Friday, March 9, 2012

From Montreal’s Joe Beef: A recipe for four hour Lamb for two With Condimint

Jennifer May's Photo of the Dish
My rendition of the dish 
         There was a time when everyone who visited the south of France came back and immediately went straight to their oven to prepare something called “Seven Hour Gigot of Lamb”.  It was one of those marvels that appealed to lazy cooks as it involved very little work—just cutting up tomatoes, onions, garlic and rosemary and making some elementary rub for the lamb itself.  Of course the thing fell apart the minute it finally emerged from the oven and everyone swooned over the garlic-y sweetness.  As it turns out, the lamb didn’t necessarily need all that time in the oven and the extreme greyness of the meat didn’t contribute much to the aesthetics of the dish. So one Sunday, when I came across a beautiful shot of a crispy brown piece of lamb encircled by bright green peas of two varieties, a few artichoke hearts and what appeared to be green onions, I was hooked.  It didn’t hurt that this recipe was found in “The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of sorts” (Ten Speed Press 2011).  The cookbook has brought Montreal’s famous Joe Beef restaurant even more fame.  I should imagine you will soon have to sell your first born to get a table. Or you can just buy the book and cook from it yourself. 

         Joe Beef, the restaurant, (2491 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal. Tel: (514) 935 6504), is a modest-looking place in an unprepossessing neighborhood in Montreal.  Its looks are deceiving for a restaurant whose entire existence is owed to lavish food like foie gras and lobster to say nothing of its chefs’ takes on its namesake Beef.  What David McMillan and Frederic Morin have created is more than a place to eat, it’s a culinary shrine and culinary adventures in Montreal are not complete without at least trying to get in.  I highly recommend sitting at the bar if all else fails.  What will not fail you is the food. 
         All that being said, I do have one strange little bone to pick.  You remember my telling you how appealing Jennifer May’s photograph was of the finished dish?  Well, yours will not look this way.  There are no artichokes nor are there two kinds of peas in the recipe.  There is however an unseen carrot and those things I thought were green onions are actually Japanese Cider Turnips and in Joe Beef’s written recipe, they’re a side dish.  I confess to being so confused that I actually made a call to the publisher, Ten Speed Press, asking what accounted for the difference.  This is their reply: “Unfortunately it appears that the "Lamb for Two, Condimint" image does feature other vegetables not included in the printed recipe (turnips, artichokes, snow peas). We're assuming this is because any seasonal vegetables would work in the dish, but do understand any confusion these omissions might have caused.”  So did I have a recipe or not?
         I loved the idea of the two kinds of peas and I decided to serve the turnips as a side dish as the Joe Beef boys recommended. Other than that I went with the printed version with one tiny exception.  After my peas and carrots had spent their four or so hours cooking, they were hardly wildly colorful.  So just before serving, I steamed some snow peas and put them on the serving platter for color if for nothing else. I used half of one of those boneless legs of Australian lamb that are fairly ubiquitous here.  I used the other half to make curry. The original recipe called for lamb shoulder. With its higher fat content, this cut would be even better for braising (and less expensive) but it's not widely available locally.  If you can find it, by all means use it. 
         The other key to the success of this dish is the “Condimint”.   This is really a wonderful chutney made with dates, fresh horseradish and mint leaves and my, is it good!  I was glad to have leftovers which I served with a curry to great effect.  Don’t leave it out or you will miss it.  This is another wonderful weekend afternoon dish whose aroma and warmth fills the kitchen and make you happy to be indoors.  Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for four hour Roast Lamb for two with Condimint:
Serves 2
2 pounds (about 1 kg) boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed, rolled, and tied
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons neutral oil
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 cups (140 g) frozen or very fresh shelled “English” peas
10 cloves garlic
10 sprigs thyme
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine 
For the Condiment:
1 cup (170 g) pitted dates
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
1/2 cup (100 g) packed brown sugar
1 cup (250 ml) cider vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (55 g) grated fresh horseradish
3 heaping tablespoons mint leaves, stems removed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Season the lamb on all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof saute pan over high heat. Add the lamb and sear for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until you get a nice golden crust. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, throw in the onion, carrot, peas (thawed, if using frozen) and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add the thyme, nestle the lamb on top of the vegetables, and pour in the wine.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and braise for 4 hours. Every 30 minutes, baste the top of the lamb with the pan juices. If the pan begins to dry out, add some more wine.

While the lamb is cooking, make the condimint and the Cider turnips. 
For the condimint: in a small pot, combine the dates and water, bring to a boil over high heat, and boil for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar, vinegar, and cayenne, and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved and the condiment has the consistency of jam.

Remove from the heat, add the horseradish, mint, and Worcestershire sauce, and buzz with a hand blender or whisk in. Let cool completely before serving. (Leftover condiment can be stored in a tightly capped jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)

For the Cider Turnips:

2 tbsp. Canola oil
6 to 8 Tokyo White turnips or any other small turnip, halved lengthwise, stems attached.
Sea Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2 tbsp. Maple syrup
1 tbsp. Cider Vinegar
Heat the Canola Oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. 
Sprinkle the turnips with the salt and pepper and cook, tossing them
so they don's burn for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly brown.
Add the butter, maple syrup and vinegar and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes or until shiny.  

Transfer to a serving dish. Finish with a pinch of sea salt. 

When the lamb is ready, transfer it to a warmed platter with the vegetables. Snip the strings and serve a la cuillere, with a spoon. Serve the condiment on the side.

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