Crispy Fried Pork Chops, Sweet Potatoes, Dark and Creamy Umame Gravy

DSCN4332I have been obsessed with frying things ever since I read SeriousEats.com’s tutorial on Korean Fried Chicken.  The technique they describe worked with chicken wings perfectly, so I wondered if I could do the same thing with other fryables.  It worked very nicely with shrimp – creating something of a tempura-type crackling coating – but how about something really substantial?  I mean, chicken wings are pretty small, and shrimp only get so big, too (to wit, at 4’10” am I perpetually addressed as ‘shrimp’ or ‘shortie’, neither of which makes me particularly happy).  How’s about a meaty pork chop?  My days in the south exposed me to the wonders of a perfectly fried chop, coated with a buttermilk batter and pan fried, served usually with a white gravy and some collards.  I decided to work up my own version of a fried pork chop, using a simple flour/vodka slurry as the breading, some sweet potatoes and mushrooms as the complements, and my favorite soy sauce cream gravy (click here to see a variation on the theme).  The results were fantastic!

Crispy Fried Pork Chops, Sweet Potatoes, Dark and Creamy Umame Gravy

2 thick, center-cut pork chops
3/4 cups corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup gin or vodka
vegetable oil for frying
EVOO
8-10 button mushrooms
2 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
snipped scallions/chives for garnish

DSCN4305I love pork chops, especially when they look like little T-bone steaks, like these.  This cut includes both a little of the tenderloin as well as the regular rib meat, which provides some textural variety on the plate.

DSCN4307I start by mixing my cornstarch, baking powder, and some spices in a large ziplock bag.

DSCN4308In go my chops, and I shake the bag vigorously to coat them with the cornstarch mixture.

DSCN4310I place the chops uncovered in my fridge on a rack so they can dry out a bit — about 30 minutes.

DSCN4311Meanwhile, I remove the stems from my mushrooms, reserving them to use later.

DSCN4312I get 2 tbs of butter and a glug of EVOO nice and hot in my large fry-pan…

DSCN4314… and I layer my mushrooms in the hot fat, sprinkling them with a little salt and pepper.

DSCN4315I make sure they cook fully on top…

DSCN4317… and on bottom.

DSCN4319While these are simmering, I pull out my chops, on which the cornstarch/baking powder has gummed up a bit – just the way I want it.

DSCN4321In a large bowl, I’ve whisked my flour, water, and gin together to make a very thin batter.

DSCN4323Holding the chops with tongs by clipping it on the T-bone allows for me to dunk all the meaty bits into the slurry to thoroughly coat each piece.

DSCN4323aI add enough vegetable oil to a deep-sided pan to just cover the chops, and I bring this to a medium high temperature – about 350°F.  Of course, I don’t have a thermometer to help me gauge this, so I just drip a little flour batter into the pan periodically until the drop immediately sizzles and starts to brown upon hitting the surface of the oil.  It’s ready for my chops at that point.

DSCN4325I slide both chops carefully into the oil, making sure not to splatter myself like I usually do.  (Thank God for OxyClean, or just about all my clothes would have constellations of oil drips on them.)  Since these chops are thick, I let them fry for about 10 minutes on each side.

DSCN4329While this happens, I add my soy sauce and heavy cream to the mushrooms in the pan, which I bring to simmer on low heat, stirring regularly so the flavors can blend.

DSCN4325aWhen the chops are a nice golden brown on the bottom, it’s time to flip them carefully to the other side. Another 10 minutes or so will do it.

DSCN4326I’ve been baking my sweet potatoes all along, by the way.  After an hour on 350°, I can easily squeeze them with my oven-mitted fingers, so I pull them out…

DSCN4328… remove their bright orange insides to a bowl, where I mash them with my remaining butter.

DSCN4331These savory pork chops have a cracking, super-crunchy, egg-shell thin coating are super-tender and juicy.  The simple sweet mash is offset by a rich, dark, silky and fragrant soy cream gravy, and each button of mushroom bursts with flavor on the tongue.  Not only is this a very easy recipe, but it presents itself elegantly on the plate, and can satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.  Now, what else can I fry?

Steak with Drunken Shiitake Cream, Manchego Spinach, and Sweet Potato Spears

There are times in this carnivorous woman’s life when she absolutely needs meat.  Last night was one of those nights.  If I looked back over my past posts, I’m sure I’ll see a few where I’ve opened with this sentiment before, and I’m quite sure I’ll do so again.  (Check back in a month.)  That doesn’t change the fact that last night’s meatstravaganza was essentially a blue plate dinner: steak, spinach, and fries.  But since it was one of Lolita’s meatstravaganzas, the steak was a crusty seared medium-rare ribeye bathed in shiitake mushrooms drowning in brandy and cream, the spinach was melted with nutty manchego cheese, and the fries were EVOO roasted sweet potato spears — all three offerings several orders of magnitude better than one’s typical diner fare.  And all just the ticket to replenish my dwindling energy.  Today, I’m a powerhouse of cow-fueled enthusiasm.  Thanks, Bessie!  You were delicious…

Steak with Drunken Shiitake Cream, Manchego Spinach, and Sweet Potato Spears

1 nice, thick cut ribeye steak
1 small, narrow long sweet potato
4oz shiitake mushrooms
1 shallot
4-6oz baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
EVOO
sea salt, cracked black pepper

As you can see, almost all of my ingredients came from Trader Joe’s down the street, where the husbandman now has a part-time job while he goes to school (and where he was while I enjoyed this meal solo).  I never used to buy their meats, preferring to get mine from Whole Foods around the corner, but we need the discount so I’ve been trying them out lately.  I have to say, I’m pretty impressed!  This was a beautiful steak.

This could almost qualify as a weeknight wondermeal, since I had it finished within 30 minutes, but there are a few too many ingredients and cookware needed to really make the grade.  Still, it was fairly simple to make, especially considering the excellent result.  At any rate, roasting the sweet potato was going to take the longest period of time, so I started by washing it and slicing it into 8 spears.  These get tossed with EVOO, salt, and pepper, and laid out on a baking sheet.  I pop ‘em in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, during which time I make everything else.

Steak.  All I add to it is some fresh cracked black pepper.  I throw it into a medium hot non-stick pan, and I use the flip once-a-minute technique to capture all those lovely juices, and to sear it to a perfect medium rare.  This takes about 10 flips total – for about 5 minutes on each side.

When it’s almost ready, I get my spinach started by simply throwing it all into a hot pan, and tossing it until it wilts.  No water – no butter – just spinach and heat.  It actually sort of melts on its own, and releases its own juices, but I want a drier product than a typical creamed spinach which is why I’m prepping it this way this time.

As the spinach starts to reduce, and when my steak is done, I move it to a warm plate and keep it covered while I make the sauce.  I start with a minced shallot, sauteed until translucent in a glug of EVOO.

I then add my washed and patted dry shiitake mushrooms, which I’m keeping whole.  Unlike crimini or white mushrooms, which have plumper caps and take longer to soften, I throw these in whole, along with half of my brandy to get them started.  I toss this very well, distributing the heat, so that my mushrooms can wilt and soften.

Like my spinach, which is completely shrunken and dense now, instead of  leafy and voluminous.

In goes my shredded manchego cheese and my milk (which just helps melt the cheese).  I toss this well until everything is nicely incorporated, and season it with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, I add my sour cream and the rest of my brandy to my mushrooms, which I mix well again and cook over medium heat until the sauce is thick and creamy.

Finally, I pull out my sweet potato spears, which are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

My tender, chewy mushrooms have soaked up all that brandy, scenting them with floral sweetness, imbuing the cream sauce with delightful nuances.  The bed of spinach which props up my juicy bloody steak is a delicious balance of vetegal greenness and nutty Spanish cheese, and the caramelized potato spears provide just the right amount of starch to the plate.  The perfect bite is a forkful with a bit of everything on it: ribeye, ‘shroom, cream, veg, and potato.  All the right stuff for dinner, made just the right way.  ‘Nuff said.

Warm Sweet Potato, Frisée, and Duck Salad with Cherries and Cracklins

Clayton and I felt oppressed the other night. A particular brand of home-based oppression we’ve been suffering under for some while, and when we feel like that, we gots to GO. And go we did — to one of our neighborhood’s chic’est joints: Central Kitchen.  It is about an 8 minute walk, right up the street, from our little pad.  And when we got there, we had a nigh on *perfect* meal.  I mean, everything was prepared, seasoned, and served just right.  EVERYTHING.  They totally had their game on that night.  Out of it all, though, the dish I loved best was this lovely warm duck salad with sweet root vegetables, currants, frisée, and some sort of simple complex dressing.  I just about licked the plate; Clayton got, like, one bite.

Tonight, I’m flying solo; Clayton’s out of town.  Since I didn’t let him eat any of this at the restaurant, I thought tonight would be a perfect time for me to make this and be totally guilt-free about not sharing.  I mean – he’s all out having fun in DC, and I’m stuck here bringing home the bacon.  So, this was my reimagining of that perfect dish, and I have to tell you, I think I knocked it out of the park.  I couldn’t find the currants at Savenors, although they did have some duck confit legs (I’ll have to make these for myself one of these days, but for now, I let D’Artagnan do all the hard work).  Since I had some dried bing cherries at home, I didn’t worry about the currants.  I also purchased a nice wee head of frisée, and a pleasingly misshapen yam.

My gastronomic precognitive powers were at an all-time high last night, and – almost in a dream – I found myself quick-pickling a carrot I had in the fridge – and it provided just the dressing, and just the bitter sweetness, this dinner required.  I first ran it across  my mandoline’s lowest setting, and then sliced it into even thinner ribbons.  I dumped those in a zipper bag, and added 1/2 cup of salt, 1/4 sugar, and some cracked black pepper.

The final ingredient for a quick sweet pickling process is vinegar.  But since I wanted my carrot shreds to be even sweeter, I used some of my own tarragon vinegar, which I always have on hand.  All one needs is some fresh tarragon, white wine vinegar, and a bottle.  And what a difference the tarragon makes; fennel-sweet, richly aromatic, yet still the dry bitter tang vinegar’s supposed to impart.

I added enough to cover the carrots, and then pressed all the air out of the bag before I placed it in my fridge last night.  Like I said, I almost can’t remember doing this, but obviously, I did.  Nice!

Roasting sweet potatoes takes patience, even when you peel one and break it down into perfect little cubes like this.  But for my serving idea for this salad, I want lots of little bites.  I toss them with EVOO, sea salt, and cracked black pepper, and then throw them into a large ceramic dish on 300° to roast for 30-45 minutes.  I wanted them nice and soft, but lightly caramelized on the edges.

I succeeded.


I then roast my confit legs.  It takes about 20 minutes on 400°, which is fine.  I just wrap my potatoes in foil to keep warm; I’m going to heat the whole salad through again later, sort of, anyway.  You’ll see what I mean…

I break out my frisée, and cut off the core.  Then I wash it thoroughly in my salad spinner, and toss it into a large bowl.

I pull the fat and skin off the top of my now sizzling hot roasting duck legs, place the skins back in the ceramic dish, and then back in the oven, now set to broil, for 5-8 more minutes to crisp and render, while I prep the salad.  Using two forks, I shred all that rich, dark, steaming, glistening duck meat off the bones.  And I pick, here and there, just to make sure it, y’know, hasn’t gone bad… which I know it hasn’t… but still I pick… it’s my right.

Remember this?  My overnight sweet pickled carrot ribbons are pulled out of the fridge, and I tentatively taste one slice I fish out of the bag.  It’s pickled, all right.  The flavor when the thread touches my tongue is almost saccharin-rich at the very onset, complex with an ouzo-esque opulence,  but that experience evaporates immediately into an absinthian dryness.  I’m not sure if I love it, but I decide to have faith in the ingredients I’ve assembled: a fatty dark meat, snappy, sinewy greens, and toothsome starchy yams.  I think (spoiler alert: I was  right!) that each item will compliment, in fact, almost *need* each other ingredient to make this dinner the delight I desire.  To me, that’s what this cooking stuff is all about. So, I dump about 1/2 the dressing into my bowl with the duck, potatoes, and greens.  I remove my cracklins from the oven, and pour 1 tbs of the duck fat over the contents of the bowl.  Hot grease over a salad?  For shame!  But wait — methinks I remember fondly that mid 90’s craze for hot bacon dressing, which was basically bacon fat and vinegar.  With that factoid for reinforcement, I toss away.  After all, this is what wilts my greens and rewarms my potatoes, along with the already hot duck meat.

 

Cherries.  I love these things.  I can sit for a whole night and ingest a pound of these.  I’m more apt to do so when they are concentrated and dried like they are here, but I would go all Witches of Eastwick on fresh ones if I could.  I think the Bible got it wrong: the fruit of temptation wasn’t the apple, it was the cherry, baby.  I throw a handful into the bowl, and mix well.

I pack an 8 oz conical juice-glass tightly with my salad, and then turn the formation onto a plate.  I drape some of my pickled carrots over the mound, scatter a few cherries and chopped duck cracklins over everything, and then drizzle some balsamic glaze at the last moment.  Although I’m not happy with my pedestrian curlie-que drizzling style (yes, I know… it looks like cheap chocolate sauce squirted over a dessert plate at Applebee’s), the impulse was a good one.   Delicious duck, yummy yams, luscious lettuce, perfect pickled carrots, chewy cherries, crispy cracklin, and beautiful balsamic glaze.  A sophisticated dinner served for one.  Run towards me all you want, young Billy Baldwin and sexy Cindy Crawford (yes, I’m watching FAIR GAME.  Sue me.).  Run as fast as you can.  You still won’t get to me before I dive headfirst into this delectable delight, and I doubt there’ll be any left when you get here.

 

Duck Confit on FoodistaDuck Confit

Moulard Duck Breast over Cubed Root Vegetables with Thyme Cream

Today was windy and chilly, and yesterday was rainy and dark.  These conditions demanded warmth, but the impending beach season requires heartiness sans too much fattiness.  Mind you: I don’t say completely without some fun-lovin’ fats – like the sweet, quivering layer of it atop my duck’s breast, or the few tbs EVOO, or the tbs butter, or the wee bit o’ cream.  But everything else is all veggies — I swear!

What you’ll need:

Three small-medium sized purple beets
Three small-medium sized parsnips
1 large sweet potato
1 large white onion
1 large purple-topped turnip
1 large duck breast — this is about 14 oz.
1 shallot
EVOO
sea salt, cracked black pepper
fresh rosemary
fresh thyme
1/2 & 1/2
1 tbs butter

Beets.  I lived 35 years before ever hearing someone profess their love for them, 37 years before ever trying them for myself, and 39 years before ever attempting to make them, I have finally fallen in love with beets.  Their color, their complex sweetness, their inimitable texture… I mean – just look at them!?!  They’re nature’s perfect purple balls!

A wash mine, douse them in EVOO, wrap them tightly in two layers of foil paper, and roast them in a 400° oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until I can easily pierce them with the tines of a fork.

My other root veggies: a turnip, for pepper sharpness; a sweet potato, for tangy sweetness; some parsnips, for rich complexity; and one onion, for tender flavor.  My idea is to dice each veg into roughly equally sized miniature cubes.  Why? I dunno.  I think it will look pretty and be fun to eat…

Starting with my spud, I peel it, cut it down to the largest “block” I can, and slice it into 1/4″ thick slices…

… which I then cut into 1/4″ cubes.

I do the same with my parsnips.  Here they are, in a shaft of late afternoon sunlight, with my growing pile of compost for our kitchen worms in the shadowy background.

After dicing each veg into the same small little cubes, I toss everything gently with EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and crushed fresh rosemary, and spread it in a single layer in a porcelain baking dish.  I throw this baby into a hot 400° oven, and roast for 30 minutes.

Now this is the making of a nice rack.  I’ve never purchased D’Artagnan’s Moulard Duck Breast before, but was happy to do so after visiting Wilson Farm (from whence I purchased all the lovely veggies in this meal) and seeing this hearty Parton portion sitting so prettily upon the shelf.  A rinse and a pat dry, and…

… I lay her, fat side down, into a COLD pan on a COLD eye of my stovetop.

Then, and only then, do I turn up my heat to medium high.  This starting from cold and heating pan and poultry together technique helps ensure an evenly cooked breast to a perfectly seared fatcap.

Duck should ideally (read: never!) be served cooked more than medium-rare.  Because this is one thick  bird, I’m cooking her for about 6 minutes on each side, pouring off the fat from the pan every few moments. I cover only with a mesh screen, and not a lid–I don’t want to steam it, I want to sear it!

After the fat has nicely browned, I flip the breast meat-side-down, and cook for another six minutes.  There’s no need to drain the fat as often now, but I  still shake the pan every once in a while to keep the meat from sticking.

Meanwhile, I mince my shallot…

… and pull the leaves off of several stems of fresh thyme.

I melt 1 tbs butter in a small saucepan.

I add my thyme and shallots, and stir well, sautéing gently in the melted butter.  I then add about 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2, and set to simmer so it will thicken and savor.  This is going to be the mildest milk cream to pour sparingly, but lovingly, over my veggies and duck.

I’ve diced my beets like I diced roots and I’ve tossed them with sea salt, black pepper, and EVOO.  I remove my breast from the heat, and have sliced it very thinly, on the bias, and fanned it across a healthy bed of my now perfectly roasted diced roots.

A heavenly hash of earthy roots forms a nest for crisp seared Moulard duck breast, studded with purple bits of ruby,  and doused in a shallot thyme milk sauce.  The combination of textures (from toothsome to tender) and flavors (from meaty rich to bursting beets to sweet savory cream) are exactly the fortification I need for what lies ahead this sure-to-be-exhausting week.

Ode to Ramsay: Roasted Root Vegetables, Pan-Seared Cod, and Thyme Cream

After a delicious br/lunch at maze this weekend, I just had to try to recreate what I ate. Problem: I had chicken, and Clayton – who washed all the laundry, painted the bathroom, fixed the roof-deck, and basically slaved away for our house while I blew a huge wad on a girl’s trip to NYC – wanted and deserved fish. Cod is, in my opinion, the ocean’s chicken-fish, and luckily Whole Foods had some lovely filets for a lovely price. But the roasted diced root vegetables and the thyme cream was all Gordon Ramsay’s idea (although his was a veloute as opposed to a cream sauce, but I had no white stock to work with…)

Start with:

4 parsnips
2-3 medium carrots
2 turnips
1 lemon (ignore his friend)

1 large sweet potato (or yam)
2 medium onions

10-14 brussel sprouts

Peel all your roots, and trim your brussel sprouts.

Dice the carrots, turnips, parsnips, and sweet potato.  Toss into a large ceramic baking dish with your largely diced onion, brussell sprouts, and some salt and pepper. Coat all the veggies well with EVOO, and throw into a 400° oven for at least 40 minutes. Stir occasionally, just to keep all the surfaces moist and to sear in the heat.

Cod. It’s good.

Slice your cod into manageable pieces, and dredge with flour, salt, and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat…

… until it’s bubbling hot.

Set your fish into your hot fat, and sear well… for about 5 minutes…

… on each side.

Watercress. Gordon didn’t have this, but I wanted a bit of snap and fresh to offset the rich and rooty. I wash it well, and dress it simply with EVOO, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.

Thyme…

… and heavy cream: the ingredients for my substitution for Gordon’s thyme veloute. Remove the cooked fish from the pan, and set aside in two portions, each on a warmed plate. Scrape any fish stuck to the pan out onto a plate for your husband to pick at, and then melt another tablespoon of butter, deglazing the surface. Add ½ cup of heavy cream and simmer for 3-5 minutes over medium high heat to thicken. Strip the leaves off several twigs of fresh thyme, and dump half of them into the simmering sauce to savor it, reserving the other half for a fresh garnish.

Meanwhile, your veggies should be perfectly cooked. Each bite is easily pierced with a small fork, and the outer leaves of the sprouts should be crisp and caramelized.

Plate your perfectly seared fish fingers like two needles of a compass, and spoon your sweet roasted diced roots over the pivot point like a blanket draped across a sleeper’s hips. Pinch a nosegay of watercress salad into a corner of the plate, and spoon the sweet thickened thyme cream around each savory bite.

Firm but flaky pan-seared cod filets served with diced caramelized root vegetables, and lovingly layered with a buttery thyme cream. Inspired by a my new celebrity crush, but (I dare say) perfected by me. If you’d like to disagree, Gordon, come on over and I’ll make you dinner in MY HAUS (said with gangsta-like conviction)!

Sword and Simple Pineapple Slaw with Sweet Spuds and Feta

SPRING! It’s so beautiful out right now – sunny and warm and breezy and sweet-smelling and full of prepubescent nature! My bike’s been out for two days, and I’m settling right back into my summer grove of stopping at Whole Foods nightly to grab my ingredients for the night’s dinner. In good weather months, they become my pantry. I had a vague idea about pineapple today for some reason, and the stars aligned because lo and behold a wall of free trade pineapples greeted me as I crested the escalator’s peak and ascended into the produce section. Seeing sexy swordfish steaks splayed across ice at the fishmonger’s station, and some equally sexy sweet potatoes stacked all alluringly in a row, my idea came home. Come with me!

What you’ll need for two, for about $30:

1lb fresh swordfish steak
1 small red onion
3 small sweet potatoes or yams
1 pineapple
scallions
EVOO
curry powder
salt and pepper
mayonnaise (not pictured)
feta cheese (not pictured)
white wine vinegar (not pictured)
(ignore the lemons… I didn’t end up using them)

Cut your sweet potatoes into slender wedges, and spread out on a cookie sheet liberally spread with EVOO. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Douse with EVOO, too.

I call this “Ode to Open Toes”. Set your oven to 400°, and throw your pan of sweet potatoes onto a middle rack. Roast for at least 20 minutes before checking on them.

The mighty pineapple.

Slice off each end, and slice the prickly sides off, too.

Then dice. And snack a wee bit here and there, too. There’s enough…

Finely dice your red onion, and add to the bowl.

Finely slice your scallions, and add to the bowl, too.

Add some salt, pepper, olive oil (about ½ cup), and white wine vinegar (about 4 tbs).

Add about 1 tbs curry powder, and mix well. Set aside to marinate.

Slather your swordfish slab with mayonnaise, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I’ve set mine on a rack set over a cookie sheet. It’s the ghetto jerry-rig way to do things. If you’ve got a nice roasting or grill pan, go for that instead.

My sweet potatoes have been roasting for 20 minutes, so I pull them out to check ‘em when I throw in my swordfish.

The spuds should be nicely seared on one edge. Flip ‘em, and stick ‘em back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Feta cheese. This is for my spuds.

After 15 minutes, remove your spuds from the oven, flip your fish, slather with mayo salt and pepper, and turn on the broiler for the last 4 or so minutes of cook time (for an inch thick sword steak; adjust accordingly depending upon the thickness of your fish). Plate your potato spears alongside a nest of pineapple salsa, and, when the mayo crust on your fish is nicely seared, layer it atop your sweet citrus mound. Sprinkle your crumbled feta over your warm potato fingers, and sit back and admire the multitude of colors on your plate, before you dive into the multiple of flavors for your palate. A sharp, light, snappy meal, redolent of summer and sky, and a perfect way to celebrate the sudden freedom of the sun.

Lamb Steaks and Lamb’s Lettuce with Sweet Goat Potatoes

This is my cloven hoof version of “duck duck goose” for dinner: lamb lamb’s goat. An inexpensive cut of meat—the arm steak—makes a lovely dinner when you take the time to marinate it quickly before pan-searing it. Add some sweet potatoes draped with goat cheese, and some lamb’s lettuce (otherwise known as corn salad, or maché) dressed simply but elegantly, and some Greek yogurt with garlic and green onions, and you have a fresh, cheap, satisfying, and extraordinarily flavorful meal of the best of basics: meat, potatoes, and salad.

What you’ll need:

2 lovely lamb steaks – these are from the arm blade
2lbs or so of slender sweet potatoes (I only needed 4)
lamb’s lettuce (which is completely different from arugula or watercress or baby greens, all of which, though, will work if you can’t find the maché)
a healthy handful of dried garden herbs (see below for blend info)
dried rosemary
crushed red pepper
a few cloves of garlic
three or four scallions
1 small white onion
2oz goat cheese
EVOO
white vinegar
8oz Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
pita bread

Lamb. My mother never made it; didn’t care for the gamey taste. So, rebellious as I was, I immediately took the opportunity to make and eat the stuff I never had at home as soon as I started cooking for myself. Here are two lovely arm blade steaks, about 8oz each, with the bones in.

Salt and pepper them, and chuck ‘em into a zipper bag. Introduce about a cup of EVOO.

Clayton’s 2009 Summer Garden Blend: sage, purple basil, Italian basil, oregano, and tarragon leaves, dried at the end of the season. I also have some of his rosemary set in a jar, and some crushed red pepper.

Crushing my two hands together over the meat/oil filled zipper bag, with a 1/2cup or so of the fluffy, stemmy, dehydrated-but-still-voluminous herb blend between them, I end up with about 4tbs of pulverized herb flakes. Add about 2tbs rosemary and as much crushed red pepper as you can handle (I use about ¼tsp, ‘cuz I’m lily-livered).

White vinegar: this helps take the gamey edge off, but still preserves the luscious sweetness of the lamb. Add a few tablespoons to the bag.

Crushed garlic: this, er, just tastes good. Add ¼ of your minced 4 cloves to the bag, too.

Squeeze all the air as you possibly can out of the zipper bag, being sure not to inadvertently pierce it with the bones of the lamb. You know the concept of a vacuum-pack? You’re sort of making its poor red-headed, buck-toothed relation here, but it works! Set it aside until just 15 minutes before service.

Potatoes! I’ve selected 4 slender 8oz/ea sweet potatoes for tonight’s meal. What you want are spears.

Using a LARGE knife (this is a Chinese cleaver), split your thin spuds into 1/4s or 1/6s .

Then, slathering them in EVOO, spread them in a single layer over a cookie sheet.

Generously shower them with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

And set them into a 350° oven, on the bottom rack, to roast.

Make your garlic sauce. Here’s the rest of your garlic, and some scallions.

Add the minced garlic to the Greek yoghurt, then chuck in the sliced scallions, some salt, and some pepper.

And some EVOO. A healthy ¼ cup’s worth.

Mix well, and set aside, so the flavors will blend and mellow.

Slice 4 mini (or 2 regular-sized) pitas into quarters (or 8ths).

Pull them into single-layer pieces.

Chuck ‘em in a bowl, and toss them with some olive oil.

And some salt and pepper. Then chuck them in the oven until they’re toasted – about 10 minutes.

And into that selfsame bowl (which is lovingly studded with salt and pepper and olive oil), add a few handfuls of your maché.

Here’s my ghetto stove: all 3 mini, 1 maxi, all uneven eyes with a super-compact profile.

And here’s my ghetto grill pan, all crooked and warped and scratched and probably poisoning me with Teflon bits. But its whats I gots.

But, I’ve found out that if I wedge my ghetto pan under the decorated lip of my ghetto stove, and caddycorner said crooked pan across my two uneven back mini-eyes, why, I get a relatively flat hot non-stick surface with two individual hotspots just about big enough for two individual steaks! Now THAT’S making lemonade! (Thumbs up!)

However, if you’re lucky enough to have a full kitchen and fancy pants equipment, you can set up your flatgrill pan to high heat.

Lamb bits basted in EVOO&WWV and garden grown herbs (GGH?). Unlock your zipper bag and relish in how the spices have stuck-sucked themselves to the steaks.

Set them onto your hot pan, and let them sear.

After about 5 minutes, your steaks should be bleeding through the top, and browning on the bottom. What? There’s really no simpler way to describe it! Lamb should be served medium to medium-rare. I flip them when the browning from the bottom, by looking at the steaks’ sides, has worked its way almost all the way to the top.

Steaks seared; herbs adhered. Perfect. Push down on the edges which may curl and lift off the surface of the pan, sizzling each section. Let it cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Pull your potatoes out of the oven; see how they’ve softened on the upside and caramelized on the downside? Using tongs and a spatula, carefully lift each spear off the pan and layer in a nest on your service plate.

Topped with softened sharp goat cheese, your roasted sweet spud spears are sugar and cream and sinew and skin. Studded with garden grown herbs, your panned lamb is a medium rare slab of savory flavor. Dressed in extra virgin white wine and slivers of onion, your corn salad is crisp succulent. And mounded in the middle, garlicky and green, your yummy yoghurt is the cream to your fresh pita crisps. The coup d’etat of the extraordinary meal is the bargain basement ingredient list. Firing a shot across my bow, Sir Sean Connery Quartermaine tries to compel me to share my dinner. Sorry, friend, but that seat’s taken by Clayton, and he doesn’t have to threaten me to eat (of) me.