Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I realize that what I consider to be major accomplishments in school right now are things that normal people do on a daily basis in their homes because it is what normal people do. Normal people can cut things up without incident. Normal people can saute vegetables without breaking into cold sweats. Normal people will also know when these vegetables are done cooking. Normal people can grill a piece of fish. I don't know how I missed obtaining the basic skill of cooking, even cooking simply. If you watch How I Met Your Mother, this is one of my (many) gaps in knowledge.

I really shouldn't be so excited and feel so proud that I grilled a piece of fish today but I do. I have never grilled anything except a cheese sandwich before. But, I also can now fillet and skin that fish. Not everyone can do that (right?).

The culinary course I am in now has stepped it up a notch. There is a whole lot less cutting going on and now more cooking. I know how to make stocks and sauces (with fancy french names). I know what it means to sweat vegetables. I can tie, cut and de-bone a chicken. But what I am most proud of is that I made dinner on Sunday.

In class last week our instructor showed us how to  make braised lamb and I wrote down every step so that I could try it at home.

For braised lamb you want something like a shoulder, something a little more on the tough side and with lots of connective tissue. You also need a large pan or dutch oven that you can bake. Lightly season the meat with some kosher salt. The first step is to sear the meat to a nice brown color on all sides, getting a good carmelization in the pan. Set the meat aside.

Cut up a couple onions and shallots in a medium dice. Heat them up in a little oil and then cover the pan to sweat the vegetables until they are translucent. Add minced garlic (about 10 cloves). Cook for another minute. Then add a small can of tomato paste and mix in with the veggies. Once that has been well incorporated add some flour (about 3/4 cup). Gently mix in the flour and cook for a minute or two. Then add 4 roma tomatoes, halved and slice thin. Cover and cook for another minute to release the juices. Make a bouquet garni with some thyme, black peppercorns and a bay leaf. Throw the meat and the veggie mixture into the pan with the bouquet garni and bake for about 2 1/2 hours with a cover on. I started out at 350 and reduced to 325 after about an hour.

Mean while blanch some green beans and cut up some turnips, carrots and potatoes. I used 4 of each and a bunch of green beans. You could add more if you want to go heavy on the vegetables. Steam the potatoes in one pan and the carrots and turnips in another (add salt to the potatoes and sugar to the other). We steamed ours by making a parchment paper cover. Set the veggies aside.

Right before the lamb is done, saute the potatoes in a little oil. Saute the carrots and turnips in a little oil with some sugar to make kind of a little glaze. Throw the green beans in for a minute towards the end just to heat them back up.

When the lamb and all the vegetables are done, put them all in a large bowl and gently mix to combine them. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat and enjoy!

When the chef made this in class and we all got to eat it, our class was ridiculously happy. It made my day. It is perfect for these damp, cold fall days and I can't wait to do it again.

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