Beef, Lamb., Leftover Recycling, Pasta, Quick Meals

Mystery meat.

One of the risks of digging around the freezer for leftovers to recycle is that sometimes you think you’re getting one thing when actually you’re getting quite another. This risk increases significantly if the packets of frozen food aren’t labeled. As is sometimes the case in our freezer.

One morning last week, before leaving for the office, I rummaged around the plastic tubs in the reach in looking for something I could recycle quickly in the evening. Our recent eatdown has been fairly successful – we’ve used up most of the scrap short rib and had some terrific pork belly earlier in the week – and pickings are getting slimmer. The problem is that many frozen, vacuum packed, unlabeled packets of leftover meat look the same, and when we returned home that evening, I puzzled about the lumpy brown contents before deciding to make something else. What were they?

The answer came the next night when, after a bad commute back from DC, I decided it was time to use the mystery meat. Whatever it was, I’d work something out. Sealed within thick plastic, it looked like giant soy crumbles, but it couldn’t have been, since we don’t eat that stuff. I sliced the packet open, and the contents rolled free. Koftes! Of course. I made the koftes – among other things – for my mother in law’s 75th birthday party after someone facetiously suggested I buy a couple of bags of Swedish meatballs from IKEA and heat them in a crockpot with some Kraft barbecue sauce. Well, I wasn’t going to do that. But I liked the idea of a meatball – something easy to prepare for 50-60 people, easy to eat while sipping a glass of wine. And I really liked the idea of these meatballs – spiced with cumin and coriander, and dressed with both sweet-tart pomegranate molasses and a savory, garlic-spiked yoghurt sauce, and a little different from the conventional meatball. I like them hot, but my husband likes the cold. It’s up to you.

Perhaps you only eat half of the koftes one night. Recycle the remainder as I did, by tossing them with pasta and yoghurt to emphasize their Levantine flavors.

rigatoni/kofte/beet green/coriander

Rigatoni, koftes, beet greens, coriander

Unlike me, you probably won’t just find these koftes in your freezer, so start from the beginning. For a lighter, less fatty meatball, use ground bison instead of some of the lamb or beef. Because these contain no filler, do not use preground beef and do not overwork the meat. Preground beef tends to be overemulsified and will form hard, tough meatballs. If you plan to serve these as a hors d’oeuvre rather than as part of this dish, garnish with yoghurt-garlic sauce and pomegranate molasses.

Sumac powder is an essential in Middle Eastern cooking and comes from the drupe fruits of the Rhus genus. It lends a slightly tart, almost smoked-fruit flavor. Although some describe the taste as “lemony,” I disagree.

Koftes

1 lb lamb shoulder or beef chuck, ground
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic confit
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 c minced parsley
2 tbsp mint, chiffonade
olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic confit in a small quantity of olive oil, until soft and translucent, and lightly golden. Add the spices and saute a minute more. Combine in a bowl with the ground meat, parsley, and mint, and add the salt. Make a test meatball, cook it, and taste – adjust seasoning if necessary.

Form meatballs – 1 inch more or less – by pinching off a small amount and rolling until it just holds. Do not overwork. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and, when hot, add olive oil. Fry the meatballs, in batches, on all sides until cooked through.

If making the pasta dish, prepare koftes and:

1/2 lb rigatoni
greens from a bunch of beets, both leaves and stems (omit the stems if using red beets as the result is quite lurid), sliced thinly. If not using beet root for another purpose, you may substitute chard
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Aleppo pepper, or 1/2 tsp hot paprika
olive oil
1/2 c greek yoghurt, or 4 tbsp each plain yoghurt and sour cream, plus a little extra if necessary
sumac powder
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta.

While the rigatoni cooks, place a large skillet over medium high heat and, when hot, add olive oil. Add the garlic and, when fragrant, add the shredded beet greens and stems, the Aleppo pepper, and the coriander. Saute until tender and add the koftes. You might not use them all – my husband believes they make an excellent cold snack, so bear that in mind (and consider the yoghurt-garlic sauce below).

Drain the cooked pasta and reserve a little cooking water. Add the pasta to the greens-kofte mixture over low heat. Add the yoghurt (or yoghurt-sour cream mixture) and salt to taste. Toss well to coat, adding a little pasta water if necessary to keep the mixture moist.

Plate and season with sumac powder.

If serving with yoghurt-garlic sauce:

1 cup greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
Pomegranate molasses

Combine the yoghurt, garlic, and salt to taste. Set aside in the refrigerator, covered, until you have cooked the koftes and are ready to serve.

Drizzle the koftes with pomegranate molasses. Serve with the yoghurt-garlic sauce.

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Lamb., Quick Meals, Vegetables

A little lamb.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here. I’m about to head off to San Francisco for work, and whenever the day job gets really busy, I have to resort to what we call the Eatdown. In our house, the Eatdown means a journey into the reach in freezer. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The freezer is full of vacuum packed gnocchi, leftover braised short rib and pork belly, duck and rabbit confit, garlic, pea, and tomato purées. It’s also full of basics – stocks and fabricated meat, which can be thawed in the refrigerator over a day or two, ready to cook when we come home from work.

On Tuesday, I found a small lamb shoulder chop, vacuum packed, in one of the bins in the reach in. It probably weighed a half pound, bones and all. I moved it into the refrigerator to thaw. During the dull commute home – marked by accidents and other delays – I considered the options. What goes with lamb? Mint. It’s spring and our back garden is overrun with pots of mint. And peas. This is a perfect example of seasonality – the foods that come to the table at the same time often taste the best together.

The vegetable accompaniment to the lamb was a simple melange of green beans and zucchini, dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and Pondicherry peppercorn. What is Pondicherry peppercorn? Sometimes known as “true red peppercorn,” it represents the ripened state of the black peppercorn, the immature berry of the Piper nigrum plant. Harvested almost exclusively in Puducherry (Pondicherry), they spoil unless processed quickly and are not widely available. I used to buy them from Le Sanctuaire until their supply ran out; Chef Joshua Linton of Chicago’s Aja, and Joshua Tree Spice Studio, was amazing enough to source it for me recently. The fruity, nutmeggy, spicy quality of the Pondicherry pepper complements the vegetables and olive oil perfectly.

Lamb shoulder, minted peas

This sounds like a lot more work than it is. It comes together in less than forty minutes, I’m not kidding. Start with the minted pea purée. To keep it bright and fresh-tasting, you only need to cook it for about five minutes after you add the peas. Once you’ve cooked the lamb, use the microwave to steam the vegetable accompaniment while the meat rests. Don’t knock the microwave. Particularly for spongy vegetables like zucchini and eggplant, the microwave reduces the risk of mushiness.

For the pea purée:

one medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic confit
three or four sprigs thyme
2 cups (ten ounces) shelled English peas
one cup (five ounces) shelled edamame
3-4 cups filtered water
olive oil
about 6-8 flat leaf parsley leaves
6 leaves basil
dozen leaves mint
juice of one lemon

Place a saucepot over medium heat and, when hot, add about 1 tbsp olive oil. Reduce heat, add the onion and sweat until translucent and tender. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and thyme, and sweat another several minutes until fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to take on any color. Add the peas, edamame, and water, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Remove the bay leaf and all the thyme branches.

Purée in a vitaprep or blender with the fresh herbs until completely smooth. Push through a tamis if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust with a little lemon juice.

For the lamb:

2 lamb shoulder chops
salt and pepper
olive oil
chives, sliced thinly
small mint leaves

Season the lamb chops with salt on both sides. Set a skillet over high heat and, when hot, add about 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the lamb to the pan and reduce heat to medium. After about 2-3 minutes, turn over and cook another 3 minutes. Cooking times will depend on thickness so check for doneness at intervals by touch. Season with salt and pepper and rest for about seven minutes before slicing.

For the vegetable accompaniment:

one small zucchini, diced 1/4″
1/4 lb green beans, trimmed and sliced 1/4″
olive oil
sea salt and Pondicherry peppercorn

Combine the vegetables in a microwave-safe dish in layer not thicker than 3/4″ and microwave on high for 90 seconds. Season with olive oil, salt, and Pondicherry peppercorn. If you don’t have a microwave or refuse to use one, you can sauté the beans in olive oil for about two minutes, add the zucchini, and sauté a minute more.

To serve:

Spread some minted pea purée on the plate and arrange slices of lamb on top. Serve vegetable accompaniment on the side. Garnish with chives and mint.

Potatoes fried in lamb fat

I had a russet potato left over from gnocchi-making earlier in the week and needed to use it before leaving for San Francisco. I squared it off and diced it 1/8″ to accompany the lamb, and fried some of the tiny dice in olive oil. Cooking the lamb chop left about a tablespoon of lamb fat in the pan, so I decided to dice up the remaining potato trimmings and fry them up for my husband.

This is probably where I admit I don’t love lamb. I’ll eat it and all, and sometimes I’ll even enjoy it, but I have an uneasy relationship with the lamby taste and it’s easy to cross the line. So I wasn’t really planning to eat any of the potato fry-up, since lamb fat tastes even more of lamb than the meat. I tasted the potatoes, though, to make sure they were seasoned correctly, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I would have eaten the whole plate.

The mint really makes the dish. Don’t leave it off.

1 russet potato, peeled and diced between 1/8″ and 1/4″
2 tbsp lamb fat, reserved from previous dish
snipped chives
mint leaves
sea salt (or black truffle salt) and black pepper

If the lamb fat is still in the skillet, return the skillet to medium high heat. When hot, add the diced potato and sauté until crisp and golden, about five minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, and chives. Plate and garnish with mint leaves.

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Lamb.

Sunday roast.

It doesn’t seem like people do the Sunday roast in the U.S., which is a shame because not only is the roast delicious, but there is no better way to score leftovers. You can recycle them into another dish, have sandwiches the next day, or just continue to pick bits off the roast until it’s gone.

This is where I admit that I don’t care for lamb.  I should.  I can appreciate the delicacy of really young lamb in a technical sense but the taste properties of lamb still leave me sort of cold.  My husband, however, loves lamb and I have learned how to prepare it in ways that don’t leave me with a pile of meat on the plate after I’ve eaten all the accompaniments.

I served this with roast cauliflower and a cauliflower purée (from the Duo post), but could have served it just as well with white beans, flageolets, or mashed potatoes, and a lemony gremolata. After roasting, let the meat rest. A roast this size needs to rest at least 30 minutes, and as long as 40. Roasting allows the meat to relax and the juices to redistribute from the hot surface back toward the center.

The Roast.

Roast leg of lamb

1 leg of lamb, about 4 pounds, trimmed of silverskin
2 tsp salt
12 cloves garlic confit
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only, minced (substitute 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, minced (substitute 1 tsp dried)
[Optional – 1 tsp rosemary leaves, minced]

Oven 425F

Using a sharp, thin knife, make about 8-10 slits in the meat running roughly parallel to the bone.  Combine the salt, garlic, and herbs and make a paste.  Rub it all over the lamb and in the slits, and in the spaces where the meat muscles separate.

Place the lamb in the 425F oven.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 300F.  Roast for about an hour, or until the lamb is 140F in the thickest part, for medium rare.  Remove and rest.  Meanwhile, if you want, make a light pan sauce:

1 c syrah
1/4 c veal glace de viande
2 tbsp butter

Flame the wine in a saucepan to burn off alcohol (you can dispense with this step if really necessary). Place the pan over burners. Over medium heat, add the wine. Whisk to incorporate lamb fond and reduce the wine to au sec (a glaze). Add the glace de viande and whisk well. Remove from heat and add butter, shaking pan or stirring with whisk to emulsify.

Roast leg of lamb, duo of cauliflower, syrah demi.

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