Herby Avocado BLT’s

The Herby Avocado BLT is a light, but filling meal.  This sandwich oozes with an herbed avocado spread, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon, and crunchy lettuce.  While this sandwich is a year-round favorite of mine, making it with ripe heirloom tomatoes sweetened by the summer sun is a must try.

Avocado BLT’s

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Dry sherry vinegar
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil (at least 20 leaves)
  • Bacon (thick cut, hardwood smoked is best)
  • Fresh Lettuce
  • Coarse sea salt.  I do mean coarse, see below:

Salt

  • Optional: Fresh Dill (2 stems)

Step #1 – Chiffonade your basil.  Take about 3 leaves and stack them on top of one another.  Roll the leaves up into a tube.  Run your knife laterally across the rolled up leaves.  Voila!  Ribbons of basil.  Leaves vary by size, but I normally use about 20.  You should yield a pile of basil roughly this size when done.  See avocados for scale.

Basil

Step #2 – Bacon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit

Place Bacon on Baking Sheet – Pro tip: I usually put my bacon on a wire rack which I then lay over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  There is less grease this way and I think it makes for cruchier bacon.  If you don’t have a wire rack, you can put the bacon directly on the baking sheet.

Once the oven is preheated, put the bacon in for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, check the bacon.  It will need to go for another 5–10 minutes depending on your oven and the thickness of the bacon.  It should be crispy but not burnt by the end of the baking process.  Total cook time will be 15-20 min.  Your bacon should look like this:

Bacon

Once the bacon is done, remove from the oven and let cool/crisp.  If it’s on a wire rack, leave it.  If the bacon is directly on the baking sheet, remove and place on a separate plate.

Turn off your oven and immediately add 4 slices of bread directly onto the oven rack for two minutes.  This will warm and toast the bread for your sandwiches.  After two minutes remove the bread and place on plates.

Step #3 – Avocado Spread

Make this after the bacon has cooked.  For any avocado novices out there, this is a bad avocado:

Bad Avocado

Do not use one that looks like that.

These are good avocados:

Good Avocados

Use avocados that look like that.

Take two avocados and slice them in half, laterally.  Remove the pit.  Use a regular sized spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh and add it to a non-reactive metal bowl like the one below.

Bowl

Immediately add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and one half teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

Use your spoon to chop and mash the avocado into a paste, incorporating the sherry vinegar.  Adding acid (in the form of vinegar) to the avocado spread keeps it from browning.  It also tastes fantastic.  Using the coarse sea salt helps to grind and mash the avocado.

Your avocado paste should look like this:

Avocado Paste

Add the basil and one half tablespoon sherry vinegar.  Stir/incorporate well.

Avocado Spread with Basil

Add the dill to taste.  I love dill so I usually add the feathery fronds from at least two stems.  Please note, do not add the stems.  Pull the fronds off with your fingers, tear if necessary, and add to the mix.  Stir well to incorporate.

Step #4 – Tomatoes

Wash and slice your tomatoes laterally.  See picture for thickness recommendation.

Siced tomatoes

Step #5 – Lettuce

I buy pre-washed, prepackaged lettuce and recommend the romaine variety for this sandwich.  The lettuce should be crisp, crunchy, and green.

Lettuce

Step #6 – Assembly

Take your toasty bread and generously smear with Avocado spread (see picture).  The spread should be divided evenly between all four slices.

Avocado spread on bread

Place your tomato slices on the bread.  Cut these slices to fit if they overlap (see picture).

Sliced tomatoes

Top tomato slices with bacon.  Don’t be shy.  This is one of the main ingredients and it always tastes amazing.

Bacon on sandwich

Top the bacon with lettuce.  Pro tip – I like to “open” the lettuce leaves along the middle.  Sometimes leaves curl towards the ends.  By tearing slightly at the end of the leaf in its middle you can ensure the leaves lie flat on your sandwich.

Top the lettuce with your second slice of bread smeared with avocado.

Apply pressure to top of sandwich for 5 second count.

Avocado BLT

Enjoy!

 

 

o ya in five courses

 

Last week I treated myself to dinner at o ya, as a late birthday gift.  Eating at o ya is an experience.  The restaurant entrance is marked by a small sign and tucked away to the building’s side.  Walking through a heavy wooden door plunges patrons into a tranquil and ambient environment.  Diners travel along a stone walkway to an anteroom housing the hostess stand.  A rectangular dining area is located to the left of this room and laterally divided, with the back reserved for tables and a sushi bar in front.

Sitting at the bar is the only way to go.  The level of showmanship displayed by nimble sushi artists heightens the dining experience and helps create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.  Each dish is painstakingly prepared by hand.  Ingredients are sliced, torched, drizzled, and stacked to create the perfect plate.

     DSCN1090   DSCN1105

 

#1   Shira ae ($12)

A persimmon salad with sesame tofu, spinach, and nori (dried seaweed).

DSCN1072    Cropped shira ae

While visually stunning, this was not my favorite dish.  The textures were very interesting, though.  Fleshy persimmons paired with crunchy nori and creamy tofu dressing.  Initially, the salad was incredibly refreshing and savory with a slight sweetness from the persimmon.  After a few bites, the sesame tofu flavor became a little intense and slightly odd when paired with the fruit.  I’m glad I tried it, but I wouldn’t order it again.

 

#2  Next came one of the best Miso soups ($8) I have ever had.

DSCN1081         DSCN1082

The o ya version includes shitake and hedgehog mushrooms which elevate this soup out of the realm of ordinary to amazing.  Salty and earthy, but still light, this soup is perfect for a cold winter night.  The mushrooms deepen the soup’s flavor and add a textural element.  Their chewiness stood out from the soft tofu and crunchy scallions, adding a meaty quality to the dish.

 

#3    Bluefin chutoro with Republic of Georgia herb sauce ($18)

DSCN1095

One of my favorite dishes, the flavors are fresh, clean and herbal.  Sesame seeds sprinkled on top provide a bit of crunch.  The herb sauce is the star of this dish.  Including basil, tarragon, cilantro, apricot, and Chinese five spice, the complexity of this sauce perfectly accents the relative simplicity of the tuna.  Clean but potent flavors make this perfect for repeat orders.

 

#4  Salmon tataki ($12) was an exciting menu selection.  To any would-be pyros out there – take heart.  This sushi is for you.

DSCN1092

Tomatoes are torched and top salmon slices with smoked salt, onion aioli, and negi (a Japanese scallion).  If you like salmon, this dish is a must order.

DSCN1108          DSCN1112

It’s smoky, with a bright acidity from the tomato.  Aioli adds a touch of sweetness and creaminess to the dish.  Topping it with negi is an excellent move.  The onion adds a nice crunch, contrasting with the softer textures underneath.  My only complaint was the difficulty I had fitting an entire piece into my mouth.  There is no delicate way to eat this – the stacking of ingredients really promotes an all or nothing approach.

 

#5  Last but certainly not least, was the Peruvian style Bluefin chutoro tataki with an aji panca sauce and cilantro pesto ($18).

DSCN1115

What can I say?  I love tuna.

This may be the most beautiful item I ordered.  The bright orange aji panca sauce slides into the lines on the fish, complementing the deep green cilantro pesto.  Taking a bite introduces an explosion of flavors.  Spicy, fresh, and herbal there are hints of smoke and brine to this meaty fish dish.

 

All of the fish dishes ordered were off the nigiri section of the menu and came with two pieces of fish, each atop a small bed of rice.  While the rice flavor is typically overwhelmed by its fish and sauce toppings, the grain works well to help satiate an appetite.

 

From previous experiences, I knew to skip desert.  Fish is where o ya shines.  Deserts are not bad, but the two chocolate bonbons that accompany each meal sufficiently satisfy sweet cravings.  A white chocolate bonbon contains matcha, Chambord, and salted cherry blossom.  The green tea flavoring in this is a little overwhelming, but pairs nicely with the other ingredients and sweet white chocolate.  A milk chocolate bonbon containing yuzu kosito and hazelnut, was perfection.  Think Rocher with an Asian twist.

DSCN1120

 

Overall: a kickass dinner.  Food is artfully prepared with delectable fresh ingredients.  The price is steep.  My dinner, including two glasses of wine and tip, ran about $130.  This is not a restaurant you pop into for a quick bite.  o ya is best reserved for celebrations, special occasions, or hedonistic revelry.  In the end, you get what you pay for – and it is money well spent.

 

 

 

Places I Love – Il Capriccio

 

Among the many Italian restaurants in Waltham Massachusetts, Il Capriccio remains in the top tier.  Included on their diverse menu, is a must try item for anyone living within driving distance to this establishment.  The Soufflé di Porcini ($13) is a work of art.  Incredibly rich, with an overpowering mushroom taste this dish teeters on the brink of overindulgence.  The intense flavors contrast with the fluffy, slightly airy quality of the soufflé rendering it a study in opposites.  The strong porcini essence is cut by the inclusion of salty, sharp parmesan.  Pairing this decadence with a dry glass of Barbaresco is an excellent way to end a long week.  For those with small appetites, it is unlikely that a main course will be needed after ordering the soufflé.  While the dining room at Il Capriccio is a perfect place for larger parties, the bar offers a full menu and is a much more casual way to enjoy this meal.  Bar seating is first come first serve, so if a reservation is desired, formal dining may be a better option.

Il Capriccio – 888 Main Street in Waltham
781-894-2234
http://www.ilcapricciowaltham.com/
Open Monday through Saturday 5:00 – 10:00. Closed Sundays.  
 
 
 

Griddler Love

 

What is the most important piece of equipment in your kitchen?  While the answer varies for everyone, as a young working adult living in an apartment the answer is simple: whatever saves the most time.  With this in mind, I looked beyond the treasured Le Creuset pots and pans and discovered that my must have kitchen appliance is the Griddler.  An electronic grill and griddle combination manufactured by Cuisinart, this multitasking device has a sleek silver exterior with black, dual-sided, removable, Teflon coated plates.  A horizontal handle does double duty as a press and connects to a hinged top which houses one of the grill/griddle plates.  This hinge allows the top to be locked into one position or tilt and then level off to accommodate larger items.  Another plate and a drip tray underneath it comprise the lower half of this compact, rectangular machine.  The electrical cord is easily accessed and located in the rear.  Three easy-to-read dials on the front include a selector in the center (to choose between griddle or grill), one for griddle temperature to the left, and a grill heat setting (warm through sear) on the right.  When the plates are preheated a green LED indicator, lights up on the appropriate temperature knob.  Costing $99 at most from major chains such as Bed, Bath, Beyond or Williams Sonoma, this kitchen accessory is not cheap.  But it is a worthy investment, especially for young adults in apartments where a real grill isn’t an option.

The beauty of this gadget lies in the double grill plates which heat a food item from both the top and bottom.  As you would expect, this radically reduces cooking time and evenly cooks or sears all food items.  The Teflon coating on the plates also reduces prep time.  There is no need to oil the chicken or butter a pan, food will not stick to these.  Cutting out that added fat at the beginning of the cooking process makes this a much healthier option than the traditional skillet.  When cooking something with a high fat content, like steak or lamb, much of the fat renders off during the cooking process and usually collects in the drip tray.  In fact, my only gripe with this grill alternative is that the flow to the drip tray is not as effective as it should be.  While grilling lamb burgers (a very fatty and greasy dish) much of the rendered fat remains on the plates.  Luckily, the Teflon coating makes cleanup a snap and most food residue rinses or wipes right off.  More serious, caked on residue may require the help of a dish brush, but the plates are also dishwasher safe.  The versatility of this appliance helps downsize the amount of cookware in a small apartment by doing quadruple duty and functioning as a grille, griddle, Panini press, and warmer.  This quality can help to save money, space and time making this apparatus a worthy investment.

That's right baby, I'm the only piece of equipment you'll ever need.

That’s right baby, I’m the only piece of equipment you’ll ever need.

 

For a convenient, multi-tasking piece of equipment that promotes the varied cooking of several different dishes, you can’t do any better than the Griddler.  Nothing can really replace the distinctive smoky taste you get from an actual grill, but for those who don’t have that option, this is an excellent substitute.  Adding some liquid smoke to your burgers can also help to rectify this problem.  Best of all, after a long day of work you can come home and grille up two chicken breasts in about six minutes flat with zero prep time and little to no cleanup.  For anyone with a hectic work or class schedule this attribute should clinch the deal.

 

 

 

 

Afternoon Tea in Boston

 

Afternoon Tea: The phrase conjures images of women daintily munching on scones while gracefully sipping a cup of Earl Grey.  Afternoon Tea is a classy tradition in certain parts of the world.  Alas, America is not one of those places.  However, as a crass American, I can’t help but attribute a certain glamor to the custom of Afternoon Tea.  This is helped by my belief that there is a proper wardrobe for Tea Parties.  I can totally get behind any food event that requires a change in costume.

Given my romantic notions surrounding afternoon tea, you can imagine my delight in finding places in greater Boston that serve it!  After careful research, here are the top contenders:

1)  The Langham:  A very nice hotel in Boston with good restaurants.

  • Menu:  Good tea selection (lots of options for Black, Green, Herbals, and even White tea!).   The food selection also looks top notch with several sandwich options, the typical scone assortment and desert.
  • Price: Average?  I’m not exactly a connoisseur, but $30 seems to be in the upper-middle price point for this sort of thing.
  •  Fanciness Factor:  Looks promising.  The photos ooze class and femininity.  Fancy tea frocks do not seem out of place.

2)  The Taj:  Another very nice hotel in Boston.  I have not eaten at any of their restaurants, but I’ve heard good things.

  • Menu:  Another good tea selection with information about the styles and pairings.  I’m not as impressed with their sandwich selection (why do people insist on putting egg salad on menus?!), but I’m sure the quality will be good.  Lots of alcoholic options, for any lushes out there.
  • Price:  Coming in high at $38 per person.
  •  Fanciness Factor:  High.  The Taj is one of the fancier hotels in Boston and stands where the former Ritz Carlton used to be.  I believe a fancy frock would be required here.

3)  The Four Seasons:  I’m sensing a theme… Another very nice hotel in Boston, which houses one of my favorite Boston restaurants: The Bristol Lounge.

  •  Menu:  Good tea selection, but no information given on sandwich or pastry options.  Typically that would be enough to disqualify a restaurant, but prior experience at this establishment suggests the food will be good.
  •  Price: Good question.  The price isn’t listed, which should raise a few eyebrows.
  • Fanciness Factor: Promising but probably more low-key than either The Langham or The Taj.

4)   The Tea Leaf:  A tea house on Moody St. in Waltham!  They’re bucking the trend!  I’ve never heard of this place prior to today, but I do know where it’s located.

  •  Menu:  The best so far.  An insanely good tea selection and a full menu of goodies ranging from quiche to the traditional scones.
  • Price: The lowest, coming in at $24
  • Fanciness Factor:  Low.  Photos do not look promising.  A fancy frock may be entirely out of place for a neighborhood tea joint.

 

The Verdict:  I’m thinking I might start with The Langham.  I really do want to wear a fancy frock to tea.  I think it will heighten the experience, and who doesn’t love getting dressed up?  Terrorists, that’s who.  Since I’m not a terrorist, it’s time for a fancy frock!  Hopefully I can get out there this weekend.  Keep your eyes open for a review next week and hit up the comments section with any other Afternoon Tea recommendations!

 

 

Halloween: How to freak out your neighbors next year

 

Ahhhh Halloween, the holiday embodies hedonism in all its glory.  Trick-or-Treaters literally threaten to fuck up strangers if they don’t receive their fair share of delicious candy.  How can anyone not love such an awesome Holiday?!  Sadly, my apartment complex does not see many trick-or-treaters – until three years ago.  After four years without a single zombie or vampire, imagine my surprise when some kids actually showed up.  Unfortunately, I was ill-prepared and lacking generic candy.  As a result, the kids ended up taking away Godiva and Lindt Bon Bons.  While this selection might have pleased their parents, the kids were less than impressed.

As a result of this catastrophe, I stocked up the next year.  I even got home early so none of the trick-or-treaters would miss out on the haul!  Alas, it was not to be.  Fun Fact: If you ever want to REALLY creep out your neighbors, try doing the following:

1)      Start watching horror movies at a fairly high volume in your dimly lit apartment.  No one will know that the screams are actually coming from a TV!

2)      Try cooking something that requires significant preparation.  Bring your cutting board into the living room so you can watch movies while you prep.  Make sure that your table is lower than the window level – this ensures that anyone looking into your apartment can only see you wielding an excessively large knife and will have no idea what you are actually chopping.

3)      After an hour with no trick-or-treaters, become concerned that no one knows you have candy.  Solve this problem by creating several signs on printer paper that read “Free Candy in Apt __”  or “Knock for Candy!”  Include drawings of “ghosts” that actually look like small corpses and tape signs to all the entrance doors in your apartment building.

4)      Test drive your new Steampunk Aviatior goggles while chopping.  Overzealously wave at any trick-or-treaters you see in the parking lot.

5)      Become confused when those trick-or-treaters run away as fast as they can.

 

Eventually realize that while you think you look like this:

 

Hey there!  Have some candy!

Hey there! Have some candy!

 

 

You actually look like this:

 

Annnnnd we're in Hell with a goggle wearing serial killer....

Annnnnd we’re in Hell with a goggle wearing serial killer….

 

 

Have your boyfriend confirm that you are in fact, terrorizing the townsfolk.  Feel a little bit better when he pity trick-or-treats you and eats your terror candy.

 

Salem, Massachusetts: Four Fall Tips

 

This should probably come as no surprise to anyone who lives in New England, but around Halloween, Salem MA becomes an absolute mess.  I recently went up there for the day – mainly to check out an awesome bakery – and ended up questioning my sanity.  I thought, “Halloween is weeks away, how bad can it be?”  Bad.  It was very, very bad.  Although, once we parked it got a lot better and ended up being tons of fun.  Getting into the town center was an epic endeavor though, and took about 30 minutes from the highway exit.  In the end, I wish I had brought a “Tips for Navigating Salem” guide.  Alas, I didn’t have that guide.  But now you do!

#1 – Don’t go in October.  For those of you who are not American, or for any Americans who flunked U.S. history, there was a series of events in Salem during the late 1600’s that are commonly referred to as the Salem Witch Trials.  Given the commercialization of Halloween, it stands to reason that any town known for its horrific witch executions might get a little busy during the month of October.  Busy is a slight understatement though.  Salem seems to have an outdoor market during the entire month of October.  Combine that with all the tourists who want an authentic “spooky New England experience” and you have everyone and their mother boppin’ around Salem in October.  Everyone.

 

Even this guy.

Even this guy.

 

#2 – If you do decide to go to Salem in October hit  up the Salem Witch Museum.  Yes, it’s gimmicky and overly dramatic.  It’s also AWESOME.  You buy a time slot, sit in a dark room, and listen to a historic narration of the Salem Witch Trials.  Creepy dioramas are spotlighted as they relate to the narrative.  It’s a pretty cool experience and gives an excellent overview of the events that unfolded back in the day.  History can be fun!

 

#3 – Eat at A&J King Bakery.  This place is amazing!  Sandwiches are super delicious and include homemade condiments and fantastic bread.  The roast beef sandwich came on a French Baguette with cheddar cheese, roasted tomatoes and pickled red onions.  I added mustard and field greens, because everything is better with mustard and field greens.  The onions added an unexpected but pleasant tang to the sandwich.  Their acidity definitely helped to brighten the meal.

The bakery has a warm and homey atmosphere with aromas of brewing coffee, freshly baked bread, and pastries filling the air.  Although there were a fair amount of customers, we didn’t have any trouble locating a seat.  The staff was super friendly and able to answer any ingredient related questions.

Dessert was the seasonal bread pudding in my absolute favorite flavor: Pumpkin.  Oh. My. God.  I died and went to heaven eating this.  It was the perfect ratio of gooey bread to pumpkin puree to spicy deliciousness.  Even ignoring my obsession with all things pumpkin, this was an excellent bread pudding.  I highly, highly recommend this place.

 

#4 – Leave time to bum around.  Unfortunately, due to the truly epic amount of traffic – and poor planning on my part – we did not have time to explore or wander about as much we should have.  Salem is a funky little town with all sorts of interesting nooks, crannies, and shops.  Definitely leave a fair amount of time to explore the area and its historic sites.  While the town center is pretty small it is packed with stores, cafes, and museums.  Yes, some of it is a little tacky and over the top but that just adds to the zany atmosphere that is Salem!

 

 

Bright! What the hell does that mean?

If anyone reading this eats in fancy restaurants or watches the Food Network (or any food related TV show), they’ve probably heard a chef or waiter use the term “bright”.  At the time, maybe you thought your waiter had some form of synesthesia.  While I have no way of knowing the mental health of your waiter, I can tell you that “bright” is an oft-used food descriptor.

Chef Vincent will be preparing your meal tonight.....

Chef Vincent will be preparing your meal tonight…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does “bright” mean?  Usually it’s being used to  describe a flavor profile rather than the visual aesthetics of your dish.  The term typically goes hand in hand with a two different categories – fruit or herb.  In the case of fruit, “bright” is referring to the acid in fruits and how that acid complements other flavors or livens up a dish.  Think of biting into a lemon.  That’s bright.  Maybe a little too bright for most people.  In cooking, chefs will use a squirt of lemon juice, or lemon infused olive oil, to complement something like grilled trout.  Bright flavors can also come from herbs.  There are a few herbs that taste very grassy and fresh which allow them to successfully counteract or complement fatty, heavy foods.  Good examples of this would be cilantro, parsley, and dill.  You see, there’s a reason that cilantro pairs so well with the braised beef in your burrito.  The fresh, herbal flavors of the cilantro cut through the fat and the deep, rich flavors of the beef.  The juxtaposition of these two flavor profiles creates a layered, multi-dimensional dish.

So when someone uses the word “bright” to describe an entire dish, it usually means that either the acid or herb plays a starring role.  Here’s an example:  An arugula salad with candied walnuts, fresh goat cheese, dried cranberries, granny smith apples, and champagne pear vinaigrette.  This is a bright salad.  You’re going to get acid from the cheese, cranberries, apples, and vinaigrette.  Both the cranberries and apples will balance any sweetness in the vinaigrette with their tart characteristics, and the inherent tang in the goat cheese will offset its own creaminess.  Basically, there is an overabundance of acid in our hypothetical salad.  This doesn’t mean it’s unpleasant; it just makes for a “bright” dish.

 

That time I went to a Nubian Goat Show

I love fairs and agricultural events, and I’m getting really excited about hitting up the Topsfield Fair this weekend! I’ve been before and it was pretty rad. Don’t worry, I will be posting about it next week. Today’s post is actually about one of those times that an event isn’t quite as fantastic as you think it might be.

Goats are awesome. They’re incredibly adorable and, for some reason, frequently associated with the Devil. Yeah – that’s a little weird, but some goats faint as a defense mechanism! How can you not love that!? Also, their milk makes for incredibly delicious cheese.

Given my enthusiasm for all things goat-related, you can be sure that I was super stoked when I saw the advertisement for a Nubian Goat Show back in 2011. I immediately cancelled all prior engagements, and invited my nearest and dearest. Strangely enough, no one seemed interested. I was envisioning a crazy stunt show with highly trained African goats jumping through flaming hoops, performing gymnastics, maybe even creating goat pyramids. I was basically imagining the cast of Bring it On, but with fur and cloven hooves.

Like this, but with goats instead of cheerleaders.

Like this, but with goats instead of cheerleaders.

 

After assuring everyone that they were “totally missing out on epic awesomeness,” I made the hour plus drive to the Lancaster fairgrounds. I expected Cirque de Soleil. What I got was a dilapidated shed in the middle of giant field, filled with 35 goats and ten people. No flaming hoops or goat gymnastics. Needless to say, the pyramid was also a bust.

Although my dreams were shattered, I forged ahead. After driving over an hour to the middle of nowhere, I was going to see some freakin’ goats. I sauntered over to the shed area and pretended to fit in. Unfortunately, my ruse fell flat. It’s hard to hide in a crowd when you are one of eleven people.

A nice woman meandered over and inquired if any of the goats belonged to me. For some inexplicable reason, I responded by saying, “Nope. I just really like goats.” “I see…” said the woman, as she edged away. It dawned on me that maybe she interpreted my response to mean that I really liked goats. After briefly debating the merits of chasing after a stranger and assuring them that I did not partake in bestiality, I took this as a sign and called it a day.

And that was the Nubian Goat Show of doom; an event where my expectations were infinitely cooler than what reality had to offer. Luckily, the Topsfield Fair will be badass. They probably won’t have flaming hoops, but I know for a fact that they have a pig race and chickens with fuzzy feet. And yes, the fair also has goats.

You cannot escape me....  I am far too adorable.

You cannot escape me…. I am far too adorable.

 

Lamb is Delicious

The cuter they are, the better they taste.

The cuter they are, the better they taste.

Although I’ve never butchered a lamb, I did attend a session on it at the recent Taste Trekkers conference. The session included demonstrations on breaking down a carcass and tons of tips on cooking and consuming lamb – information I’m going to share with you! Fun fact about lamb: fresher meat has a milder flavor. If you typically find the flavor of lamb “overpowering”, sourcing out really fresh cuts or eating it in restaurants that serve super fresh, local food should help.

Consumers should never buy or order lamb shoulder steak. Steaks typically call for quick cooking, and tough, sinewy shoulder meat needs to be braised. Slow cooking breaks down connective tissue ensuring that meat is tender and flavorful. The “quick cooking” parts of the lamb include the loin and rack – that’s it. Every other muscle region involves slow cooking.

Do you know why lamb is typically served with red wine? Lambs are fat little creatures, and this carries over into any dish made with their meat. Cold beverages can congeal liquid lamb fat onto the roof of your mouth, making for a very unpleasant experience. Room temperature beverages, like red wine, should complement lamb flavors and not affect the consistency of the fat.

Here is an awesome idea for lamb enthusiasts: make lamb pancetta! Find a butcher and get some lamb belly – you should have two slabs.

1. Sear the topside of the slabs
2. Braise for three hours in the oven with mirepoix – the lamb should be covered in liquid but the dish should be uncovered – no lid.
3. Pull out the bones
4. Sandwich the two slabs together, add weight on top, and let cool overnight
5. In the morning this should become one piece and you can cube it up and use it as lamb pancetta!

Crisp it up and add to salads, or use pancetta instead of butter (or some other form of fat) to add a new flavor dimension to your dish. I’m envisioning Spring Pea and Ricotta ravioli from Dave’s with crispy lamb pancetta, fresh mint, and a nice Parmigiano-Regiano sprinkled on top. A drizzle of some buttery, extra virgin olive oil and touch of balsamic glaze should round out the flavors nicely!

Full disclaimer: I haven’t tried this recipe yet and I’m not entirely sure what temperature to braise the lamb at. The Joy of Cooking should be able to clear that up. This is just an awesome idea for you adventurous chefs out there. If you try it, send a comment to let us know how it turned out!