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Posts Tagged ‘lamb’

Lesson 26 Black Prince LambBlack Prince or “Prince Noir” is a pseudonym added to the description of a French dish that includes black truffles.  Oh happy days, today we will stuff a beautiful filet of lamb with veal, cream, mushrooms and the “tres cher” star, truffles.

The lamb filet is removed from the bone and opened like a “wallet” (per Chef Lesourd), the interior is scored in a harlequin pattern, then flattened between two pieces of plastic wrap with a cleaver.  Keep the bones for your jus – as always.

To ensure the stuffing is not too easy on us students, the recipe calls for a brunoise of carrot, shallot, button mushroom (or “champions de Paris” en Francais) and truffle.  Veal is ground and used for the stuffing rather than chicken, which is more luxurious than our standard mousseline farce.   The meat is made even richer by the addition of cream and an egg white to bind it.

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Before we embarked on the dish for this lesson, a special guest appeared in the classroom to give us an appreciation for the craft of butchery.  Over the last several weeks of this course we have been actively deboning fish, fowl and cuts of meat but now, before us, was a whole lamb carcass and the butcher would show us the portioning of a whole lamb.

He arrived with his huge cleaver, saw and boning knife, donned a white coat and began working on the carcass.  He first explained how a butcher examines the animals for quality.  A whole lamb weighs approximately 18 to 20 kilos.  The shape of the animal, texture and color, which should be rose/pink, play a significant role in judging the quality of the meat.  He could guess the age of the lamb and color of the meat.   After delivery of his quick lecture he set to work, carving up the cuts following the standard method all French butchers use to divide the lamb.

He began by sectioning and removing the shoulders, next came the separation of the best end and ribs from the carcass and finally the legs and rump came off.  The first and most expensive cuts are the best end and the legs.  Second category meats are the shoulders and neck.

We had been given various pieces of lamb to debone, as you may have read in previous posts, and it was exciting to see the ease with which experience allows you to swiftly trim and remove the bones from the meat.  Clearly I can’t imagine ever becoming so proficient or ever buying a whole lamb slapping it on my counter and going to work, but it was very interesting to see such a skilled demonstration.  The only “faux pas” – dropping the knife mid way through, picking it up and continuing on “sans savon” (or for you non-French speakers- without applying any soap to the situation – oops).

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I swear I am not a lucky person – I don’t have a lucky number, I don’t win at cards and I never buy lottery tickets.  I did, however, found myself in the right place at the right time one Friday evening which led to an invitation to escape the rainy Dutch summer.  Our friend Caroline had rented a holiday home in Majorca, Spain and as our luck would have it there was room for two more.  After a couple of glasses of Dutch courage (a.k.a. wine), we had plane tickets to fly in on the following Thursday evening and return home on Sunday.  More luck – our companions for the weekend were a group of food and wine loving Brits and a gluten free Kiwi!

Penny, one of the guests and long time friend of the hostess, had spent a great deal of time in Spain in her youth. So much so that she fell in love with their wines and now imports them into Britain.  Her love of Spanish wine extends to Spanish food and she shared a number of traditional nibbles with us.  On Friday afternoon, after a few seconds of debate we decided to eat in and cook rather than walk into the quaint town of Pollensa.  Caroline’s holiday home had a built-in wood fire grill which inspired a spanish grill theme.

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When C and I travel alone, I feel much too guilty to go running off for the day to indulge in a cooking lesson.   However, having a girlfriend along on vacation provides an excellent excuse!   On our recent trip to Provence with Rod, Sharron and Jada, I managed to find a one day class near Aix en Provence  run out of a hotel restaurant, Le Mas du Luberon.   We had spent two glorious nights celebrating Sharron’s birthday at Crillon le Brave surrounded by a beautiful view, sunny skies, wine and glorious meals.  Our next adventure would be a cooking class with an honest to goodness French chef!  Our class was to start at 9 am so we planned our departure for 8 am and shockingly I totally underestimated the drive.  What was in my mind a 45 minutes drive was truly an 1.5 hour drive!   Enroute we called ahead to advise of our dilemma and they thankfully said they would wait for us.  Gentile!

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A simple but decilious romantic meal.   Serves 2 – if serving more double or triple the recipe.  A few hints to start:

  1. Prepare the polenta 1 hour before you cook the lamb and cool in the refrigerator.
  2. Before begin the lamb, begin frying the polenta on med-low heat; brown on each side.
  3. Place the beef or veal stock on med heat in a pan to reduce.  You want to reduce the stock to concentrate the flavors but watch that you don’t lose too much to evaporation – you will need a minimum of 2/3 cup for this recipe.
  4. Create the crust before you sear the lamb.

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We’ve learned travelling at Easter can be quite difficult in Christian countries as many people go home for the holiday to be  with family and tourist sites are generally closed over the 4 day celebration.  We had decided to travel to Greece this year to enjoy some history, sun and good Mediterranean food.    In preparing for our trip to Greece I contacted a few friends from Basic Cuisine at the Cordon Bleu for advice on where to eat in Athens and traditional foods served at Easter.    Armed with a list of restaurants and some research on Easter Traditions we arrived in Athens on the eve of Good Friday.

The celebration of Easter in Greece is truly a reflection of the Christian  Orthodox faith where the Grecians observe lent rabidly denying themselves all manners of pleasures over the 6 week lent period until the Easter Vigil on Saturday.    There were numerous food traditions linked to the celebration of Easter that I was both excited and apprehensive to experience in Greece.   

On Friday we joined a group tour of the main sites in Athens and finished off the afternoon with a the most succulent black olives, a delicious Greek salad, and grilled kebabs in the tourist district in Plaka.   We then strolled the area enjoying the late afternoon sun, the kitschy shops and the buzz of the crowds in the streets.  It all made for a relaxed mood and a most pleasant afternoon. 

On Saturday, C and I strolled to the Psiri district in Athens to visit the Naxos Lamb and Cheese market which has been a tradition for 100 years.  Producers from the Island of Naxos, in the Cyclades Islands, set up a 4 day market where they sell the “city” folk their home grown and mostly organic products.   At Easter, they bring specifically Kefalotiri cheese, made from the milk of a male lamb and refresh whole lamb.  I was very keen to sample the cheese as the large oval rinds looked fresh and rustic.

 All the vendors were working hard selling cheese to the locals but one woman was happy to engage me and broker a deal.  My Greek “oma” spoke no English so she enlisted the help of one of the local young woman, dragging her over from across the street, to help answer all of my questions on source, taste.  Sampling the cheese I found the texture reminiscent of manchego and the taste of the cheese was salty  and nutty in flavour.  It is typically served along side fresh tomatoes and bread I was told, so I was confident we could make a little snack of it while we were on the islands. (more…)

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I know it’s officially spring in the Netherlands as along the route of my commute to the office, I see darling little baby lambs trailing behind their mothers along the grassy farm land adjacent to the train tracks.  They are so adorable and sweet, but lucky for them not bred for meat!  Sheep are kept by many landowners to control the grass on the numerous green covered polders (previously swampy bits now reclaimed land), not to fill up their plates.

With lamb on my mind, I decided to invite a few Canadian friends (and one Dutchman!) for a spring “Bouchon” inspired dinner and I wanted to create a menu with appropriately light flavours that would announce the season.   I was secretly pleased with my little menu which was a masterfully chosen selection of pre – prepared courses which would also involve the use of many of the kitchen gadgets I lugged home from Paris, including my coveted “piston”!

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