Monday, January 31, 2011

Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb

I love lamb. It's got a distinct but pleasant flavor, and it goes beyond everyday beef, chicken, or pork. It can, however, be pricey. Keep your eyes open for sales and freeze it for future use! This lamb recipe was what our family ate on Christmas morning. It's an easy recipe that you can prepare in advance and pop in the oven when the time comes.

Start out with a boneless leg of lamb. I used a 3-pounder, which is on the smaller side.

It was also rather fatty. In the future, I'll either pick up a larger leg or trim the fat before roasting (maybe both.) 

I coated it in a garlic and rosemary crust. This is really easy (and sort of fun) to make. Just start with some garlic cloves and some dried rosemary.

I intended on using fresh rosemary but I kind of spaced and didn't add it to my grocery list. So I had to use dried.

A good rule of thumb when using dried herbs instead of fresh, or vice versa--if the recipe calls for a teaspoon of dried herbs, use a tablespoon of fresh. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor.

I start by very roughly chopping my garlic. Then I add the rosemary and a teaspoon of salt.

The reason I don't add the rosemary right away is that I'll be doing a lot of chopping. And dried rosemary is, well, very dry. The little bits of rosemary have a tendency to richochet around when they're cut. The chopped garlic adds a wet edge for the rosemary to cling to, reducing the ricocheting.

The salt helps bring out the garlic's flavor, and draws out some of the garlic's moisture, which again helps the rosemary stick and makes chopping easier.

I like to chop quite a bit. Then I press the garlic with the flat edge of my knife, to make a sort of rough paste.

Now that your crust is done, it's time to get back to the lamb. Unroll the leg all the way and drizzle with olive oil.

Rub some of your garlic mixture on the inside of the lamb. Don't use it all--you'll want to save some for the outside as well.

Give the inside of the leg a nice salt and peppering.

Now for the fun part--it's time to tie up your lamb leg. You'll need some kitchen twine or string. Measure the length of your lamb leg and cut the string about ten times longer than the length.

Tie the string a couple inches from one end of the lamb, leaving at least an inch on the short edge.

Now shimmy the long part of the string under the lamb.

Cross the long end of your string over itself a couple inches from your first tie.

Continue down the lamb, shimmying and looping.

You don't want your loops to be tight--just snug enough to keep your lamb leg together.

Once you get to the end of your leg, flip the lamb over and weave the long end through the loops--under one loop, over the next, under the one after that, etc.

Flip your lamb back over and tie the long end of the string to the short end of the string (from your first knot.)

Drizzle the outside of your lamb with olive oil and rub it on.

Spread the rest of your garlic and rosemary mixture over the top and sides. of the lamb. And don't forget to salt and pepper!

I roasted my leg of lamb over some potatoes, onions, and garlic. They got a nice lamb-y flavor from the roast.

I roasted my lamb at 350F for 2 1/2 hours. After I removed it from the oven, I cranked the temperature up to 450F and put the potatoes back in so they would get some color. It also allowed the lamb to rest before cutting.

If you've never had lamb before, this would be the perfect recipe to try the first time around! Maybe you'll find that lamb is your new favorite meat!

Recipe: Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb

1 3-4 lb. leg of lamb, boneless
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
1 tsp. salt

olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Finely mince garlic, rosemary, and salt together to form a rough paste.

Open lamb leg. Drizzle leg with olive oil and spread half the garlic and rosemary paste on the inside. Salt and pepper.

Using string or kitchen twine cut ten times longer than the lamb, tie the lamb leg closed. Drizzle the outside of the lamb with more olive oil and rub with the remaining garlic and rosemary mixture. Salt and pepper.

Roast at 350F for 2 1/2 hours or until rare. Allow lamb to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Old-Fashioned Biscuits And Gravy

Mr. Kim Chee loves biscuits and gravy. When we go out to breakfast at ToKen BBQ, he likes to order their biscuits and gravy. They bring out these humongous biscuits and a whole soup bowl full of sausage and milk gravy. Mmmm. They're sure not good for you, but they are good to eat! And they're pretty easy to make at home.

I started out with a pound of sausage.

Get it going in a pan. I like to use a pan that isn't nonstick--the little bits that stick to the bottom of the pan are flavor.

Keep poking at your meat to break it into small pieces. When it's all nice and browned, you'll need to add some flour.

And you'll also have to add in some oil and butter. Yes, I know--it's already bad enough for you. But sausage today is pretty lean, and you don't get enough drippings to make a good gravy. So to make the fat-to-flour ratio even, you'll have to add in fat. Deal with it.

When you've got everything stirred together, you can add in your milk.

The best milk gravies are made with whole milk. But we don't drink whole milk, and I hate buying it because then we have to figure out what to do with the rest. So I used 2 cups of 2 percent milk and a half cup of half-and-half.

Give your gravy a hefty dose of salt and pepper. If you taste your gravy later and think something is missing, you probably just need to add more salt and pepper.

I also added a little dried sage.

Decrease your heat a bit and give your gravy some good stirs. Let it come to a heavy simmer so it can thicken up for you.

Oh my goodness. How good does that look?

For my biscuits, I just used my Flaky Biscuits recipe. I made them before starting the sausage and had them on standby while the gravy made itself. You could use any biscuit recipe you like (even canned biscuits, although don't tell me if you do!) I like some flavor variety so I made some scrambled eggs and hash browns, too. These biscuits make a rich dinner treat, and both the gravy and biscuits reheat wonderfully for breakfast the next day. Make these for your family--you won't regret it!

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Biscuits and Gravy

1 lb. breakfast sausage

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 c. flour

2 c. milk
1/2 c. half and half

salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried sage

In a large saucepan (preferably not a nonstick pan), brown sausage over medium-high heat. Constantly break up the meat so it's in small pieces.

Once the sausage has browned, add butter, oil, and flour. Stir until butter is melted and everything is combined.

Add milk and half and half. Give everything a good stir.

Season with salt, pepper, and sage. Reduce heat to medium. Allow gravy mixture to come back up to a high simmer to thicken.

Spoon thickened gravy over split biscuits and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pasta With Roasted Vegetables

Well, we're still here and we're still using up pasta! Tomatoes were on sale at my grocery store and I was craving them roasted. What better way to have roasted veggies than with pasta?

Look at these pretty tomatoes. I just love how grape tomatoes look.

I cut the tops off and then cut them in half.

I also grabbed some zucchini. I like how it tastes when it's roasted.

I trimmed the stems and then cut it in half the long way. Then I cut it into nice, bite-sized pieces that were about the same size as the tomato.

I had a red onion that I'd only used a bit of (for guacamole) and figured this would be as good a time as any to use the rest of it. I cut it into big slices and then cut the slices into smaller pieces.

And why yes, that is a Miracle Blade (the kind you used to see on infomercials.) I bought some at Kohl's about a zillion years ago. Their serated knives are actually incredible. They're the best tomato and meat cutters I own, and they never need sharpening. And they're inexpensive enough for the home cook. The only problem is that I haven't seen them in department stores recently.

I spread all the vegetables out on a baking sheet with edges.

Oh, and I also minced some garlic.

I just didn't take a picture of it.

Sprinkle the minced garlic on over the vegetables.

Drizzle on some olive oil.

And drizzle on some balsamic vinegar.

In addition to salt and pepper, I also sprinkled on some sugar. The sugar helps cut any acidity you may get from the tomatoes. It also helps your vegetables get some color while roasting.

Get some pasta water ready--and be sure to salt it.

Here are your vegetables, getting nice and cooked.

By this time, hopefully your pasta water is boiling. Pour in your pasta and give things a stir.

And....I forgot to add Italian seasoning before putting my vegetables in the oven. So I pulled them out and added it near the end. Do a better job than me. Remember to add it before the veggies go in the oven!!

If you forget too, don't worry. They still tasted okay.

I bumped the oven heat up to broil for the last 5 minutes, just for some last-minute color.

While you're waiting for your vegetables and pasta to finish, grab yourself a nice handful of parsley.

Give it a good chop.

Before you drain your pasta, dip in a measuring cup and save some of the water. It will help make your sauce.

NOW you can drain your pasta.

Dump your pasta back into the pot. Carefully take your vegetables out of the oven and help them into the noodle pot.

Add a little more olive oil.

Pour in the pasta water you've saved too.
 It's time for the chopped parsley.

I stirred in some Parmesan cheese. I used shaved Parmesan, to match the pieces of vegetables, but whatever you've got is fine.

Give everything a nice stir, top with some more Parmesan, and you're ready to go! In about 30 minutes, you should have a nice, fresh, vegetarian pasta meal!

Recipe: Pasta With Roasted Vegetables

1 to 1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, trimmed and halved
2 small zucchinis, roughly chopped
1/2 to 2/3 large red onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 lb. penne pasta
salt, for boiling

1 handful parsley, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 c. shaved Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 450F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, combine tomatoes, zucchini, and onions. Sprinkle with garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add Italian seasoning, sugar, and salt and pepper. Toss well. Place in preheated oven.

Boil heavily salted water in a large pot. Boil pasta until cooked through. Save 1/3 c. pasta water; drain pasta.

After vegetables have roasted for about 20-25 minutes, increase oven temperature to broil. Let broil 5 minutes.

In the pasta pot, combine drained pasta and roasted vegetables. Drizzle with the last tablespoon of olive oil, pasta water, and add Parmesan cheese. Don't forget to taste things--add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve, and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.