I have an article up on the Food Day blog! Read it here:
First things first: Do not, should you encounter them in your wanderings, tell my parents about this recipe. (The Internet is a private place, right? Right?? Oops.) My parents love ducks. Not, like, love ducks with wine and leeks. I mean my parents use “duck” as a pet name for each other, refuse to eat duck, and once looked at me like I’d just committed the worst betrayal when I considered ordering something with duck fat at a restaurant. My father once encountered a duck quacking indignantly in the dried-up fountain of Rockefeller University, and immediately went up to the front desk to explain that the ducks needed the fountain refilled. So, yeah; let’s be clear: I am committing a complete and total family sin here, just hours before Yom Kippur.
And holy wow is it tasty.
At the farmers markets this past weekend, I noticed Sea Breeze Farm was selling small containers of duck fat. I gave in the second time I saw it.
I’ve always heard potatoes and duck fat are a dreamy combination. Not having much time to make a snack, I went for the quickest route I could think of. I gathered a few baby potatoes (some skagit golds and all-purples from Nature’s Last Stand and some ruby fingerlings from my garden). I sliced them into thin pieces.
I heated some duck fat on medium-high, generously covering the bottom of a cast iron pan, and added the potatoes to cover the bottom. I added a little more duck fat, one more layer of potatoes, and a sprinkling of salt. Then I covered it and walked away for a few minutes.
When I came back to the pan, the potatoes on the bottom were brown. I flipped and stirred until the uncooked ones were on the bottom, and let those brown too (again, covered and without stirring). A few minutes later, all the potatoes were cooked. I sprinkled on a bit more salt, and that was that.
This works simply as is but would be a nice side to roast chicken or lamb or a winter squash soup or a big salad.
(And message to my parents –– I know, I know: weebk!)
Thanks so much!
I was invited to participate in the American Lamb Pro-Am contest for Seattle bloggers. The rules were simple: Bloggers get handed a mysterious cut of lamb and we have one week to create a new recipe and blog it. The top four bloggers get advanced to the next round. (If you like this recipe, please vote for it here!)
I asked, of course, if the lamb was grass-fed. It was, and was from Oregon. How could I say no? I love lamb, and this was local-ish and sustainably-raised.
I imagined we were going to get a small cut or package of something like lamb stew meat or ground lamb. Instead, the mystery cut was… an enormous boneless leg of lamb.
Many home cooks are daunted by cooking meat in the first place––even something simple like chicken pieces–– and are way too intimidated by something like a leg of lamb. But with good ingredients, a thermometer, and a sense of humor, you can totally tackle this.
So what do you do with a giant leg of lamb?
Step 1: Call over a bunch of your dearest friends for dinner. Check.
Step 2: With a leg of lamb, the next question is: to roast or to braise? I find summer is better for roasting, winter is better for braising. In the winter, you want something soupy and falling off the bone, tender and full of beans and comforting enough to get you through a cold night. Slow braising is also best for meat with the bone in, when you can savor the marrow and let the bone leech nutrients into the meat.
But in the summer, you want something that is both filling and fresh-tasting, something you can eat outside and then enjoy cold in snacks and sandwiches and salads and on picnics for ensuing days of (yes!) not having to turn your oven on. And roast lamb with fresh summer ingredients is the kind of dish that makes you want to skip off into the summertime warm night air and, like, propose to the first person you see. (Don’t!)
Since the leg was boneless, I knew I wanted to stuff it. I first had stuffed lamb at Kabab Café in Astoria, NY, and it was a revelation. Ali El Sayed, the warm-hearted and insightful chef at Kabab Café, is a culinary genius. I’d never thought of stuffing anything into lamb. I grew up on lamb that was simply poked with garlic and rosemary and left to cook. But Ali stuffed lamb with combinations of things I still can’t identify, a dish I couldn’t stop thinking about after I first ate it.
I decided to stuff my lamb with the best vegetables of summer, and mix those vegetables with flavors that would hold the stuffing together, both literally and gustatorily. I’d serve it with a mushroom risotto, a tomato sauce built on lamb drippings, and some simple sautéed kale, although you could substitute a salad or some fresh sliced fennel for the kale. We ended the meal with a rhubarb-yellow-plum compote flavored with nutmeg and honey, thanks to my friend Karyn.
This is a special occasion dish. But summer in Seattle is short. Doesn’t the fact that it’s still here kind of make any night a special occasion?
Lamb leg stuffed with summer vegetables, with saffron-tomato sauce and mushroom risotto
- 2 onions
- 6+ cloves garlic
- 3/4 lb ground lamb
- 2 small heads of fennel (bulb only; save the green parts)
- 3/4 lb summer squash (tromboncino, yellow squash, patty pan, etc), the smaller the better
- 4 oz mushrooms (about 6)
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup basil (will be ground in food processor)
- 1/2 cup fennel leaves (will be ground in food processor)
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley (will be ground in food processor)
- 3 slices toasted gluten-free bread (will be ground in food processor)
- 3 oz dried mushrooms (I used porcini) (will be ground in food processor)
- Additional handful of basil, chopped
- Additional handful of Italian parsley, chopped
- olive oil
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 dashes cinnamon
- salt to taste
- food processor or something similar
LAMB AND SAFFRON-TOMATO SAUCE
- 1 leg of lamb, bone removed
- cooking twine
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1 bulb fennel, chopped
- 2 medium carrots (or 4 small), chopped
- 1.5 lbs very ripe tomatoes, chopped (the tomatoes go into the pot later than the other vegetables)
- handful of fresh basil
- extra olive oil
- 2 generous pinches of saffron
- salt to taste
- Large roasting pan or Dutch oven
- Separate pan to put the meat aside for dressing and resting
- 2 cups arborio rice
- butter for cooking
- 5.5 cups mushroom broth (Pacific makes a good one. Alternatively use homemade mushroom or meat broth)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 onion
- 2–5 cloves garlic
- 1 cup shelled English peas
- 1/2 lb mushrooms, assorted (I used creminis, pink oyster mushrooms, and two porcinis)
- a few tablespoons of butter to stir in at end
- 1/2–1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- pinch of saffron
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (don’t worry, it won’t stay there). Prepare the stuffing and the roasting vegetables first. Chop the roasting vegetables (onion, carrot, fennel in the LAMB section above). For the stuffing, chop onions, garlic, fennel, squash, and mushrooms how you prefer them. I like small pieces of garlic and onion, slices of squash, and thin-sliced fennel and mushrooms. If you’ve bought summer squash, take a second to see if the insides have gorgeous patterns:
2. Using some olive oil in the bottom of your Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic until the onion is clear and a little brown. Add the fennel and stir five minutes more. Add mushrooms and stir until they brown. Stir in ground lamb until brown. Stir in chopped parsley and basil and turn off the heat.
3. In a food processor, combine the gluten-free toast, basil, fennel leaves, parsley, and dried mushrooms. Blend until completely combined. The herbs will turn this mixture dark green.
4. Stir this mixture into the Dutch oven, adding the saffron, cinnamon, and golden raisins, over low heat for two minutes.
5. Spread out the lamb on your spare roasting pan. Spread the stuffing mixture all over the lamb. Roll it up tightly and tie it with cooking twine. Push in the ends to keep stuffing from escaping. If you have leftover stuffing, roast it in a small baking dish at the side or freeze it for another cooking project. Since your Dutch oven is now empty, fill the bottom with the chopped onion, fennel, and carrots you’ve prepared.
6. Turn the oven off and turn it to broil on high. You’ve now prepared a hot oven with searing heat from the top. Place the lamb into the vegetables. Let it broil with one side up for seven minutes, then turn it and broil the other side for eight minutes, so 15 minutes total.
7. Turn the broiler off and put the oven up to 450 degrees. Roast the lamb at 450 for 30 minutes.
8. Take the lamb out and rotate it. Turn the heat down to 400. Add 1/2 lb of your tomatoes to the pot and stir into the vegetables already below the meat. Put the lamb back in the oven for 30 minutes.
9. Check the lamb’s temperature with a meat thermometer. It’s supposed to reach 135F for medium-rare; time it as you prefer your meat.
11. You already have the tomato sauce most of the way done. Chop the garlic you’ve reserved for the sauce, and add it to the cooked drippings/tomatoes/vegetables. Also chop the remaining tomatoes and add them (I used the gorgeous ones below plus some small, ripe red ones, both from Tonnemaker’s at the farmers market). Add saffron, crushing it between your fingers. Let the mixture simmer while you work on the risotto. When you’re ready to turn the sauce off, use an immersion blender or regular blender to purée it, then turn off the heat, tear in a handful of basil, and add a few dashes of olive oil to complete it.
12. If you’re serving the lamb with risotto, chop your onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and set aside. Warm broth and set over a low flame. You can crumble your saffron directly into it.
13. Sauté onions and most (but NOT all!) of the garlic in butter until onion is clear. Salt slightly.
13. Stir the rice into the pot and let it get coated by the onions and garlic. Add the white wine and stir.
14. To cook the risotto fully, add the broth one ladle at a time, until the rice is cooked but still slightly al-dente. Turn off the heat.
15. Slice your mushrooms. I used a mixture of different varieties, including some gorgeous pink oyster mushrooms. In a large pan, sauté the remaining garlic and all the mushrooms in butter until the mushrooms brown and release their juices.
16. Stir this into the risotto with the uncooked English peas, the parmesan, and the butter. The heat of the risotto will cook the peas to perfection, especially if you’re using tiny peas like the ones I got from Willie Green’s at the Columbia City farmers market.
16. Slice the meat. Ali’s advice is to give everyone tastes of different sections of the leg, because they are different in flavor. Serve with any bright-tasting green side, like a salad, sautéed kale, or fresh fennel slices.
If you like this recipe and like local food, please vote for it! Nearly everything in this lovely dinner came from local sources, with the exception of the spices, olive oil, golden raisins, and rice.
As today’s Google Doodle probably already suggested to you, this would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Seems appropriate to raise a glass of wine (or two; this IS Julia…).
I grew up watching old episodes of The French Chef. My mother taped them all off PBS. We had Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volumes 1 and 2) on my parents’ shelf in New York, and another copy in our family friends’ basement in Seattle, just to make sure we wouldn’t be without Julia when we were subletting houses and cat-sitting in Seattle in the summers. My mother was really the source of this Juliaphilia. She lived in Paris for several years after she finished college and fell in love with French cooking, adopting French methods and bringing a French sensibility to traditional Jewish recipes like brisket. We shopped at farmers markets, cooked at home with good ingredients, and delighted in simple food. “It’s best when it’s fresh,” my mother still says, usually to justify herself or a family member reaching for another serving of something delicious.
In college, I was part of a 110-person vegetarian co-op. Once a semester, we were each responsible for collaborating on a special meal, either a fancy Saturday night dinner or a Sunday brunch. My friends and I decided to make French breakfast, a pile of baguettes and croissants and butter and jam and tea and coffee and juices. (This was before I figured out I couldn’t eat gluten.) I called my mother. She faxed me everything Julia wrote about croissants and baguettes. We stayed up all night in the kitchen, spraying the ovens with water every time Julia’s faxed pages said to do it and studying diagrams of proto-croissants.
Being Jewish, I didn’t feel left out when Christians started wearing W.W.J.D. bracelets and using hip language about their faith, like, “I’m down with JC!” (I really did hear someone say that once.) After all, my family had our own ideology: What Would Julia Do? And, of course, we were also down with JC. The very tall JC who wasn’t afraid of butter or fresh ingredients or being utterly delighted by food without having to find cutesy or obnoxious ways to word her utter delight.
To Julia, to butter, to fresh ingredients, and to many more years of inspiring cooking with fresh ingredients and utter delight. And to making sure access to ingredients and cooking skills and time and health are recognized as a right, not a privilege.
picture courtesy Julia Child Facebook page
Today would have been my grandmother’s 91st birthday. I still miss her terribly. This is one of the many ways I picture her: at her farmers market, the Santa Monica Market in California.
In my family, local, delicious food and farmers markets are generational. Before she moved to California, my grandmother would take us to visit farms and farm stands on Long Island, NY. My parents took us to the weekly Greenmarket in a parking lot near our apartment in Manhattan, and to Pike Place Market when we lived in Seattle in the summers (Pike Place was more of a farmers market back then).
For those of you raising families or mentoring kids, bringing them to a farmers market doesn’t just make them more interested in healthy and sustainable food now, it plants seeds for their future interests and values. You don’t have to have your own generational history of a farmers market routine to enjoy building one. But when you bring kids with you, they grow up thinking of it as a tradition, the way food shopping simply is.
I have many of my grandmother’s small market-going habits. Aiming for favorite vendors who may run out of something delicious, and who we know have the best potatoes or raspberries. Talking to farmers and knowing many of them personally after years of going to the same market. Giving unsolicited recipe advice to someone wondering aloud how to use a vegetable with which they’re unfamiliar, or reassuring them that the strange-looking lemon cucumber is totally worth adding to their salad.
It feels trite to say I feel my grandmother with me at farmers markets (and in my kitchen and in flower gardens and on sailboats…) but a piece of her is there. She shaped how I experience them, as did my parents. I hope I can return and continue the favor.
Two weeks ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on the largest sizes (over 16 oz) of sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters, and arenas. The beverage industry was poised with messaging and has largely owned the conversation across the political spectrum. Rather than engage or repeat their messaging, thus giving their talking points more airtime, let’s pay attention instead to the ban behind the curtain.
NYC’s proposal takes a smart and fair approach. The proposed ban restricts the actions of corporations –– albeit imperfectly, but functionally –– while enabling consumers to buy more if they want more but stop drinking if they don’t. This puts the blame squarely on industries where it belongs, although it’s only one piece of what needs to be done about sugary drinks and public health.
Why does size matter? In short, it’s irresponsible to sell something at a size or concentration that passes a certain threshold of safety. There’s a concept in environmental health and medicine called the dose-response relationship. It’s pretty simple: At different doses, a substance will affect a human being (or other organism) in different ways or to a different extent. A 200 mg pill of ibuprofen is safe. A 200 gram pill of ibuprofen… not so much. You will not find Advil Grande or Advil Venti anytime soon.
Unlike medicine, soda isn’t good for you even in a small dose, although the health consequences of a large dose aren’t so quick and dramatic as those of a giant pill. But those health consequences are real, and they’re made worse with repeated exposure. So while small sodas are also terrible for you, a size ban sends the message that it’s irresponsible to market and sell large sodas, particularly when drinking large sodas begets drinking more large sodas. But does it?
Portion size can influence human behavior, and in the case of soda, it can do so in two ways, one short-term and one long-term:
In the short term, people are more likely to finish whatever food is in front of them, determined by, among others, this study, in which one group ate more out of secretly-refilling soup bowls than a control group ate out of regular bowls. (Side note: I secretly want one of those soup bowls, but for actual soup.)
In the long term, high doses of liquid fructose impair hormones that regulate weight, appetite, and fullness, leading people to consume more and get sick. Sodas and other forms of highly-marketed liquid fructose are dangerous, period. But they’re especially dangerous in quantity and with repeated exposure. High doses of fructose over time change hormones, brain signals, and metabolism so that we want more soda and food. Add to that the evidence that intense sweetness is more addictive than cocaine.
This kind of information complicates the much-loved trope that dietary choice is all about individual choice and behavior. Does a consumer really have control if he or she is buying and consuming a product that impairs the body’s own built-in mechanisms for control? “Appetite control” starts to take on a more insidious meaning when the product itself changes our appetite.
Liquid carbohydrates are bad news. They don’t trigger fullness the way solid ones do, so sugary drink calories may add to rather than supplant meal calories. Sugary drinks are overwhelmingly correlated with obesity and diabetes risk, among many other diseases. Fructose intake is connected with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The dose-response relationship between soda and measures of health is especially bad in children, who are smaller than adults and going through critical stages of development; a single increase in serving size per day raises a chid’s obesity risk 60%. The beverage industry disproportionately targets marketing to children and communities of color. There is much more to know about soda and health. Search online for more information about sugary drinks and high blood pressure, gout, lower nutrient intake, lower bone density, hypertension, and other health problems.
It’s dangerous stuff. I’d rather sugary drinks weren’t made with fructose or synthetic sweeteners, that there were limits on sugar/sweetener concentration in beverages, and that sugary drinks weren’t sold at all in public or tax-payer-funded places or places that draw children. Bloomberg’s message is a strong one, and a starting place. He uses visual images of large cups to call out the sizes that are the most unhealthy, and shame companies for pushing those sizes.
No starting place is perfect. But perhaps exposure in fast food restaurants may naturally lead to changing norms for soda intake at home too, where childhood sugary drink consumption is an even larger problem, and a much harder one to fix. That’s why a plan like Bloomberg’s has to operate alongside other ways to restrict corporate behavior, get allies across different fields and industries, and inform and empower the public. Communities across the country are strategizing about this issue, although unfortunately it looks like many resources have to go to countering the dollars spent by the beverage industry.
By the way, the largest size soda that would be allowed under this ban, 16 oz, currently costs just $1.19 at a McDonald’s in Manhattan. I’m guessing that barely covers Manhattan rent on the space it takes up for the time before it’s finished and tossed. It’s pretty cheap. In the end, though, I’m guessing many consumers won’t get up and buy a second soda or take a refill, because they won’t want a second soda.
Win for the consumer, loss for the industry. Until it figures out how to make a 16 oz secretly-refilling cup.
Image source: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/19684