This last weekend was our monthly Dinner Club. The Dinner Club we belong too has been a huge part of our life for over 14 years. The friends we’ve made there are closer than family to Mrs S and I, and we have looked forward to these dinners with great pleasure since the second one we ever had.
The first one didn’t go so well.
We didn’t drink at the first one, we were all too nervous.
We got collectively and individually plastered at the third one. They’ve gone swimmingly since. More than swimmingly. However, not so swimmingly that we’ve been getting together on a monthly basis like we used to, this last one was the first one since Christmas. OK that’s not so bad, Christmas however was the first one since uh.. October maybe? And before that it was last Spring as far as I could remember.
While this isn’t a “gourmet” club, I do like to make something a little special for the event. And, I like to find things that aren’t that complicated. This weekend, while I was special, I failed on the complicated thing.. went very complicated on the side dish.
Because this is sort of a special occasion, I wanted to make something that we don’t have often, Mrs S had a great suggestion; lamb.
I love lamb, a lot. A good roasted leg of lamb is a great fancy company dish that doesn’t require a ton of work to get right. It does require a ton of money mind you.. The recipe that I used for this was one from Mrs S’s mother.
I have had some bad experiences with lamb from my childhood. Over-cooked tough lamb smothered in some nasty mint jelly. If you roast lamb at too high a temperature it gets tough and dry. The secret is low temps and some DO NOT overcook. Shoot for an in internal temp of about 150 degrees. If you have a decent leg this will give you a nice mix of meat that’s well done, medium and rare.
I picked up my roast at Von Hansen’s in Apple Valley. A shameless plug, I have never been disappointed with meat I’ve purchased there, the staff is beyond helpful as well. When I called to order the lamb they had it defrosted and ready to go for me two days after I ordered it. 8.5 lb leg of lamb was about $70.00 I don’t by it often enough to know if this was a good price or not, but for quality I figured it was worth it, plus it’s not all that easy to find leg of lamb this time of year.
So, here’s what I did with it-
The recipe was a mustard glaze. For an 8lb roast:
1 cup Dijon mustard
3 crushed garlic cloves
½ cup olive oil
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbl soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
Slice the garlic into thin chunks. Imagining Janet Leigh in the shower, do your best Norman Bates and stab the hunk of meat with a steak knife. Don’t go postal on it, more the Death of 1000 Cuts style slice. You want to torture lamikins not kill her.
Insert the garlic slices into the cuts to season the meat. Kidding aside, spread your cuts out a bit.
Place the lambs leg upside down on a shallow roasting dish. Using a brush, coat the meat with the mustard mixture, completely covering it. Turn it over and do the same on the top. The lambs leg should be completely yellow.
Let the meat sit out at room temperature for 1 hour. Yes, 1 hour. Time it.
After an hour put the meat in a 325 oven for 25 minutes per pound. YOU WILL NEED TO CHECK IT with a decent meat thermometer. Don’t rely on the timer, you want to be accurate.
When the meat is done, remove from the oven and rest for about 20 minutes.
Here’s a crisis averted.. when I made this on Saturday, I was shooting for it to come out of the oven at 6:45 thinking we’d eat at 7:30ish. Based on the above I had about a 200 minutes or a bit over 3 hours. So, put her in at 3:30ish. With the large bone.. she cooked faster than I thought. At 5:45 the temp hit 140. Daddy was a little worried. I tented it with foil and put it aside. Good news the meat held the temp and at 7:00 we were still at 130 degrees. Dodged one there.
In addition to lamb I made a potato galette.
Galettes are usually made with apples, it’s a crusty sort of French cake. To make a savory one I used potato’s and thyme. The recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s very short on ingredients but super long on technique.
2 ½ lbs Yukon Gold spuds
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tbl cornstarch
1 ½ tbl house seasoning
1 ½ tsp chopped rosemary
With this recipe you’re shooting for a layer like cake. The potatoes need to be sliced into 1/8” thick slices, something a mandolin would come very handy for, if I had one. Just a note, Cooks Illustrated recommends OXO Good Grips V-Blade Mandolin Slicer as best pick. Target has them for $39.00.
Put the oven rack to middle and fire that bitch up to a scorching 450 degrees. Before you start, make sure you have skillet that can handle 450 degrees, I did not. Instead I purchased a Lodge Logic cast iron 9” skillet at Target. Pre-seasoned.. which is code for NOT seasoned. But never mind it will be soon enough.
You’ll also need to make sure you have a 9” metal cake pan, foil and one of the above- pie weights, rice or coins. In that order.
One more note, at the lake I have several cast iron skillets and they are by far, some of my favorite cooking pans. Once they’ve been seasoned and have the patina on them they are truly non-stick, they heat fast and evenly, and are super easy to clean. Only down side, they weigh about 50lbs so if you drop them.. broken kitchen tile. And toe if you’re lucky.
Back to the galette.
Slice the potatoes. My cooking mentor and hero, Toni from the next door is a former pampered chef rep and has a lot of cool toys. One of them is the apple peeler and slicer thingie. She suggested we try it. I ran a couple spuds through it and it didn’t work so well, the corer piece took much out of the middle of the slices. I wound up using my Cuisinart instead. Sadly it cut the slices a wee bit too thick me thinks.
Here’s what you do.
When the potatoes are sliced, wash them in a colander to remove the excess starch and the dry them thoroughly. I used paper towels placed all over the counters. While they’re drying whisk up 5 tbl butter with the cornstarch and rosemary and place in a big bowl.
Thoroughly spray the skillet with cooking spray. You want NO sticking.
Coat the slices of potato with the butter mixture then… place 1 slice in the middle of the pan. Overlapping the slices in a circle cover the bottom of the pan, then do the same creating layers of potatoes until you’ve come to the top of the pan or you run out of potatoes. Make sure the top is even.
Put the pan on the stove and heat on medium high until sizzling and the edges of the potatoes are translucent. About 10 minutes for me.
Peel off a 12” piece of foil, spray it with cooking spray and, spray side down, cover the potatoes. Using a metal pie pan press the tin down on the foil and potatoes, compress as hard as you can. Fill the pie tin with 2 cups of pie weights (something else I didn’t have) or rice or beans. Remember you have to use a lot of rice.. I think I was a bit lite on the weight.
Put the skillet and cake pan into the 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. Using your best oven mitts remove and take off the foil and pan. Put it back in the oven for another 25 minutes until a paring knife easily pierces the middle potatoes.
Double up on the oven mitts and, using a wooden cutting board, cover the skillet and do the flipsky. The potatoes are supposed fall out like a tart which you can slice and serve.
Mine, alas, did not. It didn’t stick so well. Some of the slices on top, which had been on the bottom, slid off. However, what it lacked in attractiveness it made up for in taste. However, I needed a save for the table.
We had some asparagus in the fridge I was going to make for the next night.
I turned the oven to low broil, broke off the hard ends of the asparagus by hand (always by hand never by knife. That the veggie naturally breaks on it’s toughest part) tossed it in olive oil, sprinkled house seasoning on it and put it under the broiler, 5 minutes one side, then shook the pan, 5 minutes on the other.
On a serving plate I separated the potatoes in half, to piles if you will and put the asparagus down the middle. Honestly, it looked really good, and tasted better.
Add my version of fatoush, the Egyptian salad my mother makes. Finley chopped spinach, English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots and some parsley. Garnish with toasted pita bread crumbled on top and a lemon juice/olive oil dressing. Very fresh and bright and a nice compliment to the meat.
Served with a nice Spanish Rioja.
One of my best efforts in a long time. Delicious.