Monday, April 29, 2013

Roasted leg of lamb (Gigot d'agneau)

A traditional French dish I've been missing a lot since I moved out of France almost ten years ago is the traditional Easter roasted leg of lamb. Invariably, my mom would cook the most delicious, succulent, tender "Gigot de Paques".

I've been craving it, and I took it into my hands to make it happen ;) Plus, it feeds an army!

INGREDIENTS (for 8-10 people)
- 1 leg of lamb (10-11 lbs, bone in)
- 2 lbs of assorted small roasting potatoes
- 6 large carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks (or if you can find spring carrots, even better! in that case, use 2-3 per person and leave whole)
- 4-6 baby zucchini, quartered
- 2 heads of garlic (peel the cloves of one head, and leave the cloves of the other head in their skins)
- a few bunches of large scallions (or 3-4 leeks)
- 5-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- olive oil
- salt, pepper
- about two to three cups of water or broth to baste the meat (if you don't use it all, keep it you will need it for the gravy)
- 2 tbsp AP flour
- 1 cup of red wine

- using a paring knife, punch a few holes on all sides of the meat, and insert the peeled garlic cloves in the tiny holes.

- slather olive oil all over the roast, salt and pepper generously. Lay the rosemary sprigs on top of the meat, and insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part if you have one. Add the garlic cloves with their skins around the roast and cook in a 400F oven for 25 min/lb (the meat will be well done).

- when the meat is about one hour shy of being done, add the quartered potatoes and carrots, toss in the dripping juices and cook for 30 minutes
- after 30 minutes, add the scallions and zucchini, and cook another 20 minutes

- remove the meat from the pan, and let rest for at least 20 minutes wrapped in aluminum foil

- put the vegetables in your serving dish and proceed to making the gravy with the juices

- put the roasting pan on your stove top, and cook the flour in the drippings for about 1 minute, scraping as much of the drippings as possible, then add the remaining broth (at least a cup) as well as the wine. Make sure to stir well to avoid any lumps, and pour in a serving bowl
- for a more impressive display, serve the roasted lamb whole on top of the vegetables, otherwise carve the meat and serve on top of the vegetables

- Bon appetit!

PS: amazing leftovers for a tweaked Shepherd's pie! Separate leftover potatoes and mash them. Mince the meat, and any remaining veggies and soak with leftover gravy. Pack the gravy-meat-veggie mixture in a baking dish and put the mashed potatoes on top. Bake for 45 minutes at 325F.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bohémienne (Provencal eggplant and tomato stew)

The sun is back! The sun is back! Hooray! Hooray! The sun is back!!!

And that means I'm in the mood for sunny recipes :)

Bohémienne is a provençal dish (from the south-east Provence region of France). It's quite similar to Ratatouille, a summer vegetable stew from the same region, only it only contains eggplants and tomatoes.
It is absolutely delicious as an appetizer on bread, or with eggs (any style), as a side vegetable for lamb chops, sausage, fish, and really just about anything! Oh, you can also have it for breakfast, or even use it in burgers in lieu of caramelized onions.

It's a very versatile dish. It stores very well and is delicious. Try it, and let me know what you think!

INGREDIENTS (makes a lot! enough to fill 3 large Mason jars)
- 6 large eggplants, peeled, cubed, salted and drained
- 6 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed (save the strained juice)
- 8 salted anchovies in oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp AP flour
- about a 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 2 cups of broth (beef or chicken) (not pictured, I added it on a whim while I was cooking)
- water to thin down the stew if it gets too thick

- heat the oil in a large deep pot and saute the eggplants in batch, until golden and reserve on the side

- in the same pot, saute the anchovies and add the onions. cook until slightly golden, and add the tomatoes, tomato juice and garlic. cook until soft.

- after a few minutes, add the eggplants and bay leaves and a cup of broth. Sprinkle generously with pepper and simmer for about 30-40 minutes on low heat

Note: stir often, and make sure that the stew doesn't dry. Add broth and/or water to prevent sticking.
- after 40 minutes, add the flour mixed with a little broth or water, stir and cook for another 45 minutes until it becomes a beautiful caramel color. Make sure to stir often, or it will stick to the bottom!

- pour in sterilized jars or eat within 3-5 days. Keep refrigerated.

- I like it best cold, the day after: I think the flavors have time to blend together. It is absolutely delicious on toasted bread.

- I made rosemary-garlic bread crostinis from a stale loaf of bread I got on supersale at the supermarket: sliced the stale bread really thin, and dried the slices in a warm oven for about 10 minutes. A spoonful of Bohémienne on that, and you'll be happy!

Bohémienne. Or summer in a jar.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Homemade salt pork shoulder

Nothing easier than salt-curing your meat yourself! I recently needed to find salted pork shoulder meat to cook the French dish: petit salé aux lentilles (salt pork shoulder with lentils). I could not for the life of me find the meat I needed, so I decided to cure a pork shoulder myself. Little did I know how easy it would turn out to be.

Here's how I did it:

- pork shoulder, bone in (trim the rind if it comes with it)
- a lo-hot of salt! (coarse)

- lay the shoulder on a bed of salt, in a deep dish

- cover the meat with salt until you pretty much can't see it :)

- place a plastic cutting board on top and weigh it down

- store in the fridge for at least 3 days (make sure to drain the juices that will form, and add extra salt as you go)

Note: I personally left mine in the fridge for 6 days
- to desalt it, rinse well under running water, then cover the meat in a lot of cold water and put back in the fridge for one hour
- after one hour, change the water and repeat
- after another hour, change the water again, and leave in the fridge overnight, until ready to use the meat

Note: make sure to really desalt the meat well, otherwise your dish will be inedible...

salt pork shoulder and french lentils (petit salé aux lentilles)

I've been on a nostalgic culinary kick as of late, so I tried to recreate this French staple family meal as this used to be one of my favorite dish when I was a kid.

And while I was at it, I decided to cure the meat myself, just for kicks ;)

Hope you'll like it!

INGREDIENTS (for 4 people, or 1 with tons of leftovers):
- 1.5 lbs french lentils, rinsed and drained
- 4 lbs bone in salted pork shoulder, desalted (if you can't find salted pork shoulder, you can make it yourself. Click here for the recipe. Note: it takes a few days to cure and an extra overnight step for desalting, so plan in advance)
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 2 large onions
- 2 bay leaves
- a few sprigs of dried thyme
- a pinch of ground cloves
- water
- pepper to taste, NO extra salt

- put the desalted pork shoulder, one of the onions (quartered), ground cloves, and a pinch of pepper in a deep pot, cover with a lot of cold water (about two inches above the meat)

- bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours
Note: make sure you skim the surface of the water regularly of the foam that will form
- remove the by-now-overcooked onion bits, and slice the carrots and remaining onion

- add the vegetables, lentils, thyme and bay leaves to the boiled meat

- cook on medium-low heat for 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender
- slice the meat and drain the lentils and cooked veggies
Note: keep the boiling liquid to make a soup, or for reheating leftovers. It freezes really well too!

- serve hot with a nice glass of red wine

- Enjoy!

PS: this dish freezes really well, and tastes even better reheated!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ras el hanout - Moroccan spice blend

- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground allspice (I only had berries, so I ground them with a pestle and mortar)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves

- don't blink, you might miss it...
- ready?
- mix everything together!