RACK OF LAMB SOUS-VIDE WITH COUSCOUS SALAD

Mid-July, and here I am to share with you a recipe we enjoyed on the first week of January. No particular reason for dragging my feet for so long, it was a memorable dinner, probably the juiciest lamb we’ve had at home. It was prepared sous-vide, but of course you can use any method you are comfortable with. The thing is, rack of lamb is such a special cut, I always get a bit nervous when I have to prepare it. It must be medium-rare, or you’ll have a disaster on your plate. Of course, meat thermometers are there to help us out, but the option of using sous-vide takes the stress completely out of it. I love that. For the same dinner, I made Potatoes Anna, but that is still a work in progress. Read on…

RACK OF LAMB SOUS-VIDE  WITH COUSCOUS SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

for the meat:
1 rack of lamb
1 teaspoon oregano (I used Mexican)
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper
for the salad:
2 cups cooked couscous
1 cucumber, diced
2 large Roma tomatoes, diced
dried mint to taste  (use fresh when available)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
to glaze:
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat the water bath to 130 ° F.

Season the lamb lightly with salt and pepper all over. Mix the oregano, paprika and coriander in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over the meat, place it in a sous-vide type bag and seal it.  Submerge in the heated water-bath and cook for 4 hours.

For the salad, heat the olive oil on a small pan, just to raise its temperature, no need to have it smoking.  Remove from heat, add the dried mint, and let it cool to room temperature. Whisk the lemon juice. Mix the cooked couscous, cucumber, and tomatoes in a bowl. Add the prepared dressing. If using fresh mint, simply add it to the olive oil and lemon juice, no need to warm the oil up. Season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.

When the lamb is almost ready to leave the water-bath, make a glaze mixing the honey with lemon juice. Remove the lamb from the bag, brush some of the glaze all over and sear the surface either on a very hot skillet, or on a hot grill. You can also run it under the broiler, watching it carefully.  Slice the lamb in individual ribs, and serve with the cool couscous salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was superb! You can double the recipe, cook two racks of lamb and invite a couple of special friends over. But in this particular dinner, it was just the two of us. And three pups absolutely mesmerized by the smell wafting through the kitchen.  Now, to the Potatoes Anna, one of my favorite ways to enjoy potatoes, a bit of an indulgence, of course. Potatoes and butter in proportions to make those two little entities show up, one on each side of your head. The evil one tells you not to worry about a thing, life is short. The other one asks if you noticed how much butter went into that innocent looking platter of food… Tell them both to leave you alone, enjoy the meal and be a bit more austere for a couple of days. There. You’ve got this!

But, I digress. I told you the Potatoes Anna are a work in progress, and you might be wondering why. Here it is…

A bit too brown, I think.  I used the method by America’s Test Kitchen, but I think it calls for too long on top of the stove. Maybe the flame in our stove is stronger than the one they used. That could explain, it’s hard to believe they would have made a mistake. Next time I intend to cut the time a bit shorter or use one of the weaker flames on the back of our Supernova. At any rate, the inside was very creamy, perfectly cooked.

Once I re-visit and optimize this recipe, I will be ready to share with you!

ONE YEAR AGO: Focaccia with Grapes, Roquefort and Truffled Honey

TWO YEARS AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip over Cucumber Slices

THREE YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 
Shrimp Moqueca

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CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY: HEIRLOOM TOMATOES STEAL THE SHOW

Ideally, my Wednesday special meal will catch Phil by complete surprise, but this time he had been snooping around the depths of our fridge. Just as I was getting ready to cook dinner, he asked me with a big smile “we’re having scallops tonight for dinner, aren’t we?”.  Bummer. Just could not get him this time.

I had the inspiration for this meal when I brought home a couple of heirloom tomatoes, and was blown away by how juicy and delicious they were.  I went right back to the store and bought some more.    They turned into a fantastic sauce, paired with leeks and a thinly sliced fennel bulb.  Scallops crowned the meal with their touch of class, always welcome. Another Wednesday evening made ultra-special!

PASTA WITH SCALLOPS IN HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND FENNEL SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 Tbsp olive oil (+ a little more for searing scallops)
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, frowns reserved
3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes, depending on their size
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp orange zest, divided
8 sea scallops
¼ tsp ground fennel
spaghetti, or pasta of your choice

Boil the water to cook the pasta.

Core the tomatoes and cut them in large chunks, but don’t seed them.  Reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, then saute the leeks and the sliced fennel for about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When they are soft and starting to get some golden color, add the tomatoes and half the orange zest. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes start to melt and release a lot of juice.  Cover the pan, and keep at a simmer.

Cook the pasta, and when it’s 5 minutes from being ready, heat a non-stick skillet on high heat, add olive oil just to coat the surface lightly.  Pat the scallops dry, season lightly with salt, pepper and ground fennel, and sear them, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Reserve some of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the tomato/fennel pan, increase the heat slightly, and let the pasta and the sauce cook for a minute or so together. If needed, add some of the pasta water to the sauce.  Add the remaining orange zest, the scallops on top, and sprinkle with minced fennel fronds right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you make this dish with “regular” tomatoes, it simply won’t be the same, so try to find these funky looking babies, they are superb, particularly the brown ones.  We could not get over the flavor of this dish, so few ingredients, but they work together beautifully, and the scallops (make sure you get a nice sear on the outside) are not overpowered by the sauce.

Normally I reserve the pasta water to adjust the consistency of a pan sauce, but in this case it was not necessary to add any.   The tomatoes did their job providing all the moisture to coat the pasta strands.

If you don’t like scallops,  shrimp could be a good option, or chicken breast filets.  If you want to keep it vegan,  maybe grilled tofu could work too.  But don’t mess with the heirloom tomatoes!

ONE YEAR AGO: Pain de Provence

TWO YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf

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CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH PLUM-GLAZED DUCK BREASTS

It wasn’t our wedding anniversary, nor his birthday, nor mine. Valentine’s Day won’t arrive for a couple of months.  It was just a simple Wednesday, stuck in the middle of a frantic week with the usual extra-struggles after traveling for a while.  But, I wanted a special dinner for us, just for the fun of it.  Duck breast filets (maigret de canard sounds even better… ;-)) are very easy to prepare, although potentially intimidating if it’s your first time to cook them.  A recent issue of Fine Cooking had a recipe with plum preserves to form a saucy glaze, perfect with the duck meat, that shines with a little sweetness and a little spice.


PLUM-GLAZED DUCK BREASTS
(from Fine Cooking magazine, October 2011)

2 boneless, skin-on duck breast halves
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup plum preserves
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Heat the oven to 425°F. Trim any excess skin and fat from the duck breast and, using a very sharp knife,  score the skin and fat underneath in a 1-inch diamond pattern. Be careful not to cut all the way through the flesh, you want to just get the layer of fat underneath the skin to be exposed, so the fat renders more efficiently.  Pat the duck dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Put the duck in the skillet skin side down, reduce the heat to medium low, and render the fat until only a thin, crisp layer of skin remains. It will take 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the preserves, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and red pepper flakes. Remove the duck to a platter, pour most of the fat off the skillet, and return the filets to the pan, skin side up. Brush the preserves mixture over the breasts. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast registers 135°F for medium rare, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Heat the remaining plum mixture briefly, slice the duck diagonally  and spoon the pan juice over.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


You won’t need much else to round out this meal.  White rice and carrots with an agave nectar glaze were wonderful for us, next to the rich and flavorful duck. But the best part of this meal was the smile on Phil’s face when I said we were having maigret de canard for dinner…  Sweet memories of Paris make any evening a special event!

ONE YEAR AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

TWO YEARS AGO: Tried and Tasty!

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A SPECIAL DINNER FOR TWO…

Sometimes (more often than I care to admit…)  I buy things on impulse, without knowing exactly what to do with them. Last week I saw a New Zealand rack of lamb, and couldn’t resist it. I hid the package in the fridge, hoping to surprise my beloved with a special meal. I think his top three favorite dishes are Beef Wellington, rack of lamb, and grilled salmon….sushi and oysters on the halfshell are also strong contenders…  At any rate, I knew the lamb would be well received!

Normally I’d simplify the preparation of a rack of lamb: salt and pepper, and nothing else. The meat is so flavorful, it shines on its own.   However, a recipe in Ming Tsai’s book (Ming’s Master Recipes) changed my mind, as it had “Autumn” and “Romance” written all over it… 😉

rack1

CRANBERRY-TERIYAKI LAMB RACK  with COUSCOUS SALAD
(adapted from Ming Tsai’s Master Recipes)

2 lamb racks
1 cup cranberry-teriyaki glaze (recipe below)
1 cup couscous, cooked
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 T Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
3 scallions stalks, sliced (reserve green part for garnishing)
1/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the racks of lamb in the glaze for a couple of hours or overnight.   Prepare a hot grill, remove lamb from the marinade and grill it to medium-rare.  For our small racks of lamb, I grilled for 12 minutes, turning them halfway through.  Allow the meat to rest for 5  minutes before slicing it between the bones.

Prepare the couscous salad…
Cook the couscous as instructed in the package, and reserve.  In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, zest, and mustard. Slowly add the oil, still whisking, to form an emulsion, and season it with salt and pepper. Add the white part of the scallions, the cranberries and the cooked couscous, tossing well to combine.

To serve, place the couscous on a plate, top it with the lamb chops, garnish with scallion greens, and spoon some extra cranberry glaze on top of the lamb.


CRANBERRY-TERIYAKI GLAZE
1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4  cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
salt to taste

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the dried cranberries, shallot slices and ginger and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cranberry juice, soy sauce, sugar, orange zest and juice and simmer over low heat until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Let it cool slightly and then transfer it to a blender.

Blend the sauce, adding the remaining olive oil with the machine running.  Do not blend it until it is completely smooth, the sauce is supposed to contain little bits of cranberries.  Taste and adjust seasoning; it keeps for 1 week refrigerated.

couscoussalad2Couscous salad, a perfect match for the lamb…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here.

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