Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cooking the Book – My New Orleans – Whole Roast Gulf Coast Lamb

Yes, it’s time for more Besh! This time I’m was looking to tackle one of the few lamb dishes in “My New Orleans”, whole roast gulf coast lamb. To begin, it’s a misleading title. There isn’t any whole lamb on a spit, slowly roasting in my front yard; although that does sound like a very good idea

The general gist of this recipe is to braise a few of the tougher cuts of lamb and then stuff them inside a boned, butterflied leg of lamb.

First was the shoulder of lamb.

After that was a few pounds of lamb bone in lamb chops. Both the shoulder and chops were seasoned on both sides with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon each dried thyme and dried chili flakes.

2 tablespoons of olive oil were added to my dutch oven on high heat. Both the shoulder and chops were placed in the pot.

I was looking for a good sear on each side of the meat. Now it looks like the shoulder got a little too much heat, oh well.

Once everything was browned, I added one diced onion to the pot, reduced the heat to medium, and cooked it all for about 10 minutes or just until the onions were brown.

They looked brown enough to me.

Next into the pot came 3 cloves of sliced garlic, 2 peeled and diced tomatoes and 1 sprig of rosemary.

Last in was 2 cups of Besh’s Basic Chicken Stock. From that point, everything was brought to a boil on medium-high. Once the pot reached a boil, it was set to low, covered and left to simmer for 1.5 hours or fork tender.

Now it was time to move onto the leg of lamb.

The first step was to remove the bone from this piece of Flying M Farm lamb.

So far, so good

Here was bone, and I was more than a little surprised.

My first effort to bone and butterfly a leg of lamb had mixed results.

Of course everything was seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.

With the lamb leg boned and butterflied, it was time to return to the braising lamb.

In a little less than 1.5 hours, I had lamb that was fork tender.

It took a little work with a knife and fork, but I soon had all the meat ready for the next step.

Once the braised meat had cooled, I arranged it in the middle of the lamb leg. After rolling the leg and liberal use of cooking twine, I had something like this.

Don’t forget the small cuts! They need slices of garlic and small sprigs of rosemary stuffed inside them. I’ll admit, it’s not too photogenic, but it’s the taste that matters most.

After 30 or so minutes in a 400 degree oven, the lamb was looking fantastic. However, you can’t forget about the braising liquid.

Cranking the heat to medium-high, I cooked the braising liquid until it was reduced by half and then strained.

Now, after 10 minutes of resting the lamb, it was time to see if my work had paid off.

Without the flash

Even with the flash, I think it looks pretty spectacular.

Drizzled with some of the reduced sauce, this was an ethereal lamb dish. Yes, like every other Besh dish, this one had been more than a little time consuming, but the results were well worth the effort. However, for as rich and lengthy as this recipe is, I think I’ll have to save it for holidays and other special occasions. Regardless, kudos again to John Besh.

Cooking the Book – My New Orleans – Jalapeno Cheese Grits & Slow-Cooked Veal Grillades

Ok, so there’s a disturbing Besh trend going on as of late. In the past few months, I’ve been to three of his restaurants and now I seem to be attacking his new cookbook, “My New Orleans”. What can I say? The man is a great chef. Now that I have that out of the way, it’s time for Grillades and grits.

However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Remember, this is a Besh recipe, there are rules and protocol to follow, and that means making a special stock, veal stock to be exact.

Besh’s veal stock is essentially the same as his other stock recipes, except 1 pound of veal bones are rubbed with oil and roasted for 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

The portions of vegetables are the same as the others, except three tablespoons of tomato paste are added with the celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic.

To make the stock even richer, a bottle of red wine is added along with the standard 3 quarts of water.

Two hours and a little bit of straining later, I end up with 2 quarts of rich, dark veal stock. Annoyingly there aren’t too many recipes that call for veal stock. So make sure you have room in your freezer.

I’m going to bend the timeline a little bit and skip right to the jalapeno cheese grits.

Since I waited a week to get gulf coast shrimp, I felt like I should only use the best grits. So stone ground grits are used for this recipe, Logan Turnpike Mill specifically.

If you don’t know how to make grits, don’t worry, it’s an easy process. I slowly poured 1 cup of grits into 4 cups of boiling water, making sure to whisk constantly. After that, it’s just reduce the heat to low, cover and cook till done.

In the meantime, I dry roasted a jalapeno until it was nice and dark on the outside.

The skin and seeds were removed and the pepper minced.

What was left of the pepper was added to the pot of grits.

Once the grits were done, the pot was taken off the heat and I was ready to add the rest of the ingredients.

3 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese and ¼ cup grated Edam cheese were folded in.

In just a few turns

I had a pot of delicious jalapeno cheese grits.

Now that I’ve covered both the grits and the veal stock, I can finally move on to the Grillades.

As interesting as it was, I’ll spare everyone the various stages of breaking the veal shoulder into thin cutlets.

The cutlets were then dredged in a mixture of 2 cups flour & 2 tablespoons Basic Creole Spices. From there, I fried them in batches in a Dutch oven on high heat with a good ¼ of bacon grease.

I did everything in small batches, just to ensure that each cutlet was getting a near crust and not stewing.

After the cutlets were browned, the heat was reduced to medium-high and 1 diced onion was added to the pot.

Besh seems to be very big on caramelizing the onions. The recipe calls for the onions to be cooked to a mahogany color.

When that color was achieved, I added in the ½ bell pepper diced, 1 celery stalk diced, and 2 cloves of minced garlic.

5 or so minutes later, the veggies looked ready for the next stage.

1 tablespoon of the spiced flour is next in the pot.

With the heat set back on high, 2 cups of canned tomatoes (drained, seeded, and diced) and 2 cups of the veal stock are added to the pot.

Once the pot was back to a boil, it was reduced to medium and it was time for more ingredients. The leaves from 1 sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce round out the bulk of the recipe.

However, I couldn’t forget the veal. I did my best to make sure every cutlet was submerged.

45 minutes later, I had a pot of tender veal Grillades that resisted all attempts to be photographed.

I couldn’t wait to taste the fruits of my labor.

Was it worth all the waiting, time, and effort? Yes, the veal really was sublime and the jalapeno cheese grits have quickly become a house favorite. A really interesting thing in the introduction to this recipe is that Besh says this is a recipe for cheaper cuts of meat. He even goes as far as saying Boston Butts would be a fair substitute. Maybe I’ll try that later on. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to decide which Besh recipe to try next.

Bon Ami - Jackson

There really is a lack of French cuisine in the Jackson area. Sure there are a few touches of French cuisine here and there. Shapley’s has escargot, and there is the occasional French onion soup on a menu, but for the most part, there’s nothing. With a name like Bon Ami, one would think that could be the epicenter of French cuisine in the Jackson metro area. However, you’d be quite wrong. In fact, I decided to have lunch at Bon Ami for a decidedly non-French reason; I was there to try a burger.

With a lunch menu featuring a plethora of salads and paninis, the Bon Ami cheese burger does seem a little out of place. Coincidentally, I felt just as out of place. The lunch crowd at Bon Ami really does skew more towards the fairer sex, and the guy looking for a burger sticks out a little bit.

Regardless of the crowd, the service at Bon Ami is not too shabby and in no time at all, I had my order in and a cup of soup at my table.

The French onion soup at Bon Ami has a very rich taste to it, but I was surprised at the lack of onions. Another odd feature of the soup was the lack of melted gruyere. Sure the melted mozzarella is a decent choice, but I’ve grown accustomed to gruyere on my French onion soup. So, this is a good example but far from great.

I had been warned it would take a while to prepare the burger, but it seemed like a seamless transition from soup to burger.

The first thing I noticed is the simple, but pleasant presentation, especially the sliced & fried potatoes.

In reality there wasn’t much to the potatoes at all. It really seemed like they were simply sliced, fried, and put on the plate. They weren’t especially crispy, and they were in dire need of seasonings, salt in particular.

Moving on to the burger, the caramelized onions on top are an immediate plus. However the patty was a little overcooked and just lacking in general. When I bite into a simple burger, I expect the simple beefiness to shine through, there just wasn’t any beef flavor in the Bon Ami burger. Sure, with ketchup, salt, pepper, and mustard, you have plenty to mask the lack of flavor, but they’re all bandaids on a bullet hole. Sure it helps a little, but you’re still in a dire situation.

It may sound like I’m damning Bon Ami for their lackluster burger, but I’m really not too surprised. It really seems to be an odd man out on their menu. There aren’t many options lunch options that are grilled. In fact the burger is the only dish that even features beef. The only reason I came to try the burger is that it came so highly recommended by my friend Nick, but in retrospect it was a bit like going to a Chinese restaurant and judging it solely on the French fries from the buffet. So, I’ll give Bon Ami another try and next time I’ll give them a fair shot.

For Bon Ami part 2, please click here