Lamb is a favorite at my house. Fortuitously, lamb is also this week’s selection to celebrate spring holidays as Cook the Book Fridays cooks through the last spring season from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. This week’s recipe covers the full menu: Roast Lamb with Braised Vegetables and Salsa Verde.
Sourcing the lamb shoulder was a bit challenging. These days, according to the butcher at several local grocery chains, most lamb comes in pre-packaged. That means instead of a whole shoulder, the store is shipped packages of shoulder chops. Just as I decided we would butterfly and grill a leg of lamb instead and only follow the recipe for the braised vegetables and salsa verde, my ever-resourceful husband located a whole lamb shoulder at a more urban meat market not too far away.
Our whole shoulder had some extra bony parts that needed to be separated (we think it was the top part of the ribs). They aren’t very meaty but will add lots of flavor to a lamb stock – coming to my kitchen some time soon.
This dinner was very easy to put together – and impressive enough for company. Slits in the lamb are stuffed with garlic and anchovies before roasting the lamb for a few hours in a pan with white wine to keep things moist. I felt I could have used much less liquid for the same effect. The toughest part was carefully flipping the lamb twice without not having it splash down into its wine bath, making a big mess.
While the lamb roasts, we cut up a variety of vegetables to braise in butter and water (I was out of chicken stock). Baby potatoes, carrot rounds, parsnip batons and turnip wedges cooked with some sautéed shallots and sprigs of thyme. I usually steam or roast my vegetables, so I was happy to learn this easy and delicious technique.
While the lamb roasts, I also put together the salsa verde. You can use any variety of herbs. I used parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano (the last two from my herb garden). Lemon zest, green olives, capers, garlic, more shallot and a large dose of olive oil complement the herbs to create a lovely sauce.
When everything is done, this is served in shallow bowls: vegetables and their flavorful liquid provide the base for chunks of tender lamb. Each guest can spoon salsa verde over the lamb and vegetables to taste.
We enjoyed this one though I’m more likely to repeat the braised vegetables or the salsa verde than the roast lamb shoulder. This time around, I skipped the Panisse Puffs which were a spectacular failure when I made them back in July 2017. With leftovers, I might try to make socca – chickpea pancakes – to sop up the tasty juices.
The lamb meal was much more successful that last week’s Salmon Burgers from Dorie Greenspan’s newest book Everyday Dorie. It’s not that we didn’t like the burgers exactly, but we felt like there are better uses for fresh wild salmon. The flavors and texture were nice enough, but when salmon is $17 a pound, I’d much rather eat that fillet grilled. I think we’d have liked these just as much if I’d used canned wild salmon. I might even try that another time.
I sautéed the first batch of burgers in a non-stick cast-iron grill pan where it stuck in all the grooves. That happens with everything I cook in that pan, not sure why. For the second batch, I switched to my cast-iron skillet with much better results — more surface area to sear plus no sticking.
I forgot to make the pickled onions, but the burgers tasted good on Martin’s potato rolls topped with sliced avocado with the recommended cole slaw on the side.
The salmon burgers were good, just not good enough to repeat with fresh salmon.
The lamb recipe can be found on page 203 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen and the salmon burgers are on page 174 of Everyday Dorie. If you’re curious what the other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of these recipes, check out their posts following links for lamb here and salmon burgers here.
I love cheesecake! It’s so rich that don’t eat it very often, but when I do, I always think I should try making one myself. I prefer the dense New York style cheesecake to lighter airier ones. I was excited when reading the headnote for this week’s Cook the Book Fridays recipe challenge for Dee’s Fantastic Cheesecake to see that Dee originally hailed from New York and created this recipe in Paris to recreate the flavors of home.
The only “unusual” ingredient was fromage blanc, a style of soft and creamy fresh cheese from France. I was unable to find this (in spite of searching the Vermont Creamery website to determine which stores in my area stocked fromage blanc; the search results turned out to be inaccurate). The substitute recommended in the recipe (cottage cheese blitzed until smooth) was untenable as I cannot stand the sight of cottage cheese – the curds completely gross me out. Some googling in the grocery store indicated the quark, which was in stock, made a suitable substitute.
As far as effort goes, this cheesecake couldn’t be easier. The ingredients are combined in a stand mixer until they are smooth and creamy. There is no crust, just creamy filling. The mixture is turned into a buttered springform pan (wrapped on the outside with foil to contain any leaks) and baked, then rested in the oven with the heat turned off. I sampled the batter before it baked, and it had the right flavor profile for a New York cheesecake. The hardest part was waiting for it to cool enough to serve at the optimal temperature.
Once adequately chilled, I cut slices for tasting. Sadly, the texture wasn’t what I’d been anticipating. It wasn’t at all dense. Howard even described the texture as feathery. I’m not sure whether the issue is the recipe or me. Admittedly, I made a half recipe, baking it in a 6-inch pan. I winged it on the cooking time adjustments. For the initial baking step, there weren’t any clues to doneness in the recipe. I reduced the baking time from 70 minutes to 55 minutes. After that, it took an hour-and-a-half for the center to be set but still jiggly. And even though the texture isn’t what I was hoping for, maybe it’s the way the recipe is meant to be. Hard to know.
I want to put in a plug for a new cookbook I discovered while browsing at the bookstore last week. It’s hot off the presses, from someone I’d never heard of. As you probably know, I love figuring out the best way to use as much of an ingredient as possible, saving vegetable scraps and bones for stock, herb stems to infuse vinegar, etc. The Nimble Cook by Ronna Welsh has so many new ideas to aid my quest! I’m so excited for spring vegetables to start a season of trying out some of her suggestions.