After a miserably hot summer, August has proven to be quite mild this year – the other day dropping to the low 60′s. Needless to say, I complained about the chill, which gave me a head cold and has laid me up with the sniffles and whines. But the cooler weather does mean I can use the kitchen more, whereas a few weeks ago even boiling water increased the ambient temperature in the apartment from unbearable to murderous. It also means I hanker for more substantive meals – like tonight’s braised lamb leg and chevre infused mashed potatoes. Hearty and stick-to-your-ribs, this rich, glorious, tender mutton was ideally paired with fluffy potatoes flavored with goat-cheesy gameyness, all topped with cooling cucumber tzatziki. Even if my cold has gotten worse, the ingestion of such delicious stuff did make me feel better…
Slow Braised Lamb Leg with Goat Cheese Mashed Potato
2lb boneless leg of lamb
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
2-3 cups small tomatoes
2 tbs fresh oregano leaves
1-1 1/2lbs white potatoes
1/2 cup half & half
4 oz goat cheese
3 tbs butter
8 oz Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber
1-2 tbs lemon zest
sea salt, cracked black pepper
2 tbs chopped chives
Usually, I make a larger piece of lamb so Clayton and I can make sandwiches with the leftovers, but today I just purchased what looked more like a 3″ thick steak than anything else. It was rolled and tied, which I ultimately could have removed (since, as you’ll see, it unraveled on its own accord later), but for now I just dusted the whole hunk with salt, pepper, and flour before dropping it into my medium roasting pan with a glug of EVOO heated to high.
These are some of our little tomatoes, grown on our wee roof-deck. We’re calling them compost tomatoes, since they sprang unbidden from the compost-mixed-dirt Clayton filled the boxes with before actually planting any seedlings. They’re delicious — very sweet and complex — although their skins are very thick and a bit tough. Still – we keep getting scads of these, so I decided to use most of them to make a sort of tomato sauce for the lamb.
After the mutton joint is browned all over, I add most of my chopped onion (reserving about 3 tbs for my yogurt sauce), my oregano leaves, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, and my de-stemmed tomatoes to the pan.
Even though it’s cool enough to use the oven, I decide to throw the pan, covered with foil, out into Little Red on the deck anyway. I shut the lid, and let this braise for about an hour before checking on it.
Meanwhile, I remove the skin and seeds from my cucumber, trying to drain out as much liquid as possible. Tzatziki shouldn’t be too wet, so I sometimes even salt the cucumber and let it drain some more if I fear it will leech too much into the yogurt. I also mince some garlic very finely; I’ll only need a 1/4 teaspoon or so, since raw garlic is so very potent.
At the hour mark, my meat is already tender, and I can almost pull it apart with two forks. As you can see, it also wiggled its way out of the butcher’s net – so I fish that out of the pan and chuck it in the trash. At this point, I remove the foil paper and close the lid on Little Red again, so that the meat can brown some more and most of the remaining chicken stock can boil off.
Clayton was in charge of the potatoes today, and he got them started before I could snap any pictures. Luckily, I caught him in the act and snapped this little, relatively uninformative candid. But basically, we peeled the potatoes, cut them into smaller pieces, and boiled them until tender in salted water. Then he he added the half & half, butter, and goat cheese to the pan, and mashed everything up together real nice. A little salt and pepper was added, too.
… which I put on high heat on the stovetop to reduce even further, stirring well to blend all the ingredients together. This makes the tomatoes spill their guts into the hot oil and chicken fat, thickening the sauce to a red gravy.
A hearty helping of chevre mashed potatoes is layered with tender, juicy, flavorful lamb, the gameyness of which is cut by a perfect balance of tomato and creamy cucumber tzatziki. I drizzle a little of the red oil leftover in the pan over the whole dish, and scatter some fresh chives for color and zip. My heart is warmed through by the incredible taste, and my aching body thanks me for providing it with such sublime enrichment. If I have more dishes like these on my winter horizon, I won’t mind it when the cold weather finally comes.
One final parting shot for my dear readers: the breathtaking Cambridge sky. If only my camera could really capture all the magnificent beauty. Dearest Uprooted Magnolia, where are you and your camera-eye when I need you?