I'd really rather cook. But I countered that desire by eschewing the premade sandwiches in favor of buying some nitrite free bacon, bread and lettuce and making BLTs with the leftover tomatoes we bought for tonight's dinner.
We even found the exact cuts of lamb we needed... with some mishap. We headed to the meat counter first, and, not finding lamb leg steaks, decided on a 2 lb butterflied lamb leg which we figured we'd cut up after grilling. Of course, 15 minutes later while looking for creme fraiche we found in the packaged meat section precisely the cuts of lamb we needed. We'd already had the other packaged for us though, and the leg was local rather than from New Zealand, as the steaks were, so we decided to go with the butterflied leg anyway. We also grabbed some more local heirloom tomatoes for a tomato salad (We can't not eat tomato salad with the tomatoes being so delicious right now) and some blueberries.
Once home, I cut the excess fat and silvering from the lamb and put it in the marinade--garlic, olive oil, rosemary, thyme--and in the fridge. Technically it is supposed to marinate overnight but I figured six hours would not be so bad.
Then I started into the lime confit for the blueberries. This was extremely easy, basically peeling the zest from the lime, slicing it into thin, vertical slices, and boiling it in a mix of water and sugar until half the water has cooked off.
A few hours later, it was time to take a look at our cooking implement, the rooftop grill. Unfortunately and to our disappointment, the grill had decided that today was a good day to actually not ignite... leaving us with only one option (since we have no grill pan), to broil the leg of lamb. So we have non-grilled lamb non-steaks to look forward to... hopefully the fact that we are using Tony's marinade will make up for the unorthodox cooking methods and cuts.
So while I prepped the tomato and onion for the salad, I put the lamb in the roasting pan and under the broiler for about 10 minutes per side. I used a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature of the interior of the lamb, which almost led to disaster when I didn't realize that the cord to the thermometer was actually touching the flames emanating from our broiler unit. Whoops. After a little toxic smoke, but not too much damage, I readjusted the thermometer. The interior of the meat was still a bit cool after broiling, so I left the lamb in a 200 degree oven for about 10 more minutes until the middle of the lamb reached 60 degrees C (I couldn't figure out how to adjust the thermometer to Fahrenheit), the temperature that corresponds with "rare."
While the lamb cooked I finished the tomato salad, and made an onion sauce consisting of chopped onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Finally I finished the dessert by mixing the juice of the zested limes, a little sugar, and the blueberries. I topped the berries with a chiffonaide of mint leaves, and left them in the fridge.
Once the lamb came out of the oven and rested for 10 minutes, everything was ready, and dinner was served (too quickly to allow for pics of the finished lamb, unfortunately). The lamb with onion sauce and the salad were big hits with everyone. I sliced the leg thin, which allowed for small slices to hold generous amounts of onion sauce, and allowing all to have seconds and thirds of the meat. I felt a bit bad actually, since both the main course and salad relies heavily on onion flavor, which made for a rather acidic dinner, but everyone seemed to enjoy it anyway. The resident food critic liked the lamb quite a lot, saying "It was more familiar than some of the other things you've cooked," because it allowed for the flavor of the meat to shine through and reminded him of having lamb in Greektown near Detroit as a kid. He also liked the very prominent onion flavor to the dinner, which made me feel a bit better.
The dessert ended up being the big hit of the night--despite it being again very acidic due to the lime juice and berries. We served the soaked berries with creme fraiche, which was a perfect accompaniment. K and I ended up scooping creme fraiche into the juice left on our plates when we finished, and ate the cream soaked in the leftover berry/lime juice. All in all another successful dinner.
Lessons learned: Whole Foods has a packaged meat counter as well as a butcher deli, so look there before deciding on a different cut than the recipe calls for. Onions are great, but maybe not in every single course. Creme fraiche basically wins everything. Tomato salad is always successful when it is the time of year for delicious tomatoes. Lime zest might be awesome in a cocktail of some kind (maybe a gimlet?)
Next week: Not really sure actually. I'll be on a business trip for most of the week, so it may end up being "whatever I feel like." Dad's coming in from the middle east, though, so I may try to make rillettes for him.