Archives for posts with tag: Thyme

Lamb chops are something that have always daunted me.  I save lamb for restaurants where a more experienced chef can masterfully prepare them for me without the stress and over thinking that would be occurring in my kitchen.  The pros can  handle red meat better than I can.  What I’m scared of the most is overcooking a good piece of meat.  Why spend the money and then “accidentally” cook a juicy steak or lamb chop to well-done.  (No offense to those who like their meat well-done.)

My husband has been asking me to make him rack of lamb for five years.  Five years!  I’ve tried to maneuver my way around the issue and make him roasted leg of lamb or lamb shank.  But something about the rack of lamb scared me.  Every year on his birthday, he requests rack of lamb and every year I get myself out of it.  Since this year we have celebrated five birthdays together, I just made the dive and we both went to the butcher and got the rack of lamb.  I needed the support, that’s why we both went.

Once we got home, I contemplated what I should do with the lamb, the over thinking had begun.  After all, I’ve eaten lamb many many times at restaurants, so I calmed myself down and went with my instincts.  Herbs became the main attraction followed by lemon and nuts.  I raided my pantry and came up with a herb, walnut, lemon, capers crusted lamb.  I let it marinate so the flavors would penetrate the meat.

I roasted it and it came out perfectly, medium rare bordering medium.  (I do love steaks at medium-rare, but for me, lamb needs to be cooked a tad bit more.)  While it was roasting I also prepared a shallot and dijon sauce, which was lovely with the lamb.  When we sliced through the rack, I finally got over my fear and could do it again and again.  The end result makes you want to step back in the kitchen and expand your culinary horizons.  For now I’ve tackled rack of lamb, let’s see what comes up next.

Rack of Lamb with a Walnut and Herb Crust

Serves 2 with leftovers

Ingredients

1 french rack of lamb, 8 chops in total

1 cup chopped fresh herbs (mint, parsley, thyme, chives) + extra for garnish

5 cloves of garlic

juice and zest of 2 lemons + plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and black pepper, to taste

for the sauce:

olive oil

2 shallots or 1 large shallot finely chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cups chicken or beef stock

1 heaping tablespoon crème fraîche

fresh chopped parsley

salt and black pepper, to taste

Method

To make the crust: in a food processor, combine the herbs with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, capers, walnuts, flour, salt and pepper.  Pulse lightly until everything is crumbly yet a little sticky.

Salt and pepper the rack of lamb and then cover both sides with the crust and marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.

Before baking preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the lamb in an oven-safe pan or dish for 25 minutes.  If you like your meat cooked well-done, add another 7-10 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, prepare the sauce.  In a saute pan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan on medium heat and once it comes to temperature, add in the shallots and cook until translucent and on the verge of turning light brown.  At this point, add in the Dijon mustard, chicken or beef stock, salt, black pepper and allow it to reduce.  Once reduced to your liking, add in the crème fraîche and parsley.  Once the lamb is cooked, let it rest outside the oven covered in aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Serve the lamb with the sauce and garnish with some fresh lemon and chopped herbs.

I also added some asparagus in the pan with the lamb, towards the end of cooking.  I served the lamb with a sunchoke mash as well.

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I really need to get back to healthy cooking.  But who wants to read a blog post about some calorie-free dish of blah?  Not me for sure.  I “ooooh and ahhh” when something is decadent and rich.  This quiche is both of those things.  I went through a phase where I would not touch eggs, they would just gross me out.  I think it had to do with the smell of the yolk, something I still have not come to terms with.  Now, I like omelets, quiches, and the like but will not touch a runny yolked egg.  I know, I know, culinary faux pas on my part, but let me have one.  Otherwise, I am not picky at all.

The story of this quiche comes from my grocery trip last week.  I picked up leeks with no inkling of what I would make out of them; a soup was the most obvious thing that came to my mind.  But then again, I thought, “Boring!”  So I sifted through my cookbooks hoping to find the perfect leek tart recipe.  Not much luck.  Booooo.  Then I went to Google and typed Leek and Mushroom Tart and I was led to Deb (whose site I love) from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Leek and Mushroom Quiche and alas I had some inspiration.  I used her recipe as a starting point and wanted to add my own flair to it clean out my fridge.

I used a mish mash of cheeses, sour cream, light cream, herbs and the outcome was good!  My husband rolled his eyes at me when I said I am making a Leek and Mushroom quiche for dinner, probably because he knew he was going to have be vegetarian tonight.

*Oh!  Don’t worry about the dough, if I can do it you CAN do it too.  Plus, I don’t even have a rolling pin and used a glass to roll out the dough.  (I know, I can spend on other things but I’m stingy when it comes to a rolling pin, only God knows why, :))  It was simple to make, probably because I have a food processor, if not the story would probably be a rant furthering my hate for dough making.  Fortunately, I succeeded!  But, if it’s easier for you do get a pre-made pie crust or use puff pastry.

Empty out the Fridge Quiche

Inspired and Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Leek and Mushroom Quiche

Tart Crust from Martha Stewart and Baking Technique from Joy of Baking (Makes 2 crusts, so halve the recipe or save the other crust for later)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tart crust rolled out in a 9 inch pan and pre half-baked

2 cups chopped leeks, rinsed thoroughly

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms, I used half shiitake and half baby bella

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 sprigs of thyme

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

3 large eggs

1/3 cup low-fat sour cream

1/4 light cream or milk

1 cup grated cheese of your choice, I used a mixture goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, and manchego

1/2 chopped baby spinach

1/2 cup chopped baby arugula

1/4 cup chopped parlsey

12 sprigs of chives, chopped

Method

Caramelize the leeks and mushrooms with salt, black pepper, and thyme in the olive oil on medium low heat for about 20 minutes and allow to cool slightly, discard the thyme stems.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium sized bowl crack the eggs and whisk.   Add the sour cream, light cream, cheeses, baby spinach, baby arugula, parsley, and chives.  Next, add the cooled leeks and mushrooms.  Add extra salt and black pepper if necessary.  Pour the egg mixture into the pre half-baked tart crust.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, do not serve it right out of the oven, it tastes better warm.  I served it with a mixed green salad like on Smitten Kitchen, and with a dijon vinaigrette.

IMG_7973Even though I looooveeeeeee cooking, there are times I have no idea what to make.  Or more accurately, I don’t feel like making anything!  I beg and plead with my husband to make me something because I know if he HAD to he could make a decent meal.  He knows all my cooking secrets and what ingredients pair well together but he just pretends he has no clue.  So on this night, when I had no idea what to make, I asked him my daily question, “What do you want for dinner?”  Usually, he says, “anything” but on this day, glory be to God who helped me out, he said a roast of beef.  Of course, I don’t have a beef roast on hand so obviously we have to go out and get one (after a stop to the video rental store of course to get some movie like Reservoir Dogs or something I am totally not interested in).

IMG_7940Once we reached the butcher, being a small city he didn’t have the beef tenderloin roast I was imagining in my head.  But, an option of eye of round or prime rib.  Though prime rib is YUM, I would like to save it for special occasions due to its fat content.  I got the eye of round.  I came home having no idea of what sort of cut it was, though the butcher said it was very tender and to cook it at a high temperature then turn it down for the remainder of the cooking time.  I looked it up and it said it was a popular cut in the 1950’s.  I thought to myself, “great, it’s like the food on the show Mad Men, an era when eating Ceasar Salad was exotic.”  Anyhow, I ignored that and cook it as though it were a tenderloin.  Giving the roast a bit of an ego boost if you will.  I used my guru/mentor/idol’s (Ina Garten) style for making a filet roast.  A link to her Filet of Beef recipe is here.

The preparation is so simple, that I know my husband could have done it just as well as me.  No chopping (other than the potatoes), no slaving over the stove (just throw everything in the oven and forget about it)!  The meat was tender and juicy.  The perfect solution for a day where you don’t feel like cooking.  Unless, you go out to eat or  get takeout…..YUM!

*The 2 pound roast was reasonablly priced as well.  My original tenderloin idea would have put a dent in our wallets.  Hehe  🙂

Roast Eye of Round with Roasted Potatoes with a Pan Gravy

loosely inspired by Ina Garten

Serves 3

Ingredients

Eye of Round Roast

2 pound eye of round roast (ours was tied by the butcher with butcher’s twine)

1 whole bulb on garlic, peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt, or to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons of ground black pepper, or to tasteIMG_7977

5-6 sprigs of thyme

3-4 Yukon gold potatoes in wedges

drizzle of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  Take a baking dish or sheet pan place the beef in the center cover with salt and pepper, leaving a little to put over the potatoes as well.  Throw in the peeled garlic cloves.  I poked holes in the meat and stuffed the holes with some whole cloves, but this is entirely optional.  Put the potatoes in the dish, season them with some salt, pepper, and some thyme.  Cover the beef with the thyme.  Drizzle the whole dish with olive oil.  Place in roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 500 degreees.  After 20 minutes turn it down to 300 for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes turn the oven off and let the roast sit for 10-15 more minutes.  Take the roast out of the oven after 10-15 minutes and let it rest for about 15 minutes.  Slice and serve.  (This cooking time is for medium rare bordering medium).

*This roast tasted great the next day in sandwiches.

To make the gravy, take out any drippings from the beef baking dish.  Put them in a small saucepan add about a tablespoon of flour.  Whisk in the flour until it dissolves.  I also added the leftover thyme sprigs into he gravy.  Add 3/4 cup of chicken of beef stock and allow the gravy to thicken on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. If you wish, you may add a dab of butter at the end to make the sauce glisten.  Serve over the beef.

I also served a tomato, red onion, avocado salad on the side.  IMG_7964

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You could easily step into your grocery store and grab a bottle of “Classico”, heat it up and toss it with pasta.  Sure, we get lazy, sure we don’t feel like cooking every day.  But, making a fresh tomato sauce is almost as easy as opening up a bottle of jarred sauce, and the taste has no comparison.  I know a traditional tomato sauce consists of a mirepoix of carrots, celery, and onions.  To me, a simpler sauce without the onions,carrots, and celery tastes almost like perfection.  I use shallots, garlic, and thyme infused garlic-chili oil inspired by Ina Garten as my base.  The shallots are sweeter and smoother, giving the sauce a softer taste.  The herb infused oil gives the sauce extra boldness and rounds out the flavors.

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Of course, fresh tomatoes are the best.  However, even with all the organic, pesticide-free, heirloom, local varieties of tomatoes available to us here in America, the taste is just not the same as San Marzano tomatoes.  I am a firm believer in eating local whenever possible, but until I find a suitable tomato for sauce I will stick to canned San Marzano tomatoes.  They are becoming more and more common.  Chefs on Food Network always mention them and even budget conscious cooks are embracing them. During an undergraduate spring break, I travelled to Italy, and to this day I remember how sweet and delicious Italian tomatoes are.

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My recipe is simple, the longer it simmers the better.  But, if you don’t have 4 hours to simmer your sauce, an hour should be just fine.  I like to keep the sauce simple.  I sometimes opt to add ricotta cheese to the sauce to give it a little more smoothness, but this is entirely optional and non-traditional.

Tomato Sauce:

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

a glug of extra-virgin olive oil (about 4 tablespoons)

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilis (or to taste)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

3 shallots, chopped

1 bay leaf

2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

a 28 ounce can of whole San Marzano Tomatoes, slightly pureed (if they are not available to you then use the best quality canned tomatoes you can source)

2 heaping tablespoons ricotta cheeseIMG_7916

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano for garnish

fresh torn basil leaves

Method:

Prepare the herb-garlic infused oil by taking a small sauce saucepan on medium heat and adding the olive oil to it.  Let the oil heat up slightly and next add the crushed red chilies and allow to infuse the oil for 30 seconds, next add in the thyme and garlic and allow them to settle in the oil for a minute.  Turn down the heat to low heat (almost medium) so that the garlic does not burn and turn bitter.  Let the flavors come together, about 15-20 minutes.  In a larger pot add the herb-garlic infused oil with the springs of thyme and allow to heat up at medium heat.  Next, add the shallots and the bay leaf allow the shallots to sweat.  When the shallots are translucent pour in the red wine vinegar and move the pot away form the heat.  The vinegar will be burning off, so this may irritate your eyes, use caution.  Once the vinegar steam has settled put in the tomatoes and salt into the pot.  Stir everything together and allow to simmer on low heat for about an hour.  After an hour or so, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Discard the bay leaf and any thyme stems left in the sauce.  Tear in fresh basil leaves and  mix the ricotta cheese into the sauce until combined.  Serve with any pasta of your choice and top with grated parmigiano reggiano and fresh basil leaves to garnish.

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This sauce can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, you name it.  It is a basic sauce that is quite versatile.  It be used in pastas, for dipping, on pizza, as a base for tomato soup, in eggplant/chicken/veal parmesan and the list could go on and on.  You can add olives, ground meat, vegetables, or whatever you fancy!