Friday, September 9, 2011

easter lamb, risotto and crepes

In my continuing trend of long overdue holiday meals, I present to you an Easter leg of lamb, stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness and served with a mushroom risotto and homemade strawberry crepes. First, let's talk about the lamb, courtesy of our friend Martha Stewart.

This lamb was a huge undertaking, and Nathan deserves most of the credit here, as he actually butterflied the thing. I still don't even really know what means. I guess he kind of unrolled the lamb as he cut it off the bone? I don't know, youtube that shit. Or get yourself a super handy boyfriend like mine and make him figure it out. Actually I bet the butcher will do it for you, but where's the fun in that?

So, once you've got your lamb all nicely butterflied, you can focus on the super delicious filling: pancetta, soft steamed garlic cloves (I roasted them instead), Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, fresh mint, fresh lemon juice, artichoke hearts, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. With all those ingredients, you would think this would be really complicated, but I used my parent's food processor, and it all blended together in a matter of seconds. I want a food processor; they are like magic. Of course this would hopefully also work in the blender, but I suspect you might have difficulties.

This filling is, as you might suspect, awesome. Even on its own, it is super delicious. It wouldn't be the best looking dish you've ever seen, but it I'm thinking it would make a mean baked stuffing/dressing at Thanksgiving. Here, it is spread across the lamb, which is then rolled back up, tied together, rubbed with olive oil and seasoned generously with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 450°, then reduce the temperature to 350° and roast for an additional hour or so, or until medium rare with an inner temperature from 130 to 135°. Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

And what do you serve lamb with? Forget the jiggly mint jelly from the supermarket: we made a fresh mint sauce with tons of finely chopped fresh mint, olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt. It was superbly light and refreshing, and really sang of spring. This sauce would certainly go well with any lamb dish, but I can't imagine a more appetizing combination than we have here with the artichokes, pancetta and parmesan. To die for.

Look how tasty. And what's hiding in the background?

Our famous mushroom risotto. This has become a real joy to prepare and never fails to lend a special occasion elegance to any dinner.

For dessert, Mom and I slaved away over these crepes. Nathan and I had gone to a cooking demo the week before where Top Chef Master Jody Adams shared Julia Child's crepe recipe with us. She flipped her little crepes with the greatest of ease, and I was totally convinced that I could do the same. Not so. After about two incredibly mangled efforts, I let my poor mother take over the ropes. It was pretty brutal. The four crepes you see above were literally the only legit crepes we were able to salvage from an entire batch of batter. Not pictured is a pathetic crepe gratin where I just kind of layered filling, fruit and sad shriveled crepe failures together and baked them. Still tasty, but not at all what we had intended.

So, if you are feeling super ambitious, you might try making these crepes at home. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it! My mom dusted off my grandma's fancy crepe making set, with it's cute little pan and ladle, and we were still completely outclassed! But, for posterity's sake, here's the recipe for the batter, given to me personally by Jody Adams, which I filled with a some sweetened ricotta and topped with some sliced strawberries tossed with sugar and a little lemon juice.

Crepe Batter
from Brunch Cooking Class with Chef Jody Adams at Rialto on April 16, 2011, adapted from Julia Child

6 eggs
1 cup whole milk
kosher salt
½ cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
1 tbsp microplaned lemon zest
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
unsalted butter for cooking

1. Combine all the crepe ingredients, except the butter for cooking the crepes, in a blender. Add the eggs and milk before the flour, so that the flour doesn't collect on the bottom and fail to mix with the other ingredients. Process two minutes or until smooth. It should be the consistency of heavy cream. Allow to rest for at least 1 hour, to let the air settle. Overnight is even better.
2. Rub a crepe pan with 1 tsp butter and set over medium-high heat. When the foam of the butter subsides, pour 1 ounce batter at the bottom of the pan. Slowly tip the pan while turning back and forth so that the batter coats the pan. If there is any excess, pour back into the container with the batter. Cook on one side two minutes. Flip the crepe, and immediately turn the crepe onto a plate so the second side cooks just briefly. Repeat until all the batter is used up, staking the crepes directly on top of one another.

To Bake Crepes
1. Stuff the crepes with ⅓ cup desired filling. Roll into a tube, turning the sides in.
2. Set the crepes, seam side down, into a buttered baking pan. (At this point the crepes can be refrigerated overnight or frozen in freezer on the baking dish.)
3. Brush crepes with cream and sprinkle with sugar, if sweet, or cheese, if savory.
4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until puffed and golden in a 375° oven. If crepes are frozen, first let them come to room temperature for 30 minutes and then bake for up to 20 minutes.

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