Friday, February 26, 2010

Breast of Lamb Ste. Menehould

Lamb breasts, also known as lamb ribs, come from the low-hanging part of the lamb's ribcage where the ribs are small and the meat is tough. Not rack-of-lamb material, not ribs-like-pork-ribs, not at all. Just marvelously cheap. Born to be braised.

I bought two pounds of lamb ribs planning to braise them like any bargain cut. When I got home, I decided to check with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, figuring he might have something particular to say about lamb ribs. Did he ever. There is a wonderful thing called Breast of Lamb Ste. Menehould, and the e on Ste. means that it is, indeed, French. And yes, you braise the ribs. But then you slide the bones out, cut the meat into strips, egg-and-breadcrumb them, and broil them crispy. You serve the crispy strips of tender lamb with savory sauces, and everyone makes cooing noises.

Slightly adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book.

Breast of Lamb Ste. Menehould

Serves 4.

Rinse two pounds of lamb ribs. Place them in a large baking dish, interleaved with two sliced onions and several sprigs of rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in a glass of white wine and a glass of water. Cover the dish with a lid or tinfoil. Bake for three hours at 275.

Pull them out when very tender and let the ribs cool to a comfortable temperature. Gently tug each bone out of the meat. Stack the meat in a tray and place a weight on top -- like a heavy wooden cutting board with a jug of milk on top. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Shortly before you plan to eat, take the cold pressed meat from the fridge and cut it into inch-wide slices. Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall says they should be two fingers wide, but the picture shows slices about as wide as one of his fingers. Which, yes, is about two of mine.

Make sure your dipping sauces are ready. I made a harissa aioli (garlicky homemade mayonnaise with some jarred harissa mixed in). Mr. Fearnly-Whittingstall recommends either a homemade tartar sauce or mustard vinaigrette.

Beat an egg and have ready a cup or so of dried breadcrumbs and a quarter cup of melted butter. Spread the pieces of lamb with a little dijon mustard, dip them in the egg, and press them into the breadcrumbs. Brush them with the melted butter. Put the coated strips on a rack over a baking sheet and bake them at 350 for fifteen minutes. Turn on the broiler, and crisp the pieces for the final few minutes.

Serve immediately. Leftovers are nice the next day sliced thinly on a sandwich.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Molasses Muffins

W. Crawford is off on a "little" 200k brevet today. A brevet is a long, long bike ride. The big ones take several days; you pedal on the uphill and sleep on the downhill. The main thing is that it's a self-sufficient ride. You have to haul your own snacks, your rain gear, your spare tubes, just like in real life. Once when I was very impressionable I saw a picture of a big colorful bike race. There was a guy in a car leaning out to peel back a cyclist's spandex shorts and squirt some lube down there for him. Nothing like that happens in a brevet.

My job was to pack enough snacks to sustain my randonneur for the ten hour ride (he can stop for a meal, if he feels like it). In lieu of squeezable goo-drinks and other high-tech, entirely artificial food for performance athletes, I sent him off with a stash of well-buttered rye molasses muffins, a quarter pound of cheese, and dates filled with coconut and sea salt.

I'm not just being flippantly anachronistic. These molasses muffins make excellent fodder for heavy exercise. By my calculations, W. Crawford needs nearly 9000 calories today. Exercise particularly drains magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron. If he eats all the (well-buttered) muffins I sent, he'll have 2000 calories right up front, plus 150% of the RDA for magnesium, and 75% of his copper, zinc, and iron. (Along with 500% of his daily manganese requirements, wtf?) If you include the chopped liver he had for breakfast and the righteous supper he'll no doubt have, this is one well-fueled randonneur. Don't worry; I only run the numbers when they're interesting ones, like "9000 calories."

That said, these muffins are dark, chewy, and moist, even if all the exercise you get is grinding grain. That grainy rye flavor is a marvelous (and appropriately subtle) foundation for something as deep and mineral as molasses. Rye flour has less gluten than wheat -- and less of a tendency to toughen -- but still keeps stuff stuck together. The oat flour keeps the muffins from spreading. Substitute quick oats or white flour if you have none.

I particularly like these with a glass of kefir.

Rye Molasses Muffins

Whisk together in a large bowl:

2 cups freshly ground rye flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

In another bowl, whisk together
1 egg
2/3 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk, sour milk, yogurt, kefir, or (water plus a tablespoon of vinegar)

Put 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Let it brown lightly; remove from heat. Stir the liquids into the dries, pour in the butter, and combine. Cover with a plate and let it sit for the afternoon.

Spoon batter into greased muffin cups and bake at 375 for half an hour or until a knife comes out clean.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Lost Art of Real Cooking

It's a real book. Or rather, it will be on July 6. Look at that whisk! I just want to grab the wooden handle -- smooth with use -- and start whipping some cream. Ah, wooden handles and hard work.

It kind of makes me swoon. I think this calls for a second cup of tea before noon.