August 26, 2013 § 6 Comments
Every summer, for me, has its culinary victory. One year it was gelato. Another: jam. There was the summer when the takeaway, clearly, was old fashioned American pie. This year, as the days get shorter and the occasional tree begins to turn color, the one thing that is obvious to me is that this summer was all about lamb and if you forced me to get specific, I’d say it was about lamb ribs.
Lamb as a victory and a theme for my summer has everything to do with the fact that I was collaborating on a MEAT book with Pat LaFrieda, New York City’s paint balling, turkey hunting, Prada shoe-wearing, scimitar wielding celebrity artisan butcher. Before that, I wouldn’t have known there was such a thing as lamb ribs. I mean I knew lambs had ribs. I have ribs. My dog has ribs. But who knew you could or that anybody did eat lamb ribs? Lamb being fatty, lamb ribs are also fatty, in the best way, and lamb being exceptionally flavorful, lamb ribs… don’t even get me started.
I recently brought several racks of lamb ribs with me to Lake Placid, where I visited the Tennesse-born, North Carolina-living cook, Sara Foster. Sara knows a thing or five about pig ribs, so we applied these things to the ribs of the beautiful, all-American lamb that Pat deals in. Sara and I added a hint of mint to the formula–I mean it is lamb, right? And what we came up with were fall-off-the-bone, succulent, glazed and caramelized riblets that are about the most delicious thing anyone we served them to had, up to that point, ever eaten. When we piled them high and put them out as an appetizer to our party of 12, guests started yelling–and I mean screaming. (It was that kind of party, they were those kinds of guests.) “What are these things?” One yelled from the patio, while another guest, known to subside off of Coors Lite alone, was spotted in the kitchen quietly tearing into not one rib but one after another. “These are the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten!” another guest exclaimed. And “Lamb ribs? Who knew lambs had ribs?”
Lambs do have ribs. And you can eat them. And you should eat them. Here’s how.
Double Glazed Lamb Ribs with Mint Pepper Jelly
I used Foster’s Market Seven Pepper Jelly to make this, since I made them with Sara Foster, who invented that jelly. (Plus it’s the best pepper jelly you’l ever eat. It has seven peppers!) Use whatever pepper jelly you want. You could serve these as a main course, but they are rich and sticky and perfect for cocktail time. You can also make these with pork spare ribs (aka St. Louis ribs), which are easier to find and also less expensive than lamb. If you are cooking pork ribs, lose the mint; if you’re dying to include a fresh herb, make it thyme.
Serves 6 or 8 as an appetizer
2 lamb Denver (spare) rib racks (about 1 1/2 pounds each; or pork St. Louis/spare ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (12-ounce) beer
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves (or fresh thyme if you are cooking pork)
1/2 cup pepper jelly
Maldon sea salt
First, get the lamb. Getting your hands on lamb ribs may be the most difficult part of your journey. Your friendly butcher, such as the nice guys at Huntington Meats in Los Angeles and at Ottomanelli in New York will order lamb Denver ribs for you with one or two days notice. Whole Foods will, too.
Now that you’ve got your lamb, preheat your oven to 325°F.
Season the lamb racks with salt and pepper on both sides. Put the onion slices and beer in a large baking pan. Lay the lamb on top of the onions and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Put the lamb in the oven and bake the ribs for 1 hour. (If you’re cooking pork, make that 2 hours instead of one. Lamb is more naturally tender than pork, and it’s also smaller, thus the time difference.) This step is what gives you the juicy, tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. From here you’ll take the lamb, which at this point is a not appetizing shade of gray, glaze it with pepper jelly, and throw it on the grill, where you get the beautiful charred meat. You can prepare the lamb up to this point up to a day or two in advance. Let them cool and keep them in the braising liquid until you’re ready to grill them.
When you’re ready to grill and serve your lamb ribs, preheat a gas or charcoal grill.
Stir the mint into the pepper jelly. Remove the ribs from the braising liquid and onions and brush the racks on both sides with the pepper jelly. Throw them on the grill until the glaze is gooey and the ribs are charred in places.
Take the lamb off the grill and brush another layer of jelly on the ribs. Do this while the ribs are still hot so the glaze melts into the ribs.
Cut the rack into individual ribs but cutting between each bone. Sprinkle them with Maldon if you want and serve them piping hot with lots of napkins.
August 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
August 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Whenever my lovely niece Johnna asks me for a recipe, I hop to it for a few reasons. First because she is one of my favorite people on Earth and she would be yours, too, if you had the good fortune of knowing her. Second, because the lovely Johnna has a lovely little family that includes a Hungry Husband, three and a half year-old Harper, and 14 month old Walker, that she very ambitiously tries to cook for, and I’d do anything I could to help. The third reason, which is related to the second, is that I love to be needed. So the other night when Johnna saw a picture of a scallop dish I’d made for dinner and asked me for the recipe, well, this is me, hopping to it.
I cooked these scallops in Lake Placid where I am staying with my friend, Sara Foster. It was one of those inspirational collaborations that started with, “Let’s cook the scallops while they’re fresh,” (she’d brought them in a cooler from CT the day before after a particularly meat-heavy week); and “What else do we have to go with them?” and, “I remember this delicious scallop recipe Jonathan Waxman gave me for my New York book where he tossed the scallops with a quick pesto…” (I was referring to a book, beautifully shot by Quentin Bacon, that I have just learned you can get on Amazon.com for one cent. Yes: a penny.) And, cooking together while listening to Van Morrison, using what we could find from our farmers market outings and an overstuffed summer fridge, we came up with something so unexpected and delicious that afterwards, as we watched the Blue Moon come up over the Adirondacks, Sara said, “I don’t cook like that with anyone. We should open a restaurant together.” I doubt that’s going to happen, but I’m sure hope there will be more inspired meals like this one.
Although these scallops were invented in August, I call them September Scallops because the dish is made up of ingredients at that great intersection between summer and fall, when there are still great tomatoes to be found but ingredients like cabbage and kale are also there to remind you that this particular party is almost over.
4 garlic cloves
A big handful of fresh, summer basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
2 or 3 strips of bacon (preferably thick-cut), thinly sliced
1 small head of cabbage (or half of a regular head) and 1 bunch Tuscan kale (or just kale, or just cabbage)
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
Half of a lemon for juicing
Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a large knife and sprinkle them with salt. Roughly chop the garlic, then put the basil leaves on top of the garlic and continue to chop until the garlic and basil together. (The idea is to make a quick, rough pesto. The salt helps the garlic break down and also keeps it from sticking to the knife.) Scoop them into a bowl and stir in a tablespoon of the best olive oil you have. (You can also do this the French and Italian ways–in a mortar and pestle, which is where the word “pesto” got its name.)
Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan, add the bacon, and cook it over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, kale, and/or radicchio, season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes until they’re wilted. (How long you sauté your greens is entirely dependent on how wilted you want them. If you were using kale and/or radicchio, you could skip cooking them altogether.) Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute just to warm them through. Turn off the heat, add the pesto and toss gently to combine.
Meanwhile, heat a second pan of olive oil over medium-high heat until it’s almost smoking. Season the scallops lightly with salt. Dip one scallop into the pan as if you were dipping your toe in a swimming pool to take the temperature. If the oil doesn’t make a sizzling noise when you introduce the scallop, take it out and let the pan heat up a bit more. Cook the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes per side, until they are a rich brown color. Turn off the heat and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over them. Pile the vegetables on a platter, nestle the scallops in with the vegetables, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over them, and dig in.
May 12, 2013 § 6 Comments
My mother is impossible to buy gifts for. Last night to dinner, I wore a scarf I gave her one year for Christmas. “You obviously liked it. You’ll wear it more than I would. You keep it.” Another year I bought her nice hand cream. The woman loves rubbing cream into her hands. A year later I saw the tube sitting on her bathroom counter, untouched. “Don’t you like it?” I asked. “I love it. I just don’t want to use it up.” I bought her another one so she’d know there was plenty of hand cream in her future. She kept that in her car console, also untouched. Her standard line regarding gifts has always been, “I can afford to buy myself anything you can afford to buy me. Make me something instead.” And so I decided to make her this online album. We’ve spent the last two mother’s days together at my friend Andre’s home in Venice, California. Andre is a landscape designer, floral designer, and artist. His garden, which I call Andre’s World, is a work of art, and one of my favorite places on the planet to spend an afternoon. So until I can afford to buy you something she can’t buy yourself, Happy Mother’s Day!
February 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
Every year when on Superbowl Sunday I think of a new way to recycle my guacamole recipe, so today I’ve decided to tell you about when Dario Cecchini, the famous Tuscan butcher, came to town—and by “town,” I mean Los Angeles. “What do you do when you have a butcher over for dinner?” asked Nancy Silverton, who was hosting a party in Dario’s honor.
You invite the only other butchers you happen to know, such as Jim from Huntington Meats, seen here inspecting the goods. (Or is he simply eating?)
You invite all Italian-speakers living in the vicinity, such as Rufus, seen here with fellow Italian-speaker Gino Angelini, who is inspecting a sign, written in Italian, that Rufus wears around his neck.
And you serve meat.
For the feast, two smokin’, bbq lovin’, ass kicking chefs Chris Feldmeier (Osteria Mozza) and Erik Black (Spice Table) spent days in order to show Dario how we do it in America.
This Mexican did the only thing she knows to do in such a situation. She made guacamole.
Here it is with that requisite of any meat eating feast: loads of red wine.
The sign Rufus wore, featured in both the English and Italian languages, instructed guests not to feed him.
- “Thankfully,” he says. “Nobody pays attention to anything my mom says.”
Although I can’t give you the recipe for that succulent sausage pictured above, I can give you recipes for what I think are the best red and green salsas you’ll ever taste–unless you go to Loteria! Grill and eat Jimmy Shaw’s chipotle salsa, which is, I hate to admit, un poquito better than mine. I’m still working on getting that one. Maybe next year. Jimmy? Are you listening or is Rufus right again?
Smoky Tomato Salsa
Makes 2 cups
1 pound roma tomatoes, charred on the grill
2 yellow onions, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill
4 garlic cloves, browned in their skins on grill
1 tablespoon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons pureed chipotle in adobo
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
Puree the tomatoes (including juices), onions, and garlic in a food processor. Add the chipotle puree, chipotle power, and salt and stir to combine.
Charred Green Chile Salsa
Makes 1½ cups
4 garlic cloves (skins on) browned on the grill
1 pound husked tomatillos, charred on the grill
2 serrano chilies, charred on the grill, seeds removed
1 poblano chile, charred on the grill, peeled and seeded
1 yellow onion, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill
A handful of fresh cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
2 to 3 tablespoons salt
Remove the skins from the garlic and puree the ingredients in a food processor to coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the food processor from time to time for even pureeing. Add water if necessary to make a loose salsa consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice or salt.
May 14, 2012 § 4 Comments
Where once Mother’s Day was only about my mother, these days when that Sunday in May rolls around, I think of all my friends and relatives who have become mothers and are doing such a wonderful, creative, committed job of it. I spent yesterday with my mami at my friend Andre’s, with his mother and other mothers in his life.
It goes by so fast, they all say. And yes, it seems like just yesterday I was sitting with my sister on a stoop in Tijuana while our mother, wearing a smocked yellow mini-dress, smoked a Salem menthol and drank a screwdriver from a turquoise stemmed margarita glass…
They remind me of the glasses Andre served yesterday. I sure wish she’d saved those glasses. (Not to mention the dress!) But the next best thing. As we speak, she’s off at Ikea to buy me these, which André had at his house yesterday.
Andre is one of those talents who can make even Ikea stuff look special. See?
I sure wish my mom had saved those glasses. (Not to mention the dress!) But at least she’s trying to make up for her mistakes. As we speak, she’s off to Ikea, picking up some replacements… Moms.