Daily Archives: November 15, 2010

Epic Experiment

Last night’s dinner was pretty epic. Epic because two of the recipes were first attempts for me. And after 2+ hours of me freaking out in the kitchen, exclaiming every few minutes that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing (I guess you could say I get pretty melodramatic when I’m cooking), my dinner experiments turned out really well and the 3 of us relished every last morsel.

On the menu: Roast Rack of Lamb, Mushroom Risotto, and steamed broccoli.

I’d never made risotto before, and have only ever eaten it once in a restaurant. As well, the lamb racks I’d made before were bought pre-seasoned, and all I had to do was stick them in the oven. So last night’s lamb was the first time I made the entire recipe from scratch.

I began by googling about 5000 recipes for both rack of lamb and risotto. I quickly got the basic idea of what to do, but then found myself getting thoroughly confused by all the little differences of opinion in the details. So I abandoned my computer and decided I was just gonna do what I usually do best: just wing it.

But before I could get to the winging of it in the kitchen, I had to go get a few ingredients. Superstore was the usual zoo that it is on Sundays (why do we always insist on going on the busiest day of the week??), and I was extra disgruntled with Stupidstore cuz they were out of arborio rice! (which is what is needed for risotto)

So Len and I consoled ourselves with some peppermint mochas at Starbucks. 🙂 Mmmm. We took our drinks to Canadian Tire, where we perused the aisles stocked with Christmas stuff galore. We had the best time. We chatted about what we like and don’t like in terms of decorations for our home, and remininsced about our favourite childhood Christmas ornament memories. I can’t wait to start decorating for the holidays!

But alas, I really needed to find some arborio rice if we were gonna have risotto for dinner. We ended up at an awesome Italian supermarket on Hastings St called Ugo and Joe’s. They had 3 different kinds of rice for risotto, all imported from Italy! I decided on a vialone nano variety. It’s supposed to produce an extra creamy risotto. Much better than the generic Unico arborio that I would’ve gotten from Superstore had it been in stock there, so thanks for not having it Superstore! 🙂 And I also found a small block of parmiggiano reggiano! I was so excited. I’ve never bought it before (always opting for the pre-grated tubs) because I had only ever come across huge blocks of it and knew I’d never be able to use it up before it went bad. And oh my, this cheese was AMAZING. I was one happy camper leaving the store.

Onto the cooking:

Roast Rack of Lamb

  • 1 C fresh bread crumbs (I pulsed a few slices of bread in the food processor)
  • 1/2 TB Montreal steak seasoning (I seriously seem to use this in EVERY recipe!)
  • 3 lamb racks, trimmed and frenched (my mom insisted we needed this much for leftover lunches–normally, one would do for 2-3 people)
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1/2 TB dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 TB whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp brown rice syrup (or honey, but we didn’t have any)
  • salt and pepper

Let the meat rest out on the counter for about an hour before starting the recipe so it’s not too cold when the cooking process begins (something to do with not “shocking” the meat).

Preheat oven to 450°.

In a wide dish (a wide dish will help make less of a mess when breading, or so that’s the theory anyway), combine bread crumbs with the steak seasoning. In another bowl, mix together the garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mustard, oil, and syrup.

Salt and pepper the meat.

Over high heat on the stovetop, sear all sides of the meat with a bit of canola oil. (This is when the pan I was using became black and was billowing smoke at me. Thus began the first of many freakouts. Seriously, how does one sear meat without setting off the fire alarm? This happens to me every time I try searing.) Despite the smoke, the meat did sear to a beautiful golden brown colour. This takes only about a couple minutes. (You have to use high heat, or else the meat starts cooking too much instead of caramelizing)  Set aside for a few minutes.

Slather on the mustard mixture onto the meat, then coat with the bread crumbs. Wrap the exposed bones with foil to prevent charring. If the pan you used to sear the meat is not oven proof, transfer it onto a foil-lined (for easy clean up) oven proof roasting pan, with bone side down. (It’s best to preheat the pan for faster and more even cooking time, but I forgot to do this last night) Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness. (I had it in there for 17 minutes for medium-rare. It would have needed less time had I remembered to preheat my pan prior to placing the lamb on it. Lamb should be done to medium at most, otherwise it loses its tenderness.) Cover loosely with tin foil, and let rest for 5-8 minutes before slicing between the ribs.

(Sorry for the unfocussed photo–too much going on to take proper photos)

Onto the risotto. Part of why I found cooking dinner a bit stressful last night was because I was trying to time it just right so that the lamb and broccoli would be done exactly when the risotto is done; risotto needs to be served immediately, or its texture will be overdone. So I prepped everything I needed before I began any sort of cooking, seared and breaded the lamb before starting the risotto, and waited until the risotto was about 20 minutes  away from being done before putting the lamb into the oven. I started steaming the broccoli after taking the lamb out of the oven and while it was resting. In the end, I *mostly* got the timing right, although at the end, I forgot about the broccoli and left it to steam for a bit too long, resulting in a slightly yellow colour rather than the bright green it was supposed to be. Ah well. Room for improvement for next time!

Right, Risotto:

Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 and 1/2 C vialone nano rice (or arborio) (Note: do NOT rinse rice; rinsing washes away the starch that’s needed to make the risotto creamy)
  • 6 – 7 C low-sodium chicken broth (you’re supposed to use only broth, but we try to reduce our sodium consumption wherever we can, so I used 4 C broth and about 2 and 1/2 C water. The result did not lack in flavour at all.)
  • 1 lb mushrooms, chopped (I used white button mushrooms cuz that was all I had, but a mix of more interesting ones like cremini, portabello, etc, would be so much better) (Note: don’t wash mushrooms; they’ll absorb too much moisture, become soggy, and won’t brown when cooking. Instead, wipe them with a slightly damp towel)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and divided into 2 portions
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1/2 C white wine (optional, and I didn’t use it last night cuz we didn’t have any, but I think it would be a lovely addition)
  • 1/3 C grated parmeggiano reggiano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 C chopped green onions (I wanted a bit of green and this was all I had–parsley would have been much better)

Heat broth and water to a rolling boil (not the violent boil I ended up with that spilled over–note to self: watch what you’re cooking!), then turn down temperature to a simmer and keep it simmering away while the risotto cooks. Meanwhile, in a separate large pot or pan, heat the canola oil (not the olive oil) over high heat. Add mushrooms and 1/2 the garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until mushrooms are softened and turn a light brown colour, stirring often to prevent burning. Then lightly salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, heat olive oil and butter over slighty-under-medium heat (I had it on the “4” mark). Add onion and the rest of the garlic. Cook until onion starts to become translucent and soft. Add rice and turn up heat to medium-high. Stir around until mixed in with the onions and the grains start to heat up. Add the wine at this point (or 1/2 C of the simmering broth if not using wine). When the liquid has mostly been absorbed, turn heat back down to just under medium. Ladle in about 1/2 C of broth and stir constantly. As soon as the liquid is mostly absorbed, ladle in another 1/2 C of broth. Keep stirring, ladling in 1/2 C  liquid at a time, until the rice is al dente and creamy. You will use most, if not all, of the simmering broth. I did this for about 25 minutes. When the rice was almost done, I added the mushrooms back in. When the rice is at the desired texture, stir in the cheese and green onions, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

The risotto was so rich and creamy, but there was no cream and very little butter in this recipe! In the end, making risotto was actually pretty easy, but it required some planning and me to be at the stove the entire half hour, stirring my little heart out. (Reminded me of how I made polenta last week)

Dinner was a delightful affair. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. 🙂

Even my mom, who normally hates lamb, really liked it! I call that a major win! 🙂 She did point out that my presentation left much to be desired, and now that I’m looking at these photos, I have to agree with her! The placement of the (overdone) broccoli was not visually appealing. Note to self. 🙂

The crust on the lamb was lovely and kept the meat moist and tender.

We enjoyed dinner with a glass of vino!

EPIC. Can’t wait for my next experiment! 🙂


Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Kitchen Adventures

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