Thursday, 17 April 2014

Honey Mustard Lamb en Croûte

Bipolar weather aside, one can arguably assert that spring has sprung in Eastern Canada. Various flower shoots have made themselves known (only to be buried again by snow) and what is perhaps our best meteorological indicator (facebook) has been alight with endless comments about the weather. With pastel colours and bunny-shaped everything coming to the forefront of our day to day existence we are faced by the inescapable fact that Easter is upon us. With this said, what is better than celebrating spring and the holiest of holy days than the slaughtering and eating of everyone's petting zoo favorite: the lovely lamb? Nothing, the answer is nothing. Now, I know I'm not sounding particularly encouraging here, certainly as I'm supposed to be convincing you to try this recipe but lets face it, the whole lamb thing is a bit chilling, moreso when you think of all of the Christian Easter parallels you could make.Unfortunately for the lamb though, it was born with one great misfortune, that of being both prized and delectable.

Kudos goes to Tyson's beautiful hand and his honey drizzling skills

On this topic, it is my firm belief that lamb, like veal and other adorable animals is subject to the  taste to cuteness ratio (should I have a trademark here or something?) whereby the overall taste of the animal is determined by how adorable it is. While science dictates that baby animals are delicious due to softness and lack of muscle development (leading to toughness), one could equally argue, with substantially less scientific backing, that these critters are made delicious as an internalized response to the fact that you feel extra bad about eating the wee thing. Who knows! What I can vouch for however, is that with all this being said and done, lamb is delicious, holding a special place in my heart and generating warm and fuzzy sensations that have nothing to do with its fluffy appearance.

As this was my first attempt at cooking lamb, I can, in retrospect modify (slightly) my recipe. The cut of lamb I had was one which I was unfamiliar with, not being someone who partakes in this sinful delight often. It was rather fatty and had a substantial bone in it. Faced with this fearsome beast, I must admit that I wasn't entirely sure how to dress it up (more like pork? more like beef? I've never cooked mutton or goat...hmmm). In this case, I chose to issue the animal the culinary equivalent of shirt and tails  so to speak, being classed up with a fine coating of crushed croutons, herbs mustard and garlic, making a nice shell to keep all the yummy in one place and making for a perfectly moist roast. Problem? This cut was richer than I had presumed, being thick with fat and bone, sealing it hermetically in a head to hoof coating of oiled croutons and creamy mustard gave us the equivalent of our aforementioned coat tail lamb presenting itself at a particularly casual summer barbecue, one perhaps hosted by nudists. As one could surmise from such a situation, the lamb and I were faced with considerable awkwardness and were both suitably embarrassed. While I have no idea how the overdressed lamb may have acted in the continuation of my metaphorical wanderings (it is late ok?) I do know that once I'd served it that the fat needed to be cut by something. Solution? A dry wine with some edge, some largely unadorned veg and a zingy lemon cranberry rice, BAM! the meal was saved.

Now, with this said and done, I  must testify that in retrospect I should have prepared it with plain breadcrumbs, as the rich croutons were a tad too rich. HOWEVER (let me win back a wee bit of my ego, please?) had I instead had a leaner piece of lamb, one which was without bone to keep it moist, then by keeping the croutons we would have guaranteed a succulent roast from an otherwise dry cut. All this to say, live and learn folks, live and learn (on another note, will you shut up Nick? This is a food post not a collection of the works of Victor Hugo I'm obviously in essay writing mode)

Anyway, blah blah blah... lamb up!


-1 kg lamb (check if it's lean/bone in/etc!)
-1 c. breadcrumbs made of croutons (or just regular breadcrumbs, though it is lamb, at least give it the honour of baguette breadcrumbs or something, not store bought or god forbid ground wonder bread! I'm watching you!)
-4 cloves garlic (finely grated)
-Rosemary (1 sprig, chopped)
-Thyme (Also one sprig)
-½ c. creamy Dijon
-2tbsp honey
-Juice of ½ lemon

 Preheat Oven to 425

Load segment of lamb onto a roasting pan

Squeeze lemon on the lamb, coating it

                                                                     Salt and pepper generously

            Insert the fearsome beast into the oven for about 20 minutes to sear it, although apparently "sealing the juices in" is an old wive's tale, it still makes it nice and purty.

Behold "purty" lamb

While the lamb is roasting, mince your garlic and prep your herbs, chopping them finely.

 Mix the herbs into the crouton/bread crumbs.

 Combine mustard and honey until homogenous (ie more than that).
 Slather the beast in mustard sauce, like you're giving it a well deserved moisturizing after a sauna treatment.

Now cover it with the breadcrumb mixture...the sauna analogy ends here...unless it doesn't...either way that's between your imagination and you.

Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes or so until deliciously tender!

                                                          Serve warm with simple sides and good chutney!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Caramel and Chocolate Peanut Brittle Bars with Fleur de Sel

As the lack of updates may have made clear, the end of the semester has shown its ugly head. Writing, reading, presenting and lecturing has been as draining and time consuming as it has been rewarding. With PhD schools on the mind, a research trip to Europe which has yet to be planned, (but is less than three weeks away!?) time for anything else has been sparse indeed. Excuses aside though, spring appears to have finally sprung (fingers crossed!) and this needs to be celebrated! Now how do we celebrate spring? Well we do it by eating decadent delights (duh)! Why might you ask? Well first of all, for everyone weight conscious, we all know that as summer approaches we begin obsessing a bit more about our looks, the infamous concept of the "beach body" emerges on our radar and makes most people (though they may loathe to admit it) shift uncomfortably in their skins.  Early Spring is the last part of the year where the idea of even wearing a bathing suit seems like a vague and remote speck on the horizon. On a less superficial note though? This recipe is heavy on the caramel and caramel, done right, means slaving over a hot stove, not exactly ideal for summer. In a badly influenced budget apartment in winter/late spring however? Heat is ALWAYS appreciated.

Oh...reading this, were you looking for a reason to make these? Really? Seriously now? You need me to provide a reason for you to make salted caramel squares with chocolate? Are you unwell? Ill? Broken? No? Then spoon to hand folks, get that oven fired up and lets get to work!

P.s. Apologies for the lack of step by step pictures this time, this was rush job! The recipe is rather straightforward though! The caramel is the only complicated part and David Lebowitz has a wonderful illustrated recipe for caramel on his website here which inspired my caramel!
should you want to take a look at it
Preheat Oven to 350


For The crust:
3/4 cup butter (melted)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup oats
2 tsp baking soda

Pour melted butter in, bake 10 min

For the Caramel:
1/4 c. butter
1/2c. cream 15%
1 c sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/2c. semi-sweet of dark chocolate chunks (I used chips but only because I was strapped for time, chunks are mucho sexier)
 1/2c. Salted peanuts
A few generous pinches of fleur de sel

1) Melt butter, assemble dry ingredients for crust, once the butter is melted combine it all
2) Form crust in an 8x8 pan, bake at 350 for 10 minutes
3) While the crust is baking, measure out your toppings and set aside 
4) Pour the sugar and vanilla extract for the caramel into a pan or pot, make sure that your receptacle is quite large as the caramel will foam later on. Cook on medium heat, cooking constantly until fully melted.
5) While the sugar is melting down, heat the butter and cream on low heat until well-warmed and butter is melted, turn on heat, set by until ready.
6) Remove crust from oven, once the sugar on the stove has turned a nice deep brown, add the cream/butter mixture while mixing, if you have someone around, don't hesitate to have them pour the cream mixture in while you stir as you need to stir fast
7) Once the mixture has formed a smooth caramel, pour immediately onto the finished crust. 
8)While the caramel is still liquidy, pour chocolate and peanuts evenly over the surface and dust with fleur de sel, let cool until set (or eat it all gooey and liquidy, it'll be gross looking but oh so delicious!).