Lamb and Lamb Redux

January 24th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK cooked a dinner that was so good it was repeated by BSK (for HG’s delectation) the next night. The centerpiece was boneless leg of lamb purchased at Trader Joe’s for a modest price. BSK butterflied the leg and trimmed away the fat. The result was two long pieces of lamb ranging in thickness from thin to thick. (This insures eaters have their choice of rare or medium slices). The lamb was marinated for hours in a mix sourced from Michael Field, the late, eminent cookbook author. BSK accompanied the beautifully broiled lamb (utilized half the lamb and saved the rest for dinner the next night) with roast potatoes and steamed sugar snap peas. The peas were gilded with a bit of butter. A delicious vegetable, yes, but the true revelation was the potato dish. BSK filled a Creuset roasting pan with tiny potatoes. Doused them with Sicilian olive oil. Adorned them with sprigs of thyme. Broke up two heads of garlic and topped the spuds with the unpeeled cloves. The result of this was a crisp, garlicky, herbaceous wonder. (Yes, the garlic crisps and you eat without peeling). Drank plentiful Argentine Malbec. No dessert. Just a mustardy green salad to climax a perfect meal. And, the repeat was just as splendid.

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Flavorful Fusion

May 3rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Ever inventive BSK combined recipes from two favorite sources…the late, great Michael Field and the very much alive Vikram Vij, proprietor and genial host of Vancouver’s Vij’s, the extraordinarily popular and consistent Indian fusion restaurant. The result of BSK’s kitchen wizardry was two dinners bursting with flavor. The dish combined Field’s recipe for marinated, butterflied leg of lamb with Vij’s curry sauce. BSK marinated the boneless, butterflied leg in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and onions. (When grilled, a butterflied leg produces well done, medium and rare lamb. Something for every taste). Vij’s curry sauce (served with the restaurant’s most popular menu item, “lamb popsicles”) is lush and creamy–utilizing sweet and sour cream, fenugreek, garlic, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, lemon juice and oil. Unctuous and addictive. For dinner number one (guest was friend/neighbor Karen K, the brilliant film maker, story teller and Dessert Queen) BSK served the well done and medium slices of lamb beneath generous lashings of curry sauce. This was accompanied by Vij”s Turmeric Potatoes. Potatoes were sliced thinly (BSK uses a Japanese mandoline). They were cooked in a cast iron pan with oil, water, chopped onions, cayenne and turmeric. Baby spinach was swirled into the potatoes some 90 seconds before turning off the heat. (The spinach came from Karen K.’s garden. It gave the dish extra tang while adding a splash of green to the all yellow meal). The meal was repeated the next night using slices of the very rare lamb (much to HG’s delight). The potato side was repeated. Two nights of joyous dining well lubricated by red wine followed by French brandy enriched with a few drops of Peychaud’s bitters.

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BSK Bistro

February 5th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

HG was in the mood for a traditional Paris bistro meal last night and, of course, BSK rose to the occasion. The only things missing were the scent of Gitanes cigarettes and a scratchy recording of Edith Piaf in the background. Look at the photo. There are two juicy grilled lamp chops (given a nice rubdown with garlic). Some snow pea pods stir-fried with garlic and ginger (a bow to the Asian influence on modern day bistros). Instead of the traditional pommes frites, BSK served herbaceous, lemony couscous. Decorated the plate with a grilled tomato and some Greek yogurt (always nice with lamb). Yes, a simple plate of big flavors. Typical BSK cuisine. A civilized French meal at home, in a bistro or at a fancy restaurant, is always multi-course. So, HG started with Whole Foods’ surpassingly tasty faux crabmeat salad. Followed the lamb with cheese and mache salad. Ended with a pale but pleasant substitute for creme caramel: Kozy Shack flan. Pinot Grigio with the fake crab. Cabernet with the lamb and the cheese. French brandy with the flan. If someone has to lead the good culinary life, it might as well be HG. (with thanks to BSK).

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Michael Field: Forgotten Recipe Master

May 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A good cookbook usually has many pages stained by spices and sauces. That’s because it is a book that is used, not a coffee table ornament. Michael Field’s Cooking School (published in 1965) was one of the first cookbooks acquired by HG/BSK and the duo has consulted it numerous times for better than 40 years. Michael Field’s recipes are foolproof. In the introduction to the book, Field makes it clear: “I cannot emphasize enough the need to follow these recipes precisely, especially the first few times you make them. Departures are all good and well providing you know exactly what it is you are departing from.” Last night, HG/BSK had two Colorado pals for dinner. BSK prepared a Field classic: Broiled Leg Of Lamb With Avgolemono Sauce. The leg is butterflied and marinated before broiling. The sauce is Greek in origin, lemony and invigorating, excellent over the lamb and even better over the steamed asparagus BSK served. The sauce is composed of egg yolks, lemon juice and chicken broth (plus a bit of arrowroot, cayenne and salt). Add more chicken broth and you’ve got a delicious soup (HG often had many bowls at the Pantheon Restaurant on Eighth Avenue in New York). Add rice, poached chicken and chopped parsley and you’ve a got a sumptuous dinner (precede it with a mezze of feta cheese, Kalamata olives and giant lima beans). Instead of chicken in the soup, try poached cod or other firm fleshed fish. Don’t see Avgolemono on many menus these days. A pity. As for Michael Field, he and his cookbooks seem to be forgotten. That’s a shame.

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Angelina’s

February 24th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Espanola, a gritty town ten minutes drive from HG/BSK’s Jacona home, is much maligned. It has some social problems (it is known as New Mexico’s meth capital); a political system that is often criticized; much unattractive housing and numerous shopping centers built without an iota of soul or aesthetic foresight. Offsetting this is colorful, vernacular architecture (featuring some wonderful neon signage), a surprising amount of cutting-edge modernism and numerous good places to eat. Foremost among them is Angelina’s, a spacious place that draws a colorful crowd of New Mexicans–young, old, ranchers, cowboys, farmers, government officials, businesspersons. The food is solid Northern New Mexico. Red chile sauce is a specialty but the green is not far behind (on a recent visit, HG had a bowl of super assertive green chile menudo that chased away the chills and any lingering effects of a previous night’s overindulgence in alcohol). During the meal, HG/BSK shared some robust ground lamb burritos (the lamb had been grilled with pico de gallo and melded New Mexican and Middle Eastern flavors). Lamb is a specialty of Angelina’s (sheep have been raised in Northern New Mexico for many generations). At Angelina’s, you can have lamb in many forms. There are lamb burgers (plain or grilled with jalapenos and onions); lamb chops; lamb ribs (Costillas) and lamb fajitas. And, you can specify lamb in any of the traditional plates like enchiladas, flautas, tostadas, etc. for a $1.00 additional charge. Besides the lamb dishes, Angelina’s has another unusual twist. The restaurant serves traditional, down home diner favorites: Deep fried breaded catfish; pork chops; liver and onions; chicken fried steak. You can also get a big, ribeye steak; salmon, trout and shrimp. There’s wine (not exactly a Parisian carte de vins) and beer. Very nice flan for dessert. Yes, Angelina’s does it all. Big portions. Small prices. Lots of plain spoken comfort.

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Lamb

November 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

When HG was a very, very little boy lamb chops were his favorite dish. The little guy called them “ompalomps.” HG hated spinach. So, his cunning Mom buried the spinach in buttery mashed potatoes and HG consumed every drop. Okay, enough sickeningly cute kiddy memories. Lamb chops remain an HG favorite. Best lamp chops ever were the chops at Leon Lianides’ great Greenwich Village restaurant, the Coach House. The rack of lamb was also wonderful there, only matched by the rack at Le Stella, the Paris brasserie. But the marvel, the ultimate not-to-be-equalled rack is found at an unlikely place: The Grand Hotel Restaurant in Big Timber, Montana. HG discovered it because Big Timber is midway, between Denver and Vancouver, so it was a logical place to stop when motoring between the two cities. At the Grand Hotel you accompanied the lamb with a robust red wine from Walla Walla, Washington (HG thinks Wall Walla has the best red in the universe). Another favorite of lamb lovers is the mutton chop at New York’s venerable Keen’s Chop House. You can get it with Yorkshire Pudding and it is a treat. (The old Gage & Tollner’s in Brooklyn served their mutton chop with corn fitters, a nice idea). BSK likes to butterfly a leg of lamb, marinate it in red wine, garlic and herbs and then barbecue it to crusty perfection. Serves it with Greek Avoglemono sauce (eggs and lemon juice are the principal ingredients). Big time gourmandizing.

Homecoming

March 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK came back to New Mexico last night after a five day visit to BSK’s mom in Florida. HG mused that life without BSK was like a dinner without salt and wine. So, celebration is in order tonight. BSK will roast a rack of lamb. BSK follows the counsel of the late Leon Lianides, the Greek gentleman who ran and owned the wonderful Coach House Restaurant in Greenwich Village (Mario Batali’s Babbo Restaurant now occupies the space). Lianides said that every scrap of fat must be removed from the rack. He felt that lamb fat injured the flavor of the chops. He was right. BSK rubs the rack with garlic, dusts it with chopped rosemary and brushes it with olive oil before popping it into the oven. BSK will cook the rack to a rosy pink and serve it with grilled Kumatoes (flavorful brown tomatoes from Mexico) and fingerling potatoes pan roasted with garlic, olive oil and lots of herbs. Appetizer will be a bit of baba ganoush. The wine will be The Velvet Devil, a robust red from Washington’s Walla Walla neighborhood. Drk chocolate ice cream for dessert. Ah, life takes on a glow when BSK is present.

Vij’s

February 1st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Vancouver, British Columbia is a city of majestic mountain and sea views; a glittering skyline; polyglot population and, alas, incessant rain for much of the year. It also has some of the best vegetables, fruit, meat and seafood in North America (they are all available plus exceptional cheese and charcuterie at the Public Market on Granville Island). There are some very good restaurants. No, despite enthusiastic local boosters, it’s not New York — Vancouver does not yet have the population mass or money to rival New York’s enthusiastic restaurant culture. There is great Asian food and a Chinatown with lots of cheap and satisfying eateries. It’s not New York’s Chinatown and it certainly isn’t Flushing, the dream destination for Asian food.

What Vancouver has is Vij’s Restaurant and Vij’s Rangoli. At these dining destinations Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala, have created a cuisine that, while using spices and techniques from all over India, is unlike anything served in traditional Indian restaurants. There is no tandoori oven and there are tiny French, Italian and Chinese influences that bubble up in the cooking. Vij’s Restaurant is the more formal affair (though still very casual in the Vancouver style). Cornish
game hens, trout, pork belly — all locally sourced — are on the menu. A signature dish is “lamb popsicles,” tiny chops cut from the rack and served in a lush sauce that combines heat, cream and spice. Addictive. Only dinner is served and the restaurant opens at 5:30. A line forms outside the door at 5 and every seat is taken immediately when the doors open. No reservations. However, waiting is not a chore since there’s a lovely bar and gracious Vij is generous with a variety of spicy tidbits. Rangoli, located next door, is much simpler. Part market, part take away counter and part casual dining spot that’s open all day. The curries and stews are sublime. Take it from HG, Vij’s is worth a special trip to Canada.

North American Food Patriot

September 18th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

As Europe faces an economic meltdown, HG adds a further woe by declaring: North American food is better than European food!

North American oysters (South Lake and Colville Bay) and mussels (St.Peter’s Bay) from Prince Edward Island are better than anything Europe can offer. And, yes, HG speaks from experience as HG’s gobbled up oysters in the best London and Paris locales. Halibut, cod, hake and haddock caught in North America’s Atlantic waters overshadow anything from the Baltic, Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas. HG makes an exception for real Dover sole (insanely, ludicrously pricey). HG lauds Maine/Nova Scotia lobsters and all the clam varieties from New England to points north. Dungeness crabs from the Pacific and Chesapeake Bay soft shells are superb. Canadian and American lamb (especially from Colorado) make Parisian gigots seem like nasty mutton. And, no steak any where or any place tops a noble New York Strip. An American prime rib roast easily beats the John Bull variety (though English Yorkshire Pudding has decided merits).

With farmers markets proliferating Americans can (at last) get the freshest fruits and vegetables. HG is not a fan of Italian or English bread. Yes, a great Parisian baguette or croissant is a treat. But, not easy to find these days. Meanwhile, Whole Foods daily offers wonderful bread and muffins. And, compared to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, European supermarkets are dismal.

HG makes one concession: Few American restaurants have the warmth of an Italian trattoria, a Paris bistro or the suave elegance of an upper class London restaurant.

Opposites Attract

March 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Sweet watermelon and briny Greek feta cheese make a great combo. Chunks of melon, cubes of feta, some good olive oil, lemon juice and chopped mint. You’ve got a salad. HG suggests you follow it with some rare grilled lamb chops. Look for Colorado lamb. It’s the best. If not available, Trader Joe’s New Zealand lamb chops are quite good. Modestly priced, too. Welcome to Spring.

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